What Are the Differences Between Plato and Aristotle?

The primary difference between Plato and Aristotle lies in their beliefs about what was most authentic about existence. Plato believed that ultimate reality is not present in everyday experiences. Aristotle thought that the everyday world is more authentic than Plato’s otherworldly set of ideals.

Plato and Aristotle appear at the center of the Italian master Raphael’s painting “The School of Athens.” Their postures show the difference between their philosophical priorities. Plato is pointing upward to emphasize his belief that reality is beyond the everyday. His term for these ideal types of reality is “the Forms.” In the painting, Plato is holding a copy of his treatise “Timaeus,” in which he describes his philosophy of the origins of the physical world. Aristotle, on the other hand, has a copy of the “Ethics” he wrote in his hand. His hand is spread out before him, showing his emphasis on the Earth and the vast spectrum of moral teachings.

Both Plato and Aristotle wrote about many different subjects of the day, ranging from the proper form of government to a definition of aesthetic beauty to the very nature of reality. The divide between their perspectives has remained in place among modern philosophers as well.