Hegel’s Plato is Aristotelian

Since the Sophists and the Socratics were Moralists and not Philosophers, the Dialectical Scheme of ‘THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY has no place for them, while we are assigning one to Socrates, insofar as the latter can be considered as the initiator of the philosophical statements relating to the Eternal Concept.

Now, the Hegelian Schema provides for a triple discursive development of the (parathetic) notion of this Concept, the first constituting the thetic Parathesis of Philosophy and the second, its anti-thetic Parathesis, while the third and last is presented as the same parathesis synthetic, where the thesis and Anti-philosophical thesis are supposed to be in equilibrium (static).

History teaches us that Plato was the first to develop the Socratic notion of the eternal Concept discursively and that he did so in the sense of the thetic Parathesis, putting the conceptual Eternal (called Idea) in relation with Eternity Parmenidean situated outside <<Time >> Becoming “or the River” of Heraclitus. Soon after, this same Socratic notion was antithetically-developed by Aristotle, who put the Eternal Concept in relation with! ‘ Eternity in “Time”, that is to say, with! ‘ Eternity of the “eternal return” on itself of the river, where Becoming has thereby become “ swirling or “ cyclical”. As for the development of the Socratic Concept into a Synthetic, Parathesisit was only Kant who carried it out in a correct and complete way (for reasons which will be discussed later). 

But sketches of this Parathesis appear immediately after Aristotle and follow one another until the end of Pagan Philosophy (without being able to do so, in the absence of a Christian Trinitarian Theology, resulting from Judeo-Muslim monotheism, which needed all the Middle Ages to develop, in opposition to the ancient Philosophy of pagan Henotheism, even Parmenido-Platonic, of perhaps xenophanic origin).

However, the review of the ancient parathetic Philosophy naturally articulates in three sections.

  1. Plato’s Thetic Parathesis.
  2. Aristotle’s Anti-thetic Parathesis.

c) The pagan prodromes of the synthetic Judeo-Christian Parathesis.

In Hegelian terminology, Plato represents, from the historical point of view, the theosophic paradigm or thesis of Philosophy. In the Hegelian Dialectical Schema, Plato’s Para-thesis presents itself as a discursive development of the Concept, according to which the relation between the Eternal to Eternity is one situated outside Time (in the broad sense).

For Plato, the apparent or common could not serve as a definition of any sensible thing, since it is always changing. Plato then called Ideas things of this other kind, and he says that sensible things are all named after Ideas and by virtue of a relation to them; because Multiple Things exist by participation in Ideas that have the same name as they. Only the word Participation was new [in Plato’s account]; for the Pythagoreans say that things exist by Imitation of Numbers and Plato says that they live by participation. It appears that Plato just changed the word, replacing imitation in participation. For he, as “they” [the Pythagoreans and Plato], leaves open the question of what could be the specific nature of Participation in or Imitation of Forms.

The objects of mathematics, which occupy an intermediate position, differ both from sensible things by being eternal and unchangeable and from forms or ideas, by involving several similar symbols instead of forms or ideas, which are unique in each case.

Since the Forms would be the causes of all other Things, Plato thought that the [-constitutive] elements of the Forms would be the [-constitutive] elements of all Things. The Great and the Little [would be principles or constituent elements] as, for example, Matter, while the One [would be the principal or constitutive element] is as the essential reality itself; for the Numbers [ideals, that is, the Ideas numbered in their hierarchical or deductive order] come from the Great and the Little, by participation in the One.

Still, Plato concurred with the Pythagoreans, that the One is the substance (as opposed to a predicate of something else). Also, he agreed with them that the [ideal] Numbers are the causes of other things’ reality. But to pose an indefinite Dyad as a constituent element of ideal Ideas or Numbers (in which Numbers and other Mathematical Objects and Sensitive Things participate) and to construct the infinity of the Great-Little, [that is to say, of the indefinite Dyad], instead of treating the infinite as one [and not as Two or as Dyad: Great-and-small], is particularly Platonic. It is the same for his opinion that the Numbers [ideals and mathematics] exist separately from Sensitive Things, providing that the Pythagoreans say that [Sensitive] Things themselves are Numbers [mathematics]. Hence, Plato is all-alone in locating the objects of mathematics between Forms and Sensitive things.

The divergence from the Pythagoreans, separating the One and Numbers [ideals and mathematics] from [Sensitive] Things and the introduction of Forms, is in the centre of Aristotle’s criticism. For Hegel, this is the way to Plato. Let us move to see the resulting discussion.

It is indisputable that the three Aristotelian texts are clearly “polemical”, not to say maliciously. Nevertheless, they are coming to us from a man who has been a member of the Academy for nearly twenty years and who has elaborated a philosophical System (besides anti-Platonist), whose out of par “originality” is as evident as its extraordinary longevity and exceptional historical influence.

Thus, a “summary of Platonism made by a man exceptionally qualified to understand Plato adequately and to tell us what was really essential and practically new in the Platonic philosophical system while indicating to us what could be contradicted or explained as contradictory (by Aristotle and Aristotelianism).

