Derrida Foucault Plato Aristotle Research Proposal

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Opposing Philosophical Views

Philosophy is often mistakenly viewed as a single trajectory, leading from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle and through the rest of the classical period, hibernating somewhat during the Dark Ages, and being restored again with the Enlightenment thinkers during the Renaissance. This simplistic view about the progress of Western thought could not be further from the truth, however. Philosophy is built on disagreement and the careful and skeptical analysis of other viewpoints, and most of civilization's greatest philosophers find themselves in disagreement with other leading thinkers quite often, if not absolutely every time they advance a theory.

This was true of ancient times just as it is now. Socrates was famously killed for propagating many of his beliefs, many of which ran counter to the prevailing logic and philosophy of the day. It is perhaps less well-known yet arguably more important that Aristotle, who came directly after Plato as the leading philosopher of his age, disagreed on many important points with his predecessor. Their views on many things, but especially literature and other arts, are widely divergent and contradictory. Whereas Plato was rather conservative and even dismissive in his view regarding art, Aristotle celebrated it as a natural part of humanity.

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This is, of course, a broad oversimplification of one of the many areas of disagreement between these two philosophers. Yet this view is not entirely inaccurate, and similar disagreements persist to this day. Two of the most prominent philosophers of the twentieth century, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, also found themselves opposed to each other in many views, not the least of which was the nature of art and the role of the author. In fact, its has been said that Plato is to Derrida as Aristotle is to Foucault, and such a comparison is not without merit.

Research Proposal on Derrida Foucault Plato Aristotle Assignment

To understand the ways in which these philosophers and their philosophies intersect and diverge, it is perhaps best to start with the earliest among them. In works like the Republic and Ion, Plato set out a clear stance against art, including poetry and drama (the established and virtually indistinguishable forms of literature in his day). At the same time, he considered beauty to be among the greatest of goods; a sign of divinity or near divinity. Though it might seem strange for beauty to be considered so good and art so evil, it is the very relationship between art and beauty and his immense appreciation of the latter that led Plato to his dismissal of the former.

Mimesis, or imitation (from which is derived our modern word "mimic"), was in Plato's mind one of the great evils. His conception of reality was that the world inhabited by humans was merely a shadow of the perfect world of the gods, and that this made the mortal world an imperfect imitation of a perfect existence. Any form of mimesis of representation consciously engaged in by mortals in this shadow world was, therefore, simply an imitation of an imitation, and fails automatically because it originates in representation rather than reality (Republic 603b).

In Plato's shortest dialogue, Ion, he seems to argue that an actor's portrayal of emotions is either a form of madness or inspired by simple greed. Neither of these would be considered good either by Plato's standards or our own, and the dialogue is constructed to exclude all other possibilities (536d,e). In short, Plato believes that we inhabit a world of imitation, and that any further imitation only separates us more from the truth. Plato believed that a search for the real truth -- or at least… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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