Who is greater, Aristotle or Kant, and why

Sheila asked:

Who is greater, Aristotle or Kant? and why?

Answer by Craig Skinner

My vote goes to Aristotle.

Here’s why.

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.

Aristotle.

  • 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.

Kant.

  • 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.

 

2 thoughts on “Who is greater, Aristotle or Kant, and why

  1. Is it possible that some questions are not in their formulation wrong to be asked? (This question (not my question, but the original Question in question) might be that kind of question.)

    I suggest this question is much like asking, “which is a better crime to commit, robbing a bank, or embezzling at work, or shoplifting food from a grocery store.?”

    You answered as an opinionated philosophy historian, not as a philosopher. I say this not to accuse, but merely as an outside observer, in case you might find it helpful to reflect on this offered p.o.v.

    1. Yes, I dont answer as a philosopher, as you rightly say, because the question wasnt about who was the greater philosopher, but rather about who was the greater overall, and I give an opinion (evidence-based) on that point. So I suppose I am an opinionated philosophy historian, but then who better to give an answer. I dont think the question is like “which is the better crime to commit etc” but is more like asking whether Mohammed Ali or Joe Louis is the greater boxer, or whether Margaret Court or Serena Williams is the greater tennis player.These questions are to some extent just a bit of fan, but to hear the arguments of the afficianados of boxing, tennis, philosophy, science or whatever, can be instructive and stimulating

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