Application of Critical Theory in Aristotle and Plato’s Work Essay
Posted by: Write My Essay on: July 29, 2019


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The history of critical theory can be interpreted on a broad spectrum of the disciplines of both philosophy and the history of social sciences (Hohendahl et.al, 37). Among one of the interpretations is the fact that critical theory influenced various generations of social theorists in Western European Marxist tradition as well as German philosophers. According to critical theorist, a “critical” theory distinguishes from a “traditional” theory based on a particular practical objective.

In general, critical theory is a Marxist-inspired movement in political and social philosophy, which was formerly associated with the Frankfurt school’s work (Hohendahl et.al, 57). Over the years, critical theories have been building on the thoughts of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx in maintaining that the primary objective of philosophy is to help in understanding and overcoming the social structures through which human beings have not only dominated but also oppressed. In this way, by believing that like other forms and aspects of knowledge, science has been utilized as a tool of oppression, critical theorists caution against having blind faith in the scientific developments and progress (Hohendahl et.al, 65). On the same breath, these scholars argue that scientific knowledge should not be followed as an end in itself without referring to the objective of human emancipation.

Based on this argument, critical theory has been instrumental in the study of literature, history, law, as well as social sciences. Therefore, critical theory can be described as a sustained negotiation and conversation between the texts making up that history. On this premise, the following paper will discuss the works of Aristotle and Plato by showing how critical theory applies in Aristotle’s application of Plato’s work.  [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]


Overview of Critical Theory

Critical theory stresses the reflective critique and assessments of the society as well as culture through application of knowledge from the social humanities and sciences. Notably, as a term, critical theory has two meaning that have different histories and origins. The first meaning originated in political philosophy and sociology while the second meaning in literary theory and studies. Briefly, in political philosophy and sociology, “critical theory” refers to the neo-Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt School that was developed in the 1930s in Germany.

According to Max Horkheimer the Frankfurt theorist, a theory can only be termed as “critical” if its objective is to liberate humanity from any circumstance that enslave them. Theorists in Frankfurt drew on the critical methods of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx (Mayhew, 28). One of the aspects that are maintained by critical theory is that ideology is the primary obstacle to human liberation. Apparently, critical theory was established and developed as a school of thought by five theoreticians from the Frankfurt School who included Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, and Walter Benjamin. Accordingly, the modern critical theory has been additionally influenced by Antonio Gramsci and György Lukács including Jürgen Habermas, who is one of the second-generation Frankfurt School scholars. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

In reference to the above brief definition, it would be prudent to note that in a broader approach, critical theory seeks to not only change but also destabilizing the contemporary or established knowledge (Sermon, 66). As one the key theories that were developed by the German philosophers, critical theory emphasizes that all knowledge is biased and historical and that ‘objective’ knowledge is illusory. The theory focuses on the aspect of knowledge transfer by understanding and criticizing the available information to provide a more advanced understanding. in itself, critical theory was started from the times of Freud and Marx  before enplaning through the twentieth century to cover different areas such as  linguistics, literary criticism, psychology, semiotics, screen theory, philosophy, feminism, and includes methods such as deconstruction,  post-structuralism, structuralism, and postmodernism. In this regard, one would be forgiven when arguing that the history of critical theory can be described as a sustained conversation and negotiation between the texts making up that history (Mayhew, 28). Through this argument, it is clear that philosophers have relied upon works that their seniors did before them to offer more knowledge on the same subjects or related fields. In this way, the society has been impacted by wider volumes of materials that cover different areas of information and thoughts.