If it is by no means absurd, if it is even necessary to understand a philosopher better than he understood himself, then Aristotle is our best option; as no one could understand Plato better than Aristotle did.

Therefore, it is not for us to “criticize”, but only to understand what Aristotle tells us of the philosophy of his master. Which, besides, without being impossible, is very far from easy. In any case, it is only thanks to Hegel and his Dialectical Scheme that I have been able to acquire the feeling of having been more or less successful. My question is to try to show the agreement between Aristotelian analysis and the “dialectical” or “Hegelian” analysis of Platonism.

Like the philosopher who sought a “synthesis” of two “opposing theses”, Aristotle first names the “thesis” of Heraclitus (although in fact and for us it is a “second” thesis). since “contrary” or “negative” to the “Anti-Thesis of Philosophy.” And he sums up this “thesis” by saying that in a Cosmos where everything is “in flux”, no (discursive) thought is possible, but of course, Heraclitus himself would not have summed up his thesis in this way. The notion of discourse has a different meaning for him than for Aristotle. This notion has the meaning assigned to it by Plato, following Socrates (but not Parmenides, for whom Knowledge was not discursive).

It is for Aristotle a permanent Discursive Knowledge, even of a Discourse (theoretical, that is to say speaking of Something) finite or definite, everywhere and always the same or identical to itself, that is to say, as it can always be and everywhere re-spoken, but nowhere, or never, contradictory(unless it is self-contradictory in the so-called).
But Heraclitus denies even the possibility of such a Discourse (which may be called Socratic) because for him we can always and everywhere say the opposite of what we say about everything we talk about,{as Aristotle tells us elsewhere, in his usual contemptuous manner and by “refuting” it, by a “sophistic” argument, where Heraclitus himself contradicts himself by saying what he says; cf. Met., 1062a, 32-1062b, 11}. But, for Heraclitus, this does not mean the negation of Knowledge as such, if we give it the meaning he gives it, namely the possibility of constantly speaking about everything that ‘we want.

Without doubt, having said that S is P, we must say sooner or later that S is not P or is Non-p, and therefore not say what we had said, but the contrary and the opposite is cancelled thus discursively; but nothing prevents us from saying afterwards that S is Q and so on indefinitely. Therefore, as opposed to the Parmenidean (also permanent) Silence, the Logos of Heraclitus is a Discourse and Discourse just as endless, as such, as Socratic (Discursive) Knowledge: except that the latter is repeated incessantly, while the Heraclitean Logos “develops endlessly or indefinitely while remaining everywhere and always, that is to say necessarily, what it is, namely Speech. Be that as it may, Aristotle is correct when he asserts that it is Heraclitus’ thesis n (negative or negating) which is at the origin of Platonism, at least in the sense that Plato’s philosophy had for first and main goal (not to re-say, but) to contradict the Heraclitean “thesis) (which itself contradicted the Eleatic thesis), that is to say: the thesis of philosophy.

Plato’s purpose was to reiterate Socrates’s sayings about (discursive) thought while reiterating what Heraclitus said about the Universe or the World – where – one – lives -while speaking. Therefore, according to Aristotle, Platonic philosophy has a” parathetic”, once this philosophy implies (also) a Heraclitean element, which I call “antithetic”.

More precisely, Platonism is intertwined in two points with Heraclitus, thus opposing Parmenides on both points. On the one hand, Plato admits with the first against the latter that the Saroir du Sage is not silent, but discursive; so that the Philosopher seeks (discursively) Wisdom not to be silent, but to speak (by developing discursively “Socratic Discourse”). On the other hand, and it is only the counterpart of this first hold (“antithetic”) of position, the World of which one speaks (while living there) is not finished (in its extended duration), as so wished Parmenides, who claimed that all “contraries” cancel each other out in a “permanent” or” definitive” (somehow “simultaneously”). The world of speech is unfinished (at least in its duration), as said Heraclitus, who admitted that every “opposite,” annulled by his “contrary,” is always and everywhere going to create a “new” opposite. Once again, if Plato admitted this second “premise” of Heraclitism, he denied his conclusion, because he modified the first premise.

He admitted, in fact, following Socrates (at least according to Aristotle), that permanent silence could be substituted for a speech that was just as permanent (which is in the strong sense, as opposed to the “ephemeral” sense of the term), without becoming therefore in-defined or “infinite” (that is to say, in fact, and for us, as for Plato and probably already for Socrates, devoid of meaning proper and, therefore, purely symbolic, mathematical or otherwise). For this to be so, it was sufficient for the Discourse to be at one and the same Time coherent or finite, and indefinitely repeatable as it is.

But such a Discourse is precisely the Socratic Discourse, whose “Heraclitean Thesis” denied the existence and even possibility. Therefore, Plato had to transform this (negative) thesis to bring it in line with Socrates’ (positive) thesis. And this is what Aristotle tells us at the beginning of the first text quoted. Now, the “Socratic Thesis in question is, in fact, and for us, a Para-thesis. For by affirming (hypothetically) the possibility of Discursive Knowledge, it implies an antithetical element, that is to say, Heraclitean or anti-Eleatic. But the identical, or even the finite, namely, the limited or definite character of the Socratic Discourse makes Plato’s discourse susceptible to the Parmenidean Silence and opposes it to the Logos of Heraclitus.

