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Plato vs Aristotle

Updated on December 17, 2009
Bust of Plato
Bust of Plato

Plato: The Republic



Plato believed that a healthy and virtuous soul is one that functions harmoniously.  He thought of the soul as being divided into three different parts.  Those three parts are reason, spirit, and appetite.  Plato believed in a weakness of will which was a contradiction to his teacher, Socrates.  When we are faced with a difficult choice we clearly encounter each part of our soul.  He identifies the soul as being divided when being challenged to do something we need to do and something that we want to do.  His characterization of the soul sounds a lot like a person’s will and conscience.  The reason part of the soul is the one that tells us to do the right thing, stay on the right path.  The appetite part is the one that tells us to do the thing we want to do and forget about all of the other stuff; do what you want to do because it will make you feel good.  The spirit part of our soul is the one that can never decide what is best for us because it is too concerned about honor.  Plato also identified the human soul with four cardinal virtues.  Those virtues are temperance, courage, wisdom, and justice.  Temperance is self control; the healthy soul is not controlled by appetites.  Courage is necessary to control our fears.  Wisdom happens when the rational part of our soul is healthy and in control.  Justice is then the result of all three working harmoniously.

Bust of Aristotle
Bust of Aristotle



     Aristotle’s thoughts about the soul are more closely related to what I believe as the soul of a person.  Aristotle believed that a person’s soul is interconnected to their body.  He stated that a thing cannot affect the body without affecting their soul.  Also a thing cannot affect the soul without affecting the body.  What I got out of his ideas about the soul is that what is good for the body is good for the soul and what is good for the soul is good for the body.  Conversely, what is bad for one is bad for the other.  Aristotle believed that there is no way to the soul except through the bodily organs and there is no way for the soul to act or communicate except bodily.  The most interesting thing I learned here is that scientist of today lent support to the idea that the mind plays a role in altering the course of sickness and disease through laughter and positive though.  I realize that their findings are based on Aristotle’s philosophy on the soul.  Aristotle thought that there were three different kinds of souls found to be a hierarchy.  Soul form one is of the most basic form of soul found in simple life forms.  It is called a vegetative or nutritive soul.  It absorbs matter from other things.  The second type of soul is the level of sensation.  The sensitive or sentient soul registers information regarding the form of things but doesn’t absorb or become those things.  The human soul is the third kind of soul, known as the rational soul.  It involves the nutritive and sensitive souls but also has the ability to analyze things.  It understands various forms of relationships and making reasoned decisions known as deliberation.  Aristotle believed in this hierarchy of souls and based his ethics on it.  Soul one has none of two or three; soul two has one but not three, and soul three has one and two in addition to itself.

Hubchallenge number 25
Hubchallenge number 25

The Survey


     My survey of five people and what they believe the nature of the soul is.

1.)  The first person I surveyed about the soul read what Plato and Aristotle said about the soul.  He said his belief about the soul is similar to Aristotle’s because he thinks that the soul is interconnected with the human body.  He believes that if our soul left us we would not be alive.  He thinks that it is the soul that makes us who we are.

2.)  The second person I surveyed thinks the same as Aristotle but is not sure about single celled organisms having a soul; she also doesn’t like the idea that other simple life forms have a soul.  

3.)  The third person I surveyed thinks that our soul is the thing that makes us try to be better people.  It tells us that we should be nicer to other people and that it is a hierarchy like Aristotle taught.

4.)  The fourth person agreed more with Plato than with Aristotle but thought that maybe both of them were right.  He thinks that Plato was more on the money with the soul being our moral guide and telling us what to do, but he also agreed that Aristotle was right by saying that our soul is connected to our bodies that what we do effects our soul.

5.)  The fifth person I surveyed said she agrees with Plato.  Our soul is the thing that tells us right from wrong and what we need to do to live a virtuous life.  She thought it was foolish what Aristotle said about the soul.  How can a cheeseburger which is bad for our bodies be bad for our soul?


     After interviewing the five people and getting their ideas I discovered that Plato has a better idea about what the soul does.  Aristotle has a better idea about what the soul is.  Most people agreed with Aristotle’s belief or philosophy about the soul than did they agree with Plato. 


Copyright 2009 by Wesley Cox

What Do You Think?

Which famous philosopher from above do you agree with?

See results


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    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 6 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Mini water cooler: Thank you for reading and the greatly appreciated praise.

      Bruce: Thank you for reading and the further information.

    • profile image

      Bruce Graeme 6 years ago

      Plato held that the Ideas (Forms) are the ultimate substance from which all things derive their being. Ideas however, do not exist in individual things - they are not souls. But, according to Aristotle the substantial form of a thing is not only a universal, but also its soul.

    • profile image

      mini water cooler 6 years ago

      I like material like this. This is a great article and I really enjoyed reading it. You have an original style that makes your ideas stand out from other writers.

    • Scott Stephenson profile image

      Scott Stephenson 6 years ago from United States, OH

      I tend to agree with both Plato and Aristotle. I think that what we do to our body effects only the appetite aspect of our soul. But if the appetite part of the soul is not kept in balance it makes it more difficult to do what is right according to the reason part of the soul. Psychological conditioning and or an addiction would be a good example. And if we can not then bring ourselves to do what is right according to reason, then the spirit part of our soul can not proceed on an honorable path. You are what you eat as they say; hence the need for a well balanced diet and or lifestyle for that matter.

