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Argument Between Philosophy Aristotle and Philosophy Locke Essay

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Updated: Dec 6th, 2021


There exist a number of classic philosophies with different issues of discussions written by the classic scholars. Some give explanations of completely new ideas while others give critics of previously written philosophies. Some philosophies are those written by Aristotle and Locke, where each has its share of new ideas as well as criticism, though that of Aristotle has more of criticism of Plato’s work. Locke’s and Aristotle’s work differ at more instances than it agrees developing an argument between the two. This can be derived from their different writings on human mind, reason, understanding and politics, among others.


According to (Murray, 1997), John Locke, a philosopher of the British origin, was also a researcher in medical and academic areas. During his research work, Locke associated himself with Ashley Cooper and consequently became an official in government whose duty was to collect data on colonies, politics, economy, and revolution. In politics, Locke wrote on oppositional kind of politics regarding institutions and individuals as well. He insists on the usage of reason so as to have an understanding of truth. Aristotle writes on different aspects of human beings though he divides his work into two sections that is logics and ethics. The logic part of his writings does not have much relation to Locke’s work as its more of definitions. However, ethics more or less relates to Locke’s works where arguments on their way of reasoning can be derived.


Locke’s has explained his philosophy in several writings with the major one being where he explains human understanding’s limits in four series of books. Others are on Government treaties as well as religion where he gives his philosophic understanding of human beings minds and truth. Aristotle’s works included function argument and human good, the methodology of virtues, and his differences with Plato’s work. Others are, mean doctrines which is explained using disposition, as well as reasoning and intellectual virtues. In the series of human understandings’ limits, Locke tries to explain the nature as well as sources of people’s knowledge, where he uses his first book to show human beings’ blank slate situation at birth. He argues that people are born without any kind of knowledge in their minds and their blank minds are later filled by experience, which becomes their knowledge. Aristotle shows a different argument as he considers human beings to possess this knowledge at birth and that they should apply it in the reasoning of goods that are necessary for human lives. (Murray, 1997)

In the second book, Locke states that ideas form materials from which human beings acquire knowledge and that those ideas are got from experience. He goes on to say that, ideas are the results of man’s thoughts and experience is divided into sensation which is information on external world’s processes. The other section of experience is reflection which is information on operations that take place in one’s mind and form the internal senses alerting people on the processes that their minds engage in. To Locke, the understanding of ideas is supposed to give us some experience which will in turn form our knowledge about them but to Aristotle knowledge is of less importance and considers only differentiation of good as important. This differentiation helps in the understanding of the good that is most desirable compared to other goods. Aristotle expects this decisions of the level at which goods are desirable to be from our own feelings and knowledge that we should have possessed at birth.

Locke applies the aspects of atoms combining to form complex objects in his explanation of how simple ideas combine to form complex ones. Locke argues that ones mind cannot come up with ideas but must derive them from experience making mind to be passive. The mind only becomes active when it receives simple ideas and integrates them to different complex ones. Therefore, he concludes that all that is in the intellect was once in human senses with reflection inclusive. However, Aristotle comes with a different argument where he uses virtues and reason in order to have a happy life, of which he considers human beings to understand at a first instance though according to Locke this should be derived from experience. Aristotle considers the human mind as ever active as according to him, it has what it requires for making decisions.

(Murray, 1997), states that, the third book of Locke deals with ways in which language in its nature is connected to ideas and its contribution to knowledge. He argues that abstract ideas are of great importance to possession of knowledge as they are sorts in which human beings rank all existences that occur around them. This shows how classification and general ideas are important in language and consequently to ideas and knowledge. Aristotle and Locke agree on the existence of particulars and generals or abstracts, where Locke refers to some ideas as general while others are specific, hence particular. However, Aristotle’s argument is similar but uses a different concept that is phenomena, where he shows how particulars are used in sciences to derive universality of ideas through the process of induction. According to Aristotle, particulars are in turn deducted from generalizations or universals. Locke uses words to represent ideas which are differentiated in respect to ideas’ categories, resulting to categories of mixed modes, substances, simple modes, relations, among others. Locke’s understanding of language differs from that of Aristotle in that Aristotle concerns himself with affirmation and denial of predicates as well as subjects in structures of those sentences. Aristotle considers human beings to possess the understanding of these differences and apply them in their writings as well as conversations.

Locke’s forth book explains the constituents of knowledge and the part of knowledge that can be comprehended by human beings and that which they cannot. According to Locke, human beings have a limited capability of comprehending external objects’ nature and all they can apply is their opinions to distinguish them. However, Aristotle does not find a limit to what human beings should know as they already possess that power in their minds. In the treaties of government writings, Locke tries to explain how human beings possess natural rights and how the legitimate and illegitimate governments are involved in their control. Legitimate governments are considered to preserve and punish those going against those natural rights while illegitimate ones do not uphold them at all. Locke argues that, some natural rights are also used by human beings in religion, where they apply them in their choice of salvation. Aristotle argues that politics is more important than individual citizens of a particular community and that children’s education should be the same for all which is supposed to be guided by community’s decisions. (Murray, 1997)


There are more areas in which Aristotle’s philosophy differs from Locke’s as well as areas in which they agree. For example, there is an instance where Aristotle describes an individual’s happiness to be as important to an individual as it is to his/her political community. However, the political understanding of Locke differs as according to him a government only takes up responsibility of part of human beings rights which it’s supposed to preserve according to what individuals consider as right. Therefore, individuals are given a priority as they have rights that are natural and which should not be manipulated by human beings to fit their description. These and more classic philosophies have been used for analysis as well as understanding of early philosophy and their relation to modern philosophy. (Murray, 1997)


Murray P. (1997): An Anthology of classics from Plato to the present: Routledge press.

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