Aristotle refutes Plato’s Theory of Ideas on three basic grounds: that the
existence of Ideas contradicts itself by denying the possibility of
negations; that his illustrations of Ideas are merely empty metaphors; and
that they theory uses impermanent abstractions to create examples of
perception. Though the theory is meant to establish concrete standards for
the knowledge of reality, Aristotle considers it fraught with
inconsistencies and believes that the concept of reality depends upon all
forms’ correlations to other elements.
Ideas, Plato believes, are permanent, self-contained absolutes, which
answered to each item of exact knowledge attained through human thought.
Also, Ideas are in Plato’s view concrete standards by which all human
endeavor can be judged, for the hierarchy of all ideas leads to the highest
absolute – that of Good. In addition, the theory claims that states of
being are contingent upon the mingling of various Forms of existence, that
knowledge is objective and thus clearly more real, and that only the
processes of nature were valid entities.
However, Aristotle attacks this theory on the grounds that Plato’s
arguments are inconclusive either his assertions are not al all cogent.
Aristotle says, or his arguments lead to contradictory conclusions. For
example, Aristotle claims that Plato’s arguments lead one to conclude that
entities (such as anything man-made) and negations of concrete ideas could
exist – such as “non-good” in opposition to good. This contradicts Plato’s
own belief that only natural objects could serve as standards of knowledge.
Also, Aristotle refutes Plato’s belief that Ideas are perfect entities unto
themselves, independent of subjective human experience. Ideas, Aristotle
claims, are not abstractions on a proverbial pedestal but mere duplicates of
things witnessed in ordinary daily life. The Ideas of things, he says, are
not inherent to the objects in particular but created separately and placed
apart from the objects themselves. Thus, Aristotle says, Plato’s idea that
Ideas are perfect entities, intangible to subjective human experience, is
meaningless, for all standards are based somewhere in ordinary human
activity and perception.
Thirdly, Aristotle assails Plato’s efforts to find something common to
several similar objects at once, a perfect exemplar of the quality those
things share. Beauty is a perfect example; Plato considered Beauty both a
notion and an ideal, isolated by abstractions and fixed permanently while
its representatives fade away. Aristotle claims that abstractions like
Beauty cannot be cast as absolutes, independent of temporal human
experience; the Idea of Beauty changes with time and individual perceptions
and cannot (as Plato felt) exist forever as a concrete standard.
Plato and Aristotle reach some agreement, though, on the topic of reality.
Plato believes that all reality was derived from his Ideas (which themselves
dealt with concrete hierarchy of rational ideas.
St. Anselm, though, makes the most dogmatic and logically tortuous case for
God’s existence, relying not upon explanations of goodness, truth, or
rational order of ideas but upon an absurd argument. He claims that
everyone has some sense of God, and he claims that for one to deny God’s
existence is an invalid and contradictory assertion; therefore, God exists.
Also, Anselm believes that those capable of understanding God cannot believe
that he does not exist – as if the enormity of the idea was so clear than
only a fool could not perceive it.
His arguments seem the weakest of the four viewpoints here, for they are
riddled with dogma and assume that God is a constant – using faith alone.
Anselm considers faith paramount to logic or other forms of thought and asks
no questions as to what powers the universe or what goodness is – he
basically follows the Christian “party line” too closely to be valid.
In general, St. Augustine combines Plato’s idea of a moral hierarchy with
his own rational observations of truth and goodness being embodied in their
highest form by God. While Plato wavers on God’s superiority, Aristotle
views man as god’s pawn, and Anselm uses tortuous dogmatic logic,
Augustine’s arguments seem to make the most sense from not only a Christian
point of view but from a moral and rational one as well.
The philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, and St. Anselm on the
existence of God all vary on the issue of God’s nature; though each thinker
takes a different approach to why there is a God, that of St. Augustine
seems the most valid because he takes a rational stance and does not
dogmatically assume God’s existence.
Plato’s philosophy assumes that God exists as a supremely good being whose
goodness is analogous to Plato’s concrete concept or the ultimate good.
However, God and