Essay VIII

Plato argues (Republic Book V 473d/e and following and Book VI) that the finest soul is the philosopher's while granting that the finest life is not necessarily the philosopher's--not, at any rate, in the Republic.

Aristotle argues (Nicomachean Ethics Book X, chapters 7 & 8) that the finest life is the philosopher's and, consequently, so too is the finest soul the philosopher's.

At first blush, the conclusions Plato and Aristotle draw are, or certainly ought to be seen as, embarrassingly self-congratulatory for philosophers themselves to draw. Let us remember, however, that for Plato the soul of the philosopher is the soul of the lover of wisdom, passionately devoted to apprehending the reality behind the appearances to which the vast majority are enslaved. Let us further remember that for Aristotle the soul of the philosopher is the soul of the seeker of understanding, wherever and in whatever way it may be found. Thus the philosopher's life in question is scarcely some stodgy academic discipline, a holdover from glory days long past busily decanting old wine in new bottles. Rather, it is the life rich in conversation and contemplation, vigorous in discovery and understanding.

So understood, the life of the philosopher writ large--the life of the mind, as it were--is spectacularly different from the lives led by the actor, the soldier, the politician, the craftsman, the lawyer, the playwright, or the physician.

How, though? In this final essay, characterize the soul and life of the philosopher according to Plato alongside the soul and life of the philosopher according to Aristotle. Make sure along the way explain the arguments Plato and Aristotle give to justify their views. How much alike are the conclusions they draw, and in what ways do they differ? Let's allow up to three pages on this essay.

Extra Credit

Assume, if you will, the role of advocatus diaboli. Explain why and on what basis other kinds of souls and lives might be at least as salutary as the philosopher's. Be sure to use concrete examples so as to ground your discussion in specific kinds of souls and lives, as appropriate. Set a limit of a single page for this extra credit essay, worth an additional 75 points for the course.