Based on the above assertion, Plato and Aristotle are some of the earlier philosophers who transferred and shared knowledge to affect the societal thinking and understanding (Arabia & Mahdi, 91). In this respect, these two philosophers form one of the good examples that illustrate the practical application of critical theory. In this paper, the works of Plato and Aristotle will be discussed with that intention of showing knowledge transfer between the early philosophers. The following section will posit that through Plato’s work, Aristotle was able to provide a different perspective of knowledge on the same subjects that were advanced by his teacher Plato. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]


A Brief Overview of the Works of Aristotle and Plato

Although some of the works that Plato and Aristotle did are slowly disappearing in modern philosophy, importantly, they laid the foundation through which modem understanding of different aspects that relate to critical thinking on different issues in life (Serkman, 68). Study shows that currently. only thirty one treaties of Aristotle’s work are remaining , having written more than two hundred treaties. At the same time, most of the Aristotle’s works are primarily teaching aids and lecture notes. Besides few ethics of Aristotle’s works remaining of relevant to the application in different areas of studies,  it is prudent to underscore the fact that his philosophy contributed immensely on many issues such as physics, biology, medicine, religion, and politics for many years. most of Aristotle’s important works which was copied hundreds of times throughout hand in medieval and ancient times  included the Physics, Metaphysics, Poetics, Politics, and  De Anima (On the Soul) (Morgan, 55). Accordingly, these together with other treaties would be collected in what would later be called the Corpus Aristotelicum which is always serve as the basis for hundreds of teaching and private libraries in the ninetieth century.

On his side Plato’s work can be roughly be divided into three periods (Farabi & Mahdi, 91). First is his early period that featured much about Socrates, whereby Plato has taken the role of a dutiful student who was ensuring that his tutor’s ideas continued to be alive. Evidently, of Plato’s work during this period were being written in form of dialogue , by applying the Socratic method which included asking questions in order to explore knowledge and concepts as the basis for his teaching (Barker,66). Particularly, “the apology”, which is one of the Plato’s famous works and which entails the trial of his teacher and execution, is included in this period.

The second period, which also considered as the middle period of Plato has included works that explores morality as well as virtue in the society and at an individual level (Reale et al., 66). In these presentations, Plato presents lengthy and detailed discussions on wisdom, justice, courage, as well as the duality of responsibility and power. Under this period, one of his most famous works is “the republic”, which explains the vision of the utopian society.

The third and final period of his writings, mostly discuss the role of art, in relation to ethics and morality (Reale et al., 26). In these works, Plato challenges his ideas and he including exploring his own conclusion with self-debates. At the end, he comes up with the philosophy of idealism whereby instead of reality, the truest essence of things occurs in thought. for example, under the “The Theory of Forms” as well as other works, Plato argues that since it is only ideas that are constant, the world is perceived by senses is considered as changeable and deceptive.

Analysis of Aristotle and Plato Works In Relation to Critical Theory

As noted above, critical theory emphasizes on the transfer of knowledge by not only criticizing the available knowledge but also providing a different outlook. Notably, Plato influenced Aristotle, just as Socrates influenced Plato (Serkman, 58). In this way, Aristotle was able to buy many ideas from Plato, which would form the basis of his argument. The following section seeks to outline different subjects that both philosophers covered and how Aristotle used the previous works of his teacher to build on his own work.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]

Firstly, it would be prudent to underscore the contributions that the works of Aristotle and Plato affected to the society, even after their death (Herman, 80). As a teacher and a student, their work’s influences would however go different directions. Notably, Plato became the main Greek philosopher due to his with Socrates and Aristotle. The presence of his work would later be used until his academy was closed in the 529 A.D. thereafter, Plato’s work would be copied throughout Europe. In many centuries, classical form of education would assign the works of Plato as readings whereby until nineteenth century, “the republic” was the premier work on political theory, which was being admired due to its views as well as its elegant prose.

On the other hand, Aristotle and his works were considered as the basis for both science and religion specifically in the middle Ages (Serkman, 61). For example, in religion, Aristotelian ethics were the basis for the works of St. Thomas Aquinas’, which would forge Christian thought on the role of virtue and free will. The scientific observations of Aristotle were regarded as the last word when it came to knowledge until around the sixteenth century after the Renaissance thought eventually replaced and strongly challenged much of it (Schofield, 37). Despite the replacement and negative criticisms of Aristotle’s work, his empirical approach based on observation, direct experience (experimentation), and hypothesis has been the basis for scientific activity in almost all fields of study.

