I propose in this essay to examine the certain concepts of Metaphysics and propositions of the philosophical mind from Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Christian worldviews. There are also a certain degree of contention between each segment of views to which will also be addressed accordingly. Before we turn to the more specific task, however, we must first sketch the general framework of ideas in terms of where philosophy approaches these contentions. The term Metaphysics (Grk. Meta: “after”) is the speculations of what questions arise about the meaning of the universe.
Questions such as “what is real? or “what kinds of things exist? ” It is the science of being and is concerned with what lies beyond the physical realm we already know. Immersing further into metaphysics we begin to concern ourselves with the dualistic nature of the universe or the hylomorphic conception of the world. This means the difference between matter and form. The dualistic nature of the universe refers to both reality (matter/physical) and form (spiritual). Matter can consist of that which is tangible such as a table made of wood. An example of the Form or spiritual can be considered the mind; it is something we cannot touch and is intangible.
The Materialist such would say that only physical things exist, the Idealists consider only Spiritual entities as real, and the dualist believes that both are real. It is at this point where philosophers intend to answer these important, controversial ideas. The first metaphysical property to be considered was the problem of permanence and change. This idea explains that there are occurrences of natural change in this world and occurrences of continuing and permanent conditions. The world is the stable consistent and “real” entity while the rest in the world is flux, it continues to exist and leave existence in appearance.
Metaphysics intends to answer these questions and contain a wide variety of ideas. Platonic metaphysics is idealistic. Plato (427 B. C. – 348 B. C. ) believed that forms are the only true and real entities to which real physical objects are made from. Things that exist are not the things that are destructible. Wood is influx because it is something that come into existence and then leaves without keeping its permanent form. Plato believes that ideas exist but not the human being. What we see is not real, man is not real, but the idea of man is real.
The reason why ideas are real is because they cannot be destroyed, they are perfect and independent. This means that material things are dependant on the forms, which made it, therefore the realm of ideas puts forth the realm of the physical. Plato does not disagree that there are two realms, so in that sense he is dualistic. Yet he does believe that the only true realm is the spiritual. Our human bodies have material/physical existence, yet our mind are capable of seeing the immaterial, the forms. The mind-body-and soul, are in conflict with one another.
The physical body is trapped in the affairs of life; the soul is caught between the mind and body. The mind seeing that which is immaterial is the only true thing, and the physical seeing only the material leaves the soul at a place in between. Plato believed that a man can free himself and liberated their thoughts and bondage directing their lives so that when they die, the soul will be eternally free to see the perfect world of ideas. This theory points out that if we reject all that is material and physical in this world we will understand the eternal forms of the perfect world.
Christianity does agree with this theory, yet it recognizes the physical body as sinful, Plato says the soul is fighting to steer the body away from human affairs (Philosophy-122) but no explanation is provide for how the soul can be liberated from one’s physical circumstance. Plato also introduced an agent known as the “Demiurge”, something that can exist in transition between the form and the material bringing order from the form to the world so that we may see what is the true realm of existence. Demiurges were agents that could reveal the ideas of forms to the physical world.
Plato believed himself to be one of those demiurges and those taught with his system of thought also had the ability to reveal and teach like him. To conclude, Plato believed that ideas are the fundamental essences of reality. However there are many things that do not reveal themselves in material entities. Such as beauty, Justice, equality, Liberty, truth and goodness. How do we understand where these came from? So we are creating a problem because these questions defy solutions, they are hard to quantify with answers.
The materialist believes that we are nothing more than a separate entity of flesh and blood with a conscience, no soul, no spirit. What is real is our flesh, and that is where their viewpoint of worldviews extends, they do not believe in the intangible. Is this true? Do we have a mind? If so then why can’t I see it? Philosophy again allows us to ask and answer these questions. Aristotle (384-322BC), born after Plato, and became a student of him in his younger years, yet did not share the same beliefs as Plato. He contended against Plato’s idealistic view of a dualistic world.
Plato says that the form transforms itself in the object, and Aristotle asks how do you know? Aristotle believed that to everything that exists there must be a cause, and if we cannot know that cause it must not exist. He does not intend to explain what he cannot know. Color, sound, tastes, touch, are all senses, a person is one who perceives existence so it must be real to be able to perceive that which is existent. So he does not extend past the material world. He does not know if forms are real because he does not know how, and so he asks, “what causes what? The natural world can be accounted for and made intelligible without having to appeal to a metaphysical world of forms by way of four fundamental causes.
The efficient cause (someone who knows how to put materials together), the material cause (the brick, the tree etc. ) the form cause (the part of the idea where the thought is manifested in the material to help it work, ex: a tent is only made to work it the cloth composing the tent can be held up to create space for it’s camper’s) and the final cause (the tent itself being held upright). Aristotle wants to rid of ideas that we can’t understand.
The ability for man to make a building did not come from forms or ideas from a metaphysical world. Rather is was already in the material around us (another way to say it is that the potential for forms is in the material), and just had to be discovered, therefore our thoughts as humans are motivated by the materials around us. This is why when we are born; our wealth or ideas are already around us we simply haven’t been exposed to them as long as someone who was 25 years of age. So matter becomes the “real” material cause for potentiality in this world.