      A very nice presentation of comparison and contrast between these two great philosophers. Very insightful. Thx for sharing!

    • profile image

      :) 6 years ago

      nice survey

    • profile image

      bzhar 6 years ago

      thanks very much. It was really informative.

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 6 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Baygirl: Yes Plato was taught by Aristotle. They both had a huge amount of input into philosophy. This is just a basis for what each one believed on a particular topic.

    • baygirl33 profile image

      victoria 6 years ago from Hamilton On.

      Nice look at the masters!They said a lot more than that but very nice tidbit!

      I think that Aristotle was Plato's teacher wasn't he?

    • profile image

      loster 6 years ago

      love 4 both

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the great post..This is really great info

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 6 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Thought-Provoking 6 years ago

      Great Hub,

      My belief in it all is to take a Middle ground between the two, they both bring out some interesting points, and if you take certain important parts from both, you can get something good.

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 7 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      I certainly will take a look at it. Again thanks for reading.

    • sdy53 profile image

      sdy53 7 years ago

      Thanks for writing back. I know you are busy given the number of hubs you have written, but if you get a moment will you take a gander at the Hub I wrote titled Comprehensible Philosophy? Schopenhauer actually formalizes what constitutes humor! One of the chapters in his famous book,The world as will and representation, is titled the Theory of the Ludicrous. Here he actually distills the essence of humor down to 2 essential elements. Sort of blew me away that something as spontaneous as laughter has sort of an automatic trigger!

      Thanks for you articles and time.

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 7 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      sdy53: First thank you for reading my article and I will venture a guess and say you enjoy Plato's philosophy over Aristotle's. I am more prone to Aristotle's philosophy personally but I did enjoy a lot of the thoughts of Plato in his writings. However, I only read a portion of the one you mentioned. I do agree with you though as I often think about what our ancient ancestors thought about on a daily basis. It seems that our understanding of the world is far more advanced now than then. It seems to stem from nothing really just the way we grow up.

    • sdy53 profile image

      sdy53 7 years ago

      I guess one the most significant Plato memory I have is the cave story from the The Republic. Very profound reality check! Their only perception of the world were the shadows they saw and they had serious doubts about any type of reality that might extend beyond the shadows. Certainly makes one wonder what is beyond the "shadows" that we see every day?

      Did you enjoy the World as Will and Representation by Schopenhauer?

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      GmaGoldie: Thank you for reading this article and enjoying it. Your comment is well received.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      I love these two philosphers! Am re-reading Aristotle now - had forgotten how much he had written - the volume of animals and the body. You wrote a wonderful essay - very timely for me. Great Hub!

    • profile image

      Laurie Gibson 8 years ago

      What has voting to do with truth?

      Philosophy is about reasoning. That is 'I think that such and such a view is right for reasons A, B and C and arguments X, Y and Z. It is hard work and you get your reasoning picked apart by others, their weaknesses exposed etc. Out of this dialectic truth may come.

      It is not 'My opinion is such and such is true, let me vote to say so'. This is the opposite of philosophy. What a person 'feels' is true has no bearing whatsoever on whether it is actually true or not.

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      You're welcome lorlie6, I learned of this in Philosophy class a couple years ago, am glad that you enjoyed it.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Beautifully done, wesley!

      Thanks for treating us to this philosophical discussion of the soul.

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Thank you, this is one to make people think about things within themselves.

    • profile image

      poetlorraine 8 years ago

      read again, brilliant hub i must say

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Thanks for reading adam.

    • AdamCairn profile image

      AdamCairn 8 years ago from UK

      There's only one way to sort this out... FIGHT!

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Thank you Timothy I appreciate your comment.

    • Timothy Donnelly profile image

      Timothy Donnelly 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Commenting on this particular hub of yours that first brought me to your page, I must say that you provide good stuff. I'm a fan. Stay safe.

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Connorj: Thank you for reading my hub and leaving such a nice comment.

    • connorj profile image

      John Connor 8 years ago from Altamonte Springs

      Such a provocative hub..."Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit."

      An enlightening hub is always appreciated. "Your future is so bright you will need shades" and finally I favor "the best of both worlds" of thought, that is...

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Thank you brenda, I appreciate your comments.

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 8 years ago

      brilliant.... you get better with each hub...

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Thank you to everyone for visiting. I am glad that you have enjoyed reading this.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 8 years ago

      Fabulous thought provoking hub. I think both Plato and Aristotle have a lot to offer. A collaboration is in order!

    • myownworld profile image

      myownworld 8 years ago from uk

      Having been a Literature student myself, I really enjoyed reading this. But you've made this very readable and interesting, so well done for that. (btw. am most impressed at the speed with which u're posting stuff..:))

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Great Work Wesley - I am of the Camp that they both are correct as neither said there is no soul, also as for lower organisms, while they have a soul, it is the high reasoning that they lack to accompany it that sets us apart. Great Work!

    • Sufidreamer profile image

      Sufidreamer 8 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Nice work, Wesley - you have taken a very complex subject, broken it down beautifully, and added an interesting angle.

      Personally, I believe that both have merit, as with so many debates between Aristotle and Plato.

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      Thank you nilum

    • nilum profile image

      nilum 8 years ago

      Great Kind of hub dear... Keep it up....


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