What Motivated Plato, Aristotle

Its a complete shame that the vast majority of people in the teaching profession suffer personal and intellectual arrested development in that mentors were primarily shaped and informed from a Germanic vision of education.  This meant study of a particular field in isolation.  Today’s digital media creates a dynamic social field eradicating the private vision and mores of an agricultural or mechanical world.  Interdisciplinary studies in a digital culture emasculate both previous learning styles and assumption of relevancy.  We are blind to recognize that all technology gradually eliminates old fields by creating, perpetuating totally new vision.  This is most commonly witnessed in war between unequal adversaries.  The less tractable culture can gain a quick upper hand simply by adapting the devices of its adversary in psychological and geologic conditions that are not recognized by highly sedentary specialized adversary.  With the arrival of the digital world we must adapt to a continuous changing field.  Stability is no more, whether for finance, foreign policy or gender relations.  Today’s egalitarian inclusive world ravages the neat compartmentalized life that was mechanical or automated life.  The difficult wisdom is in recognizing and accepting that intractable monolithic institutions like National Churches, Universities or Unions are inadequate for preparing one to live in an inclusive world.  Simply put, environments are not passive wrappings but active processes.  This brief post will examine how ancient Greek minds like Plato and Aristotle were born from a dynamic process of cultural reversal and upheaval summoning a fatal challenge that destroyed antiquity.  Plato and Aristotle were formidable intellects but they could not save their own civilization from terminable decline!

Just what motivated Plato or Aristotle to become the giants they are for us in the West?

The answer is in discovering the formal yet antiquated cultural institutions that shaped Greek political, economic life immediately prior to both Plato and Aristotle.  The fatal flaw lay in idolizing the ephemeral political institution of City State that responded successfully to the challenge thrown down by Persia.  That success turned into unmanageable hubris for the Athenians which ultimately provoked the suicide that became the Peloponnesian War.  Plato and Aristotle were born into the permanent decline of both Empire and civilization.  Nevertheless, the social barrage of a disintegrating civilization was not the only threat that goaded Plato, Aristotle and hosts of other minds to greatness.

Plato and Aristotle were motivated within irrevocable decline by the violent discovery that is writing!

Tribal cultures may elevate themselves out of orality toward manuscripts.  Many civilizations sparingly use manuscripts to shape memory for rhetoric as was the Christian civilization right up until Gutenberg under Luther.  The disintegrating Empire that fed the intellect of a Plato and Aristotle were violently rocked into grasping the newly elevated challenges that were the fruits of writing:  perspective, individualism and heightend technique in agriculture, war and the arts.

We are dealing with a civilization and empire in permanent decline whose domestic natives are heated up with the arrival or writing.  By Plato and Aristotle’s time the written word had created a new environment that had begun to detribalize man.  The tribal encyclopedia of memorized poets that became Homer suited the social and psychic demands of a City State.  The poets of memory throughout Hellas provided specific operational wisdom for contingencies becoming an agricultural propertied oligarchy.

With the advent of detribalized man through writing, a new education was needed.  Plato and Aristotle set out to discover the curriculum for such an endeavor .  For Plato is was the Ideals (a philosophy of idealism), for Aristotle it became realism (a philosophy of empiricism.)

When a culture possesses a phonetic alphabet easily transmitted into writing, classified guilded economies overcame oral operational wisdom of Homer and Hesiod that accompanied the hubris of the a failing tribe.

Education by classified data has been the Western program and aesthetic ever since!

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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3 Responses to What Motivated Plato, Aristotle

  1. Thanks! It was a Jesuit that informed me of how to dismantle this most formidable problem. I took notes for about two hours on a train ride across Italy some years ago. Its lead to numerous unfinished essays lol. But I’ve always loved his insight into the cognitive and social impact of evolving media’s (oral/manuscript cultures to highly segregated literary bookish cultures). Sort of like Victorian England into WWII, how else to explain the great Churchill!

  2. Yes, nice.. I am sort of a lay student of both Queen Vic, and the Victorian era and society. Yes, the changes from her time till WW2 were profound! BTW, my father was a pilot in WW2, and flew the Spitfire in the Battle of Britian, and on. He was later a scientist..physics, etc. RIP!

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