This inset from Raphael’s painting: School of Athens shows Plato (left) schooling his pupil Aristotle. The painting features many names from classic philosophy, but these two figures: Plato and Aristotle, are the centerpiece of the painting, which I believe is appropriate since these two great thinkers embody the essence of two opposing but equally compelling views on philosophy.
The hand gestures of the two men: Plato vertically pointing up at the vault of the ceiling, Aristotle gesturing to the ground along the horizontal plane, are representative of their differing views. In The Duel Between Plato And Aristotle, Leonard Peikoff describes their opposing views succinctly:
For two millenia, Western history has been the expression of a philosophic duel. The duelists are Plato and Aristotle.
Plato is the first thinker to systematize other-wordliness. His metaphysics, identified in Objectivist terms, upholds the primacy of consciousness; his epistemology, intrinsicism and its corollary, mysticism; his ethics, the code of sacrifice. Aristotle, Plato’s devoted student for twenty years, is the first thinker to systematize worldliness. His metaphysics upholds the primacy of existence; his epistemology, the validity of reason; his ethics, the ideal of personal happiness.
I’ve captured excerpts of Dr. Peikoff’s excellent article here under Critical Thinking Resources. I recommend aspiring critical thinkers to add a philosophical dimension to their critical thinking by reading his description of Plato and Aristotle and their latter counterparts: Immanuel Kant and Ayn Rand and how their conflicting philosophies shaped history.
As Dr. Peikoff ends his article:
To save the world is the simplest thing in the world.
All one has to do is think.
Aspiring critical thinkers have to agree.