To say, as Aristotle does, that Plato wanted to reconcile Heraclitus with Socrates is therefore equivalent to asserting that Platonism is an attempt at the synthesis of Heraclitism (that is, the anti-thesis of Philosophy), not with Socratism (already < synthetic > in the sense of parathetic). Still, with its contrary, properly-taken or so-called, that is to say with the Eleatism, the authentic Philosophical Thesis. Aristotle is perfectly aware of it since he tells us a little further that Plato re-said the Pythagorean thesis (by contenting himself with the claim for Participation instead of Imitation). Namely, Plato would agree with the Pythagoreans that the One is substance and not a predicate of something else. Now, although we know very little of pre-Socratic philosophy in general and that of the Pythagoreans in particular, we know enough to say that the Plato-Pythagorean conception conveyed by Aristotle applies perfectly well to the only-one-Parmenidean Concept.

The Aristotelian statements, therefore, in no way prevent us from repeating, per the Hegelian Schema, that Plato (following Socrates) attempted a kind of “synthesis” of Heraclitus with Parmenides, that is to say of the Thesis of Philosophy with its Anti-thesis; which is peculiar to the philosophical Para-thesis. This historical correction of Aristotle is moreover compelling, all the more so because he admits (again, in the quoted passage) that Plato opposes the Pythagorean Thesis, in the sense that he asserted the transcendence of the One that the latter denied (by making the One the Matter itself> the Cosmos itself, instead of situating it beyond of it, as it did Plato, precisely after the authentic Eleatic). Now, as we know and as we will have the opportunity to see again, the Platonic trans-formation of Heraclitism (in view of the non-contradictory affirmation of the possibility of Socratic Knowledge) is only possible if we admit a Something situated outside the (extended duration of) the whole empirical Existence (or even Cosmos) taken and understood as the Heraclitean River.

The bulk of Aristotle’s critical or polemical effort is unquestionably directed against Platonic Ideology or, more precisely, against the transcendence of Ideas asserted by Plato, that is to say, against the u-topical character of the pretended Cosmos noels – imagined by the latter, even against the attempt to situate what one is supposed to speak in truth beyond Heaven, that is to say, outside the extension (and therefore the duration-extension) of the whole of the empirical or phenomenal world, where one lives while speaking.

The “question” which one must ask of Plato and Platonism, in general, is thus reduced, according to Aristotle himself, to the question of knowing why the Ideas are not in the place (or do not have of hic (and Nunc), Phys., IV, 33).

And all of Aristotelianism can then be considered as an answer to this fundamental question. Moreover, the answer on the “negative” to Plato, a response which denies the Transcendence affirmed by Plato or which affirms, if you will, Immanence, that is to say, the presence of Ideas in the place, even in Duration-extended of Phenomenal Empirical Existence.

Aristotelianism is reduced to the claim that one can speak” in truth” only if its empirical existence reveals it in Duration-extended, depending on what presents itself here and now to “Perception as” perceived.

The Tradition therefore only follows Aristotle himself when it presents Aristotelianism as a negation of authentic Platonism or as the “contrary” thesis of the “thesis” supported (for the first time) by Plato. If we represent Platonism (as I did above, following Hegel) as the thetic-Parathesis of Philosophy, we must see in Aristotelianism the antithetic Parathesis of the latter.

Consequently, as soon as we express the Philosophical Tradition in the terminology that I have chosen, we immediately see that this Tradition assigns to Aristotle the very place he is supposed to occupy in the Hegelian Schema of the history of Philosophy.

As far as Platonism proper is concerned, its development by Plato can be entirely “deduced” by developing correctly, up to the point where it developed precisely from the Concept, i.e. from the Concept understood as the eternal caught in his (alleged) relation with Eternity situated outside both the phenomenal Duration-extension and the objectively-real Space-time and even the dimension of Spatio-temporality as such.

The development (by Plato) of the Platonic notion of Concept revolves around Ideology [in fact “contradictory”] elaborated by Plato, who [wrongly] claims to speak “in truth” (and therefore without contradicting himself) of a Cosmos Noetos or of an ideal [supposedly] objectively-real world, as supposed to be situated beyond the phenomenal world and to have an intermediate situation between that of this world and the One-all-alone; that is (for Plato, as for Parmenides) the doubly transcendent (and therefore ineffable) given-Being.

So much so, one can just as easily “posit” (as “axiom”) the Platonic notion of Cosmos noetos (simply) transcendent and “deduce” from it the whole of Plato’s system, by completing Energology (“ideolo- geology”), which is constituted by the “immediate” development of this notion (energologic), by an Onto-logy (“theological” or “henotheist”) and by a Phenomenology (“idealist” or “spiritualist”), which respectively constitute the explanations of what this notion implicitly supposes and presupposes as posited.

Now, given that Aristotelianism is reduced to the “contrary thesis” of Platonism and can therefore be “deduced” from or by the “negation” of the latter, the situation, as regards the re-presentation of Aristotle’s System, can only be analogous to that which arises when one wishes to re-present systematic Platonism

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