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Philosophy

Comparing and Contrasting the Philosophies

Chelsea Long Philosophy 100-005 Prompt 2 Final Essay Even though they were separated by thousands of years, hundreds of miles, and different cultures, the philosophical views of Friedrich Nietzsche and Plato can be examined and weighed against each other in many different ways. Friedrich Nietzsche, born in 1844, was a German philosopher whose main goal was to erect a new image for the people and to create a free spirit in them. Plato, born in 427 B. C. , was a Greek philosopher whose main goal was to create a new way of thinking about the world itself, knowledge itself, philosophy itself, and the individual.
Both philosophers have obvious similarities; their literary style of writing is perhaps the most apparent, but also their desire to create a new way of thinking for the people in which they hoped to influence. Nietzsche thought that by standing outside of society and looking at it from a different view, one could take on the ideal of a free spirit. Analogous to this view is Plato’s view from the allegory of the cave which illustrates humans as being completely unaware of what the actual world is.
Even though they lived in completely different societies, both philosophers thought that the view of the world that society holds shelters the individual from seeing the true nature of reality. However, the nature of said reality was very different for both philosophers. Nietzsche believed in a “what you see is what you get” kind of view of reality. His “amor fati” view of reality posed that in order to achieve an optimistic view; the individual must learn to love fate. This also involves accepting reality for exactly what it is and not creating a false sense of “reality”—what the person would “like” to see.

