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Aristotle (384 BC- 322 BC), a Greek philosopher, was a student of Plato. His writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of western philosophy. He looked in depth at morality, aesthetics, logic, science, politics, and metaphysics.
Plato and Aristotle draw different conclusions about aspects that occupy the main understanding of the human nature. In fact, they differ greatly in their explanation of the theory of forms. Aristotle critiqued Plato’s forms as abstract copies of actual things or beings. He said that Plato’s forms did not explain the existence of things or how they change. He stated that Plato gave no reason for why he believed in certain things. His beliefs were blind and had no reasoning (Fine, 1995). According to Aristotle, the Plato’s theory of forms did not provide comprehensive information on what it was expected to explain. Aristotle believed that a theory of forms should explain how permanence and other orders could subsist in this world order, as well as how people could possess objective knowledge of various things in the globe.
Aristotle supports the statement that theory of forms talks about the permanence as well as objectivity of the realm of forms and helps elaborate the happenings of the material world due to the link of the separate worlds that is difficult to understand. For example, if humans are able to identify a beautiful thing such as an object because we have a general conception of the abstract, we should be able to explain how we acquire this abstract knowledge of beauty. There must be an explanation as to why human beings believe that something is beautiful (Aristotle, 2009). So, with Aristotle’s theory of forms, reality deals with both the concrete and the abstract forms.
Aristotle argues that all material objects do not imitate forms. He states that it is very difficult to give an explanation of what precisely this imitation of forms is. Aristotle states that the properties that the forms have are not compatible with material objects. These properties comprise of things like forms that are unchanging, eternal, simple, indissoluble, existing outside space and time and transcendent. For instance, can any object, which happen to be red in colour, be purported to contribute in or else copy the form of redness? Is it proper to say that the form of redness happens to be red itself? Is it possible to have redness without anything, which is red? What aspects can a red object together with the form of redness have in common? There is no link between the realm of forms and the material world. As a matter of fact, forms can never be applied in explaining something present in the material world (Fine, 1995). Aristotle tries to bring to light the fact that we cannot know the nature of a form if we have not interacted with it. How can we know that the form of beauty is beautiful if we have not perceived it with our senses? We can only describe something as beautiful by approximating the property of beauty by other material things that we have seen and not a form that we have not seen. Aristotle said that things in the material world could only be explained by other things in the same world. Forms cannot explain anything in the material world.
The theory of forms does not explain anything about the similarity of objects. When we look at similarities of objects that ought to originate from one form, there is always a need to introduce another form beyond the one proposed. An explanation of the original similarity of a form cannot be used to explain why two things are similar (Copleston, 2003). A white paper and a white wall, for instance, bear a resemblance because of being copies of the form of whiteness. Due to the fact that they are copies of this form, we expect them to resemble this form completely. However, similarities among the white object together with the form of whiteness should be elaborated in a different form (Fine, 1995). What might be the form that a white wall and a white paper copy to ensure that there is a similarity? It means that we will have to introduce other forms in order for the two objects two be fully similar. It means that material things in the world do not occur in forms and cannot be explained using one form. According to Aristotle, forms change, they are not eternal, they are complex and do not go beyond ordinary limits. Forms are not single and independent. Aristotle explains that forms cannot be used to explain two different things to look the same. Different items in the environment take up different forms to make them a whole. For example, a white paper takes the form of white, flat, tall, and these forms do not exist forever, because they can change and take up other forms as desired. The notion of forms copying or imitation used in the theory of forms is, therefore, not logical.
Aristotle then explained that as a way of explaining both objective knowledge as well as coherence in the world should be positioned in specific individual objects. Aristotle thought that universals exist within the particular object. Despite that, Aristotle still explained how things transform, how they can have knowledge, as well as how they can have permanence. His main view was to solve the issue of reconciliation of the subjective as well as the objective world (Copleston, 2003). Instead of dividing the world into two parts like Plato, Aristotle divided the objects in two aspects; matter and form. He stated that what materials got composed of was their matter while the way they became arranged was their form. For example, a piece of cloth gets used to mend a skirt, and then, later on, the same piece gets sewn into a skirt. The piece of cloth is matter, and it is the same. It can, however, get arranged into different forms according to one’s liking. The piece of cloth is one material object; however, it contains two diverse features, that is, its matter and its form. Aristotle argued then that form was simply the way matter became orderly. Additionally, he insisted that it is the form that takes something that makes it look like (Aristotle, 2009). When the piece of cloth gets changed from skirt to trouser, the cloth remained the same. It is, therefore, the form that the cloth took that made it either a trouser or a skirt. It is form that we perceive once we have knowledge of it. It is right to say that something is beautiful because of the form it takes not because of the matter that it gets made of. This beauty also does not last for eternity, because this form can be altered. Forms can change because every form has different properties. The form of beautiful can change if the matter that makes something beautiful becomes altered.
Change: According to his perception, change can take place because the similar matter can be organized differently in more than one way. Change takes place when the alignment of the matter undergoes changes. It can move from one form of matter to another.
