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Pluralism

Aristotle

Future generations of pluralists would challenge absolutism in various ways, but it fell to Plato's student Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) to criticize the overly abstract quality of the Platonic Idea of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. In The Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle pointed out that Plato's disembodied categories of thought proved unhelpful and even irrelevant because they were too disconnected from reality to serve as a useful guide to experience. Even if the Platonic Idea of the Good, for example, could somehow be known by human reason (and Aristotle thought this impossible) "it is not easy to see how knowing that same Ideal Good will help a weaver or carpenter in the practice of his own craft," Aristotle argued, "or how anybody will be a better physician or general for having contemplated the absolute Idea" (p. 25). For Aristotle, reality consisted rather of the empirical facts as faced by humans in concrete situations. Not even the physician studies the Good in the abstract. Rather, "he studies the health of the human being—or rather of some particular human being, for it is the individual that he has to cure" (p. 25). Like Aristotle, future generations of pluralists would chafe against the arid abstractions of idealist philosophy; they, too, would favor the multiplicity of empirical facts encountered by historically situated subjects in search of truth capable of guiding action in the world shared by men and women. Their universe, unlike Aristotle's, however, would be open-ended, changing; their truths would be plural rather than singular, monistic, and absolute. Nor would they come to expect universal agreement; for them, Socratic dialogue would be their guide.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Planck mass to PositPluralism - Philosophical Pluralism, Aristotle, German Historicism, Pragmatism, Cultural Pluralism, Political Pluralism, Conclusion