Aristotle also proposed another idea that motions or changes in objects occur because they are trying to reach a perfect goal. This was his “teleological” thought process. A seed grows into a plant, or a larva grows into a butterfly. A pattern exists in all these examples that tells us there is a goal to matter. So Aristotle also contended that matter has the potential to reach an end goal. That end goal is relative only to its species. Yet Aristotle also explained that matter and object had an ultimate goal to become its pure form. This pure form is a state without matter.
He came up with this idea from looking at the world around us. The planets and stars only change positions as far as he could tell they never changed form. On the earth however, we are always far more removed from becoming devoid of matter. However humans can come to a pure form only by searching for it. We can find out that which is perfect and pure to be able to exist in a state of realization of perfection. Aristotle proposed one more aspect to his system thought. The “Unmoved Mover”, was an object that Aristotle saw was the actual goal of all change and motion.
He saw this object having no potentiality and no matter. Aristotle saw humans as people who undergo change to become like the unmoved mover. Their desire out of love and a want for perfection is the reason for their alterations and change towards a pure form. If you look objectively at these words you can see that Aristotle is using his own system of “cause” to prove why we as humans want to become pure in form. Aristotle’s beliefs however have no conclusion. His reasoning ends in his belief that the world is ever changing and can never achieve its goal of an unmoved matter less end.
He does not have an explanation for why the world cannot achieve and end, so his thoughts cannot answer his questions. Christianity Metaphysics however is another aspect of philosophy that tries to explain, “Why things are? ” “What is real? ” Christianity is a dualistic. It has an answer to its questions. God is the spiritual entity and maker of the universe; he is the cause of the motion and change in the Universe. Christians agree with Plato and accept the physical and spiritual world as being both real.
In exodus when Moses was led to the top of Mount Sinai, he asked God who he was and the answer was, “I am that I am”. Revelations 1:8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, “The Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “Who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. It is with this verse that all philosophical questions of, “where did we come from? What exists? Where did we come from? ” are answered by the Christian. It is important to distinguish a Christian as a Monotheistic to understand where Christians derive their ontological arguments.
If asked the Question, “how do you know that God exists? Christians would say that Nature implies a designer, a designer to the trees the waters the mountains. Plato would have a hard time grasping these ideas because his interpretation of forms are a part of a disintegrating world and don’t have anything to do with a maker of design. Plato’s reason for knowing what exists is that he can see and is smarter than others, those who don’t agree with him are those that do not see because they are blinded by the physical world. Christianity seeks to extinguish the divine creator of the world with the sinners of the world.
Platonism inquires the idea that for every object there is it’s own perfect form, yet to Christians God is the creator of every form and object of material. He is the perfect form, therefore from him emanates what everything. Instead of multiple ideas of purity, we see Christianity emphasizing one. Explanations for Christian metaphysics come from the bible. Genesis 1:1-36 explains the creation, and fall of relationship between man and God. “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth”. (Genesis 1:1) describes who the creator is, what he created, and where our beginning lies.
Yet throughout Genesis man is stricken from the Garden of Eden by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This correlates the now cursed human nature to which Christianity refers to, and the need for each and every human to repent of their sins, receive Christ into their hearts and become reconciled with God to have eternal life. Aristotle did not however recognize this philosophical idea but explained that humans have a desire for perfection; they crave to become perfect forms out of their love and desire. He believed that we could obtain our own true forms.
The ideas form is what is divine. Christianity does not recognize human nature as having a desire for perfection rather it sees the opposite. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” and Romans 3:10-11, “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God, they have all turned aside. These verses give recognition to the problem of humanity, that we need our creator to lift us from our burdened sin so that we might obtain eternal life with him.
Aristotle and Plato both construe that the will of man is what can get us to our goal. Plato saw himself as the one who knew because he was smarter and more intelligent. Aristotle believed it was within man to be able to become like it’s purest form. Both acknowledged the will of man. Plato’s theory of “whatever is valuable in the universe is to be found in the ideal world not the physical world” (philosophy-p122) does agree with Christianity of an eternal kingdom of heaven. Colossians 2:3, “in whom (God) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Aristotle’s theory that the form is within the matter, and Plato’s theory that forms are separate from the material world both. To Plato forms are the primary substance, to Aristotle materials are the primary substance, and to Christianity God is the primary and the final source of all substance. Aristotle’s problem with Plato, he saw that over the course of time things became what they were not before. An acorn turns into a tree, so the transition is from the potential to the actual, not the actual to the potential (Platonism).
Some Christian religions such as Roman Catholic theology by way of Thomas Aquinas embrace these theories in combination with their own, and modern Western thought still teaches them. Aristotle is recognized by religions for providing a cause for man to see God through nature (the form is inherent in the matter). My opinion as a philosopher of concerning these ideas of contention is cautious. Platonic reasoning did not persuade me that ideas are only that which is real and the one true goal.
He does give cause for why the spiritual world is real yet he does provides the mechanism of destruction as the difference between the two realms, and does not recognize a creator. His teaching is limited and left with many unanswered questions, like, “What created forms? Or how do you know they exist through your own mind? Is the fact that you think real or material and if it is real then how do you know? ” Aristotle impressed me with his views of the nature of things.
In some places he does provide a corollary to Christianity, his theory of an unmoved mover was close to representing an actual God that directs the affairs of the earth. The way that Christians use Aristotelianism to give reason for Christianity if understood and explained carefully can be used properly as a case for Christ. Upon my own standpoint as a Christian it has saddened me often more than once how they have come ever so close to knowing there is a divine creator, and yet have strayed so far upon getting there.