Comparing Philosophical Approaches

Comparing Philosophical Approaches: Plato and Aristotle

Can we trust what we see, hear, and feel? Do our senses tell us how the world “really” is? Or is there a different reality that our senses cannot fully help us comprehend? Both Plato and Aristotle grappled with these questions, and each philosopher settled on his own theory. In this assignment, you will explore Plato’s theory of rationalism as well as Aristotle’s theory of empiricism. You will then connect one of these two theories with your own experience.To prepare for this Discussion:

Complete Interactive Unit 2, Module 1, titled “The Meaning of Philosophy.” Pay particular attention to the pages in which Plato and Aristotle are discussed.
To complete this Discussion:

By Day 4
Post to the Discussion board the following:

A description of the philosophical approach of the Rationalists (represented by Plato) and the Empiricists (represented by Aristotle). As part of your descriptions, identify at least two ways in which these approaches differ from one another.
A paragraph in which you select either Rationalism or Empiricism as the approach that resonates most deeply with your personal experiences. Support your selection with an example from your own life.

UNIT 1, Module 1, “The Meaning of Philosophy.” Pay particular attention to the pages in which Plato ans Aristotle are discussed.

The Philosophical Perspective Introduction

In this course, we will explore the discipline of Philosophy as the pursuit of wisdom. Throughout our lives, we all seek wisdom in different ways. In this course, we will focus on the quest for knowledge in our relationship with others, our contact with the objective world, and our relationship with ourselves.

These three fundamental ways of pursuing wisdom through relating to the world, to others, and to ourselves are known as the practice of “critique,” the practice of “dialogue,” and the practice of “self-examination,” respectively. Throughout the course, we will continually refer back to these fundamental practices to remind us of the meaning that philosophy has in all the various aspects of our lives.

The philosophical tradition that we will be studying began with the practice of dialogue in ancient Greece. The first texts we will encounter in this course are Plato’s dialogues — passages presented as a series of conversations between two partners who are seeking answers to tough questions of their day, such as the question, “What is justice?” Dialogue, however, as the ancient philosophers discovered, gives way to questions about the world around us.

All human beings, Aristotle says, seek knowledge. Since human beings are always seeking knowledge, we are also continually making claims about the world around us. The problem, however, is that everyone— by being human—has claimed about the world.

When engaging others in dialogue, we often run into the problem that others do not agree with our claims about the world. The task of philosophy beyond discussion, therefore, is to find out which claims about the world are true and which are false. This practice is known as critique—allowing examination of one’s claims and views about the world in light of the evidence, reason, and argument.

However, as both ancient and modern philosophers discovered, wonder about the world around us eventually come back to the inquiry of our role in the world—the question of ourselves. For, after all, if so many people disagree about the reality of the external world, how can I be sure that there exists an external world apart from my perception? Does the world live as I see it precisely, or is there something more to it? Is there an objective world apart from my limited understanding, or are my beliefs about the world all that matter? This problem is one that caused both Plato and Descartes to wonder. For both philosophers, this question led to the third sphere of philosophical practice: self-examination.

In this way, we will approach the study of philosophy in this course as a pursuit of wisdom in our encounters with others (dialogue), in our contacts with the external world (critique), and in our meeting with ourselves (self-examination).

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

Explain concepts central to philosophical inquiry.
Describe Western philosophical tradition and timelines.
Identify significant figures in the birth of philosophy in ancient Greece.
Describe critiques, opinions, arguments, and the Socratic Method.
Describe the building blocks of logic and the structure of an argument.
Explain how to classify and evaluate an argument.
Describe the traditional branches of philosophy.
Distinguish different forms of philosophical skepticism.
Describe the types of continental and analytic philosophy.

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