Be it resolved: Plato not Aristotle is Ancient Greece’s greatest philosopher


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Much of the wisdom that our society today has inherited from ancient Greece draws on the writings and ideas of its two greatest philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. Though contemporaries - Aristotle was Plato’s student - these two giants of Western Thought had radically different views of nature and the human condition, what constitutes a good society and the purposes to which we should direct our individual lives. Two millennia later can we now discern which thinker has had the greatest impact on our civilization? And, considering the daunting future humankind faces - from climate change to the rise of thinking machines to genetic manipulation of our bodies - which of these philosophers’ ideas best speak to our present-day reality? Supporters of Plato say that he more than any other thinker articulated the fundamental questions that have guided ethics and politics ever since. He influenced Christianity with his belief in a separate metaphysical reality, and the Enlightenment with his view that the role of a philosopher is to oppose superstition and articulate unpopular truths. Aristotelians argue that secular, science-based societies of the Western world owe an immense debt to Aristotle’s exploration and exaltation of reason, logic, and an empirical approach to understanding the world around us. Equally important, he was one of the first philosophers to engage in a systematic inquiry into the nature of human happiness. His prescriptions for how to lead a good life have profound connections to our search for personal and collective meaning in the modern world.

Arguing for the motion is Clifford Orwin, Professor of Political Science, Classics, and Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. He’s the founding Senior Fellow at the Bochum Thucydides Center, in Bochum Germany and the author of The Humanity of Thucydides.

Arguing against the motion is Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King’s College, in London, England. She is the recipient of the 2015 Erasmus Prize and author of Aristotle’s Way, How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life

Sources: BBC, Adam MacLeod, Fox News, Biola University

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