Permanence: Additionally, he claimed that although the form of a certain object can undergo change, it is the form but not matter which gives the permanence or order in the world. Matter of everything is the same and cannot contribute to the order and knowledge that various changes of things contain. The essential form of something remains unchanged as the thing undergoes changes. This important form of an anything guides the transformation and development of the thing (Aristotle, 2009). The changes must be orderly; some features of something may change as it continues in existence, but its essential form remains unchanged. For instance, a fruit grow from a seed and transform into a tree, which, finally, produces fruit. Its form is undergoing persistent change. However, changes are not haphazard. The seed cannot transform into a stone or a cow. It transforms in ways that are necessary to transform it into a fruit. The essential form of something guides it through changes to become what it is meant to become. This is the way it becomes possible to have permanent things in the dynamic world. The necessary form of a thing guides their permanency.
Aristotle wanted to explain the existence of things and how they change. He argued that particulars, not universals are ultimately real. Aristotle argued that particulars exist as individual things. Such a thing is not just a form or matter (Aristotle, 2009). He said that things within the earth combine matter and form within themselves. Substance combines form and matter in such a way that the matter fulfils its purpose that it is meant to fulfill. Form is just not an accident or an illusion. It has qualities that make it qualify to exist on its own as a form. There are qualities that make the form of beauty beautiful. There are certain qualities that get used to describe whatever is beautiful. These are the qualities that make anything be called beautiful. There is no form that gets described differently in different instances. If an item is white in one place, it does not change its form in another place and become black. White stays white everywhere.
Forms are more numerous than the particular sensible things; yet it was seeking the cause of these sensible things that they move from them to forms. To each thing, there are answers, which are for an entity, which has a similar name and yet exists apart from the substance and also in the case of groups. There is normally one superior thing over many whether those things belong to this world or are eternal. For Aristotle, ideally forms and ideas exist as one. They cannot be separated.
Aristotle states that within the soul, the faculties of knowledge and sensation are potentially these objects what are knowable and what are sensible. They must be the concrete things or their forms (Aristotle, 2009). The things themselves are, however, impossible, so, it leaves us with only the forms. For example, it is not the tree, which manifests within the soul but the form of the tree. Human minds, according to Aristotle, can think in the abstract form. They have the power to create forms or ideas from their images. So, for Aristotle, the form or idea does not exist apart from the concrete as was the case with Platonists.
Metaphysics must be constructed from the same principles in order to attain its needed abstract necessity. Aristotle believed this was so because metaphysics deals with a truly unique subject of theory of forms. He stated that natural science deals with things that can be moved or separated, and mathematics deals with things that cannot be moved or separated. Metaphysics deals with things, which are both immoveable and separable as its key objects. Thus, what we learn in metaphysics are the qualities of eternal nature, or of individual things.
Aristotle argued the theory proposed by Plato was too mathematical. It did not explain in depth how change occurs or why it occurs. Furthermore, it did not clarify why things change. By identification of things together with their essence, the theory of forms did not account for the occurrence of new substances in the environment (Aristotle, 2009). A better position of argument must bring out the difference between form and matter and allow for the dynamic relation between the two. He supported his stand that each individual substance is both matter and form together. The theory involves looking at the attributes of an abstract universal of a concrete individual. Our own experience of something brown is more significant than our apprehension of the form of brownness. This emphasis on individual substances gave Aristotle perfect foundation for practical experience.
For Aristotle, change of any kind requires the actual existence of something that causes the change. Becoming of a form is a process in which it potentially presents in an individual substance becomes discovered through the help of something else, which is already in existence. He stated that this is so because everybody is a part of form and matter, which comes together by some cause (Aristotle, 2009). He concluded that everything that happens can be attributed to one universal thing that causes everything, itself eternal. The goodness of the entire universe, he supposed, resided in its teleological unity as the will of single intelligent being.
Thought is an active process of taking part in the manipulation of forms without coming into contact with outside objects at all. Thinking is free of the objects of thought, which are abstract in nature. Imagination, according to Aristotle, is the action of the common sense without getting stimulated by the senses of the body. All knowledge begins with information that comes through the senses, become acquired by rational means. The soul uses formal methods of logical reasoning to understand the relationships among abstract forms. It is because senses get preoccupied with the particulars.
For Aristotle, the forever movement of nature needs an eternal cause that cannot be moved. This thing that cannot be moved is God according to Aristotle. He is the ultimate cause of virtually everything. All things move to God as their last state or goal. God gets seen as an ideal activity or pure form (Deslauriers, 2007). Aristotle said that the important form of mankind is their own reason. Reason means being able to differentiate between the form and matter when thinking in the abstract form. For instance, when I think of something like a chair, for example, I tend to have the form of a chair in mind, other than the wood or matter. Reason hence helps us detach our own form from matter. When we do this, we turn out to be like God, who has pure form and thought. We should, therefore, develop our forms through life so that we can perceive more concretely.