Philosophically, Plato believed that concepts took a universal form, which he described as an ideal form, which informed his idealistic philosophy (Herman, 86). Building on this argument, Aristotle observed that universal forms were not really attached to each concept or object. Further, Aristotle argued that for each instance of a concept or an object, one must analyze them on their own, which informed the Aristotelian Empiricism. On the same breath, according to Plato, through reasoning and experiments would be enough to provide proof of a concept or establish the qualities attributed to an object. However, Aristotle dismissed this argument, but instead favored experience and direct observation. In such arguments, Aristotle was able to give a counter perspective of the works and beliefs of Plato, thus emphasizes the assertions in the critical theory.

In political theory, Plato was of the view that one should subsume his political interests to that of the society, which would achieve a perfect form of government (Herman, 69). Through his work, “the republic”, Plato described a utopian society by noting that the three classes, which included the philosophers, warriors, and workers, together with the society’s responsibility and governance were given to those were seem to be the best qualified under, “Philosopher Rulers.”

In this way, the elite were taking care of the less capable in the society. On his part, Aristotle considered the basic political unit as the “polis”, which ensured that it took precedence over family unit that in turn took precedence over individuals (Price, 59). Aristotle observed that since man is an animal in nature, politics would functions not as a machine but as an organism. Although Aristotle eschewed a large-scale construct such as empires and nations as well as utopian solution, he was able to move beyond political theory to become the first political scientist when he observed political processes for the formulation of improvements.

In ethics, the connection between Plato and Aristotle is most obvious especially when referring to the views morality (Kavanaugh, 42). On his part, Plato supported Socrates observation that knowledge is virtue in itself, which means that by knowing the right thing is not enough until the good is done. In other words, if one knows the right thing to do, he will automatically be led into doing the right thing. Therefore, it is possible to teach virtue by learning right from wrong and good from evil. On the other hand, Aristotle argued that knowing what the right thing was not enough (Kavanaugh, 45). In this way, he believed that one had to choose to act in the proper way by creating the essence of doing well. Therefore, Aristotle’s definition put the Aristotelian ethics on a practical plane instead of theoretical one that was supported by Plato and Socrates. Consequently, Aristotle was able to make his arguments on ethics from the earlier definitions of Plato, further cementing the critical theory on this illustration.



In conclusion, it is concretively clear that the influence of Plato on Aristotle’s works contributed immensely to the field of philosophy and laid the foundation of not only ancient society but also the modern understanding of the different issues in life, including science. In  regard to critical theory, which emphasis that a theory is only critical if its objective is to change the lives of people, both works helped to provide the basis for critical thinking and critiquing. The brought forward different ways of critics and sought to improve people’s lives. Science heavily borrows from their principles and the world shall thus remember them for more years to come as the greatest philosophers of all time who influenced nearly all aspects of life. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]


Works Cited

Barker, E. Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle. Dover Publications, 2012. Internet resource.

Farabi, and Muhsin Mahdi. Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Ithaca (N.Y.: Cornell University

Press, 2012. Print.

Herman, Arthur. The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of

Western Civilization. New York: Random House, 2013. Print.

Kavanaugh, Leslie J. The Architectonic of Philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz. Amsterdam:

Amsterdam University Press, 2007. Print.

Mayhew, Robert. The critical theory. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. Print.

Morgan, Millan. Classics of Aristotle and Plato. Indianapolis, (2011). Hackett Pub. Co.

Price, A W. Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press,

  1. Internet resource.

Reale, Giovanni, and John R. Catan. A History of Ancient Philosophy. Albany: State University

of New York Press, 2015. Print.

Schofield, Malcolm. Aristotle, Plato and Pythagoreanism in the First Century Bc: New

Directions for Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.

Serkman, Rietry. The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of

Western Civilization. New York: Random House, 2013. Print.


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