The worlds two most famous philosophers- Plato and Aristotle- have influenced countless numbers of people through the ages. They spoke and wrote about a variety of topics, including politics, science, and art. Although Aristotle started out as one of Platos students and agreed with him on most theories, over time Aristotle began to develop his own individual views which differed from those of Plato. He began to concentrate on concrete, logical concepts as opposed to Platos more conceptual views. While Plato looked through things to find their inner essence, Aristotle began to examine things as he saw them in this world. These main differences between the two philosophers shaped their very different theories and ideas.
Plato is notorious for attacking art in Book 10 of his Republic. According to Platos Theory of Forms, objects in this world are imitations of ideal forms that are the only true reality. This form has spiritual existence, and can only be created by a god. An artisan or craftsman makes a copy of it, using natural materials. Plato theorizes that this is only a mere imitation of the ideal form, and is not real. Therefore, a painter or representative poet is even further from the truth, for they create a copy of a copy, twice removed from reality. Only a mirror image exists in the painting, and far removed from the true form. Plato calls this deception. Plato also argues that not only does art reduce truth, it also appeals to the passionate side of the soul instead of the rational side. It aims merely to please the eye and ear. This can detract from the balanced reasoning that is essential to virtue.
Aristotles Poetics can be read as a response to Platos attack on art. Instead of viewing art as destructive and demoralizing, Aristotle proposes to approach poetry from a scientific viewpoint. He is not concerned with the essence or form, but with examining the constituent parts of poetry and drawing conclusions from those observations. Unlike Plato, he does not concern himself with arguing that poetry or tragedy should be one thing or another. He wants to look at past examples of poetry, dissect them, and examine everything to see how poetry really works. He does this by listing the different kinds of poetry, and then explaining that all of these kinds of or imitative, but that there are significant differences between them. Aristotle divides and dissects, as a true scientist. He proposes to discuss poetry by means of language, rhythm and harmony.
Much more concerned with moral content than Aristotle, Plato uses his theory to attack art and poetry as being deceptive. Although Homers epic poems are allegorical, Plato says Homer is a liar because young people are not always able to discern the allegories. He believes this can have moral consequences. He writes poetical imitations are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers, and the knowledge of their true nature is the only antidote to them. Plato believes that the only antidote is the knowledge of the true nature and form of the arts.
Aristotle answers Plato by stating that the arts in general are valuable because they repair deficiencies in nature. Aristotle also asserts that tragic drama in particular is justifiable because it does make a good moral contribution, as long as it contains the right elements of tragedy. The poet must remain true to what we know of the character, and maintain a unity of plot. Aristotle sees the lessons we can learn from the great tragic heroes, and wants us to learn from them as we examine them. He also states that art that does not come from a morally good soul who understands the beauty of truth, is untrue and gnon-art . According to Aristotle, true art, which has the beauty of truth and rationality behind it, cannot come from a soul in unrest. It is clear that he regards Platos condemnation of the imitative arts as inappropriate. To Aristotle, the imitative arts are human instruments of learning and their effects upon the spectator are beneficial.
Along with the differences, Aristotle does follow Plato on several points. He agrees that art is a kind of techne, and that there is a measure and means appropriate to the exercise of techne. He also agrees the most important human arts, such as music, painting, sculpture, literature, etc. are imitatitve of human bodies, souls, and actions. Plato writes that Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other. Both theorize that beautiful melodies and harmonies reflect goodness of soul, and also develop goodness within us. Harmonious, well-compositioned paintings have this same effect.
The theories of Plato and Aristotle, whether similar or sharply contrasting, are the basis for much of Western philosophy. They paved the way for future scholars to expand their minds through philosophy and wisdom. Plato looked at the world inductively, starting with his theory and then fitting everything else into that. Aristotle took the other side, as he looked at the world deductively. He started with examining the details, and then found the theory from them. Whether scholars today choose to take the inductive or deductive path, much of art and science has been founded on the great wisdom of these two philosophers. The essence of reality is still being decided.