Because of Nietzsche’s opinion that ‘God is dead” he believed that this life was all there was, so the best way to live was to realize the true actuality of the world, and to also use the love of what is real and actual to enjoy life. Plato, on the other hand, had a completely different concept of reality. His theory of the “forms” illustrated everything that we see in this world as just a less perfect model of the actual “form” of the thing or idea. Nothing that we see in this world is actual or perfect, but is just an imperfect imitation.
Plato’s divided line interpretation presents the universe into the visible realm (images, copies, plants, animals) and the intelligible realm (mathematics, ideas, and the forms); literally a two-tiered view of reality. This differs greatly from Nietzsche’s philosophy. Nietzsche rejects this “two-tiered” view of reality; he believes that having this view of reality is actually detrimental and hinders the individual from living a full and optimistic life. Although their views on how the individual is shielded by society are similar, the view on reality of Nietzsche and Plato is one of the main differences in their philosophical outlooks.
Nietzsche and Plato both put a considerable amount of emphasis on creating the individual and viewing life as a work of art that is a canvas for knowledge and value, thus asking the question: “What constitutes a virtuous life? ” Both philosophers believe in turning ones back on the morals and values that society holds and exploring these morals and values for the individual themselves. One of the most famous Greek aphorisms is “know thyself. ” Nietzsche and Plato both believe that creating ourselves as individuals will lead to happiness.
However, the journey of self-discovery is different for each philosopher. Plato believes that knowledge is the most important factor in the creation of virtue and happiness. Seeking after knowledge leads to the affirmation of values and virtue, which then leads to happiness. By taking the time to learn and wonder and discover understanding for ourselves, we can achieve contentment. Nietzsche, on the other hand, believes that pure academic scholarship is not the way to liberate the free-thinkers of the future.
Also, Nietzsche considers the revaluation of values, which means that old values need to be reconsidered to find justification of life within life. He believes that knowledge has the ability to not take itself too seriously. Nietzsche is an advocate for uniting knowledge and play. He supposes that we create our values ourselves and do not discover them from nature or reason, as supposed by Plato. However, both philosophers believe that knowing your own ignorance and having a willingness to accept the fact that we are sometimes wrong and at fault is a vital step in creating the morals and values that we hold.
Another main similarity between the philosophies of Nietzsche and Plato is the belief that the greatest individual is not the wealthiest, but the thinker, the artist, the musician, and namely, the philosopher. Both hold the love of wisdom in high regard (although Plato holds it in higher regard that Nietzsche). The goal of this is to pass on the views of one to many, therefore changing the views of society. With or without meaning to, both of these philosophers are trying to evoke a rise in society. Plato and Nietzsche both were suspicious of government and wanted people to be at war with their time.
From doing so, they hoped to create a change on an individual’s outlook on life. As with most philosophers, the philosophical method of both Plato and Nietzsche was influenced by philosophers before them. Plato is the well-known protege of Socrates. Many of Plato’s dialogues include Socrates in them or are written about Socrates, such as The Apology, which is Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates. These are called Plato’s Socratic Dialogues. The philosophical views of Socrates greatly influenced the views of Plato. Nietzsche was widely influenced by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
After studying the view of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche’s writings sometimes included him supporting or rejecting Schopenhauer’s philosophical viewpoint. The optimism found in Nietzsche’s philosophy results from his rejection of Schopenhauer’s pessimistic philosophical viewpoint. One of the biggest differences between Plato and Nietzsche comes from their view of Socrates. While Socrates was a role model to Plato, he was the opposite for Nietzsche. Socrates often demanded the “truth at all costs” –meaning that no matter how much hurt or disorder the truth costs, it should still be told for the sake of truth itself.
Nietzsche questioned to what extent truth can be endured. He then goes on to shift the term he uses for truth. “Truth” is errors believed to be true by philosophers (examples are equal things, substance, and free will). Nietzsche’s TRUTH relies on the recognition that previous “truths” are founded on errors and that knowledge is limited, which is the opposite of Socrates’ conception of truth. By letting go of previous “truths” we can thus understand the TRUTH. Not all truth comes from knowledge, but from error as well.
Another main difference between the philosophical views of Socrates and Nietzsche is that Nietzsche looked at philosophy as an “intellectual science” and not a science. He viewed philosophy in more of a humanities category and as a spiritual science. Socrates, on the other hand, viewed philosophy as the most important of all sciences. Nietzsche also criticizes Socrates in other ways. He attacks his personality. To Nietzsche, Socrates “pretended” to be a rebel against society (a sort of “free spirit” in Nietzsche’s book); however, when Socrates was sentenced in Athens, he gave in and became a “slave to society. Nietzsche’s philosophy says that this life is all we have so we need to enjoy it. From looking at Socrates’ famous last words: “Now that I am dying, I owe the god of medicine a debt,” Nietzsche concludes that Socrates didn’t enjoy his life. Socrates is saying in his last words that life is just one big disease. This goes against all of Nietzsche’s philosophy, which unites the tragedy of existence with the comedy of life. The viewpoint of Nietzsche and Plato on the philosophical view of Socrates is a major difference between the two philosophers. Much of Nietzsche’s philosophy comes from his conclusion that “God is dead. This view on religion is another major difference between Plato and Nietzsche. While Nietzsche was considered an atheist, Plato believed in the principle of God. Plato’s “God” was the Form of “the Good. ” The “Good” did not even fall on Plato’s divided line but was raised above it, shining down all both the visible and intelligible realm. Everything strives to be like the Form of the Good, but can never attain it (similar to the Christian view of Jesus –a perfect “good” that people strive to be but can never reach). Because Nietzsche and Plato had such differing views on religion, their philosophies as a whole are quite different.
There are similarities that can be picked out of both men’s viewpoints –however the conceptual differences outweigh the resemblance. Plato’s and Nietzsche’s differing views on the nature of reality, the journey of self-discovery, the philosophy of Socrates, and religion cause Nietzsche to be critical of Plato. Nietzsche completely rejects much of Plato’s core philosophical view. The main aspect Nietzsche is critical of Plato is Plato’s two-tiered view of the world. Nietzsche whole philosophy is centered on the realization that what we have now is all we will ever have.
Plato takes that philosophy and changes it completely – creating a whole new realm that is not visible to the human eye. Even though both philosophers believe in overcoming society, the importance of self-creation, knowing your own faults, and putting the philosopher in high acclaim, I would argue that the differences between the Nietzsche and Plato cannot be reconciled. The foremost cores of their philosophical viewpoints will never match up. Nietzsche will never agree with a two-tiered view of reality and one of Plato’s biggest belief systems is the Forms. Socrates will always be a hero to Plato, whereas he is not in Nietzsche’s opinion.
One of the philosopher’s would have to change the entire concepts of their philosophy in order for the two viewpoints to reconcile. Personally, I agree more with Nietzsche’s philosophy. Even though I do not believe that God is dead, I do think that religion is dying in our society. We are experiencing a cultural shift toward a more secular society. In the wake of this, I have noticed people have started to live their lives for the “right-now. ” Also, I think that we should love fate and accept the reality of lives. In my opinion, people who live in a fantasy land aren’t truly living.
People who accept their disappointments in life and are still happy and optimistic are more admirable to me. Additionally, I like how Nietzsche thinks that we should take the time to create ourselves in life. Creating yourself, to me, is the most important thing we can do. By looking away from what society tells us to do or be, we can truly becoming “free” and in doing so, live happier lives. I feel as though Nietzsche wants us to enjoy the small things in life and to take life as it comes. Honestly, Nietzsche has been my favorite philosopher to read and study, and the one whose viewpoint I agree with the most.

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