In college survey courses of ancient history, Plato and Aristotle are among the most important and influential figures. Without understanding the ideas of these two philosophers, our concept of how the world developed would be incomplete.
Scholars frequently contrast the world of Platonic ideals with that of Aristotelian logic. Plato stressed the immortality of the soul, which he said pre-existed its incarnation into a human body. He also believed that ideas such as justice and kindness had an independent existence in the realm of pure forms. A student of the philosopher Socrates, who famously said, “Know thyself,” Plato wrote philosophical dialogues that feature his teacher as a character. In his most famous dialogue, the Republic, he describes the ideal state and the ideal virtues of its rulers.
Aristotle was a student of Plato, but the system of thought he developed was in many respects very different. Aristotle concentrated on happiness in the world we know as the major goal of humankind, rather than pursuit of ideal forms. Credited as the founder of the Western system of logical propositions still used today, Aristotle believed that the exercise of reason is the highest pursuit of which a person is capable. He authored treatises on logic as well as works on mathematics, the sciences, and drama.