Who is greater, Aristotle or Kant? and why?
Answer by Craig Skinner
My vote goes to Aristotle.
Both are giants of philosophy, in their different ways, and I couldnt choose between them in this regard. But Aristotle was a great scientist, logician and literary critic as well.
To mention just a couple of their enduring contributions to philosophy.
- virtue ethics is flourishing with lively ongoing philosophical debate, as well as appeal to notions of good character and habits by parents everywhere when bringing up children
- ideas of proper function, ends and purposes, remain very influential in biology and in a naturalistic approach to human nature.
- deontological ethics is also flourishing, both philosophically, and in appeals by parents to duty and right action.
- ideas of forms of perception and categories of understanding are very influential in cognitive science.
But Aristotle pulls away with his other achievements.
- his physics is often derided these days. Unfairly so. Given the accepted cosmology of his day (Earth-centred system of concentric circles), his physics is a coherent system of fluid mechanics which held sway for 1500 years till Newton came up with something better.
- his field work in marine biology is suberb, it’s like reading Darwin. He is one of the great biologists.
- his logic was only improved on in the 19th Century.
- I am not big on the arts, but leading classicists regard his analysis of tragedy as “the single most important piece of literary criticism in Western culture into the twentieth century” (Beard &Henderson 2010. Classics: A Very Short Introduction. OUP).
In conclusion, whilst Aristotle and Kant are two of the three top all-time great philosophers (alongside Plato), Aristotle pulls ahead of Kant in virtue of his being a great physicist, biologist, logician and literary critic.