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Ancient Greek philosophy is considered to be a cradle of the whole Western philosophical thought in its own right. The cult of philosophy as a discipline, which involved generations of thinkers and passing knowledge from a teacher to a disciple resulted in outstanding heritage. The works of Plato, Aristotle and Pre-Socratics are among those, which lay basis for further European philosophical discussion about materialism, idealism and their relation to one another. Although it is not always possible to put rigid boundaries between beliefs, it can be stated that Pythagoras and Plato generally pertain to Idealism, while Aristotle is a representative of Hylomorphism focusing on the correlation between the material and the ideal in the world.

Speaking about Pythagoras, it is worth saying that scarce knowledge is left about him and that nowadays he is mostly recollected as a renowned mathematician. Because of the lack of information it is impossible to get a first-hand idea about Pythagoras’ philosophical beliefs, which makes the aura of mysticism around him even more significant. His relationship with mathematics and numbers are not purely materialistic, as one can guess from his belonging to science. Moreover, Pythagoras’ focus on numbers is a form of Idealism, where number stands for an idea. In other words, numerology is a way to see how order in the Universe is formed. Because numbers rule the matter, not vice versa, it is natural to consider Pythagoras a proponent of idealism. There is evidence about his philosophical teaching from several contemporaries or followers, some of them might be contradictory. Yet, as Aristotle recollected about Pythagoras, he declared that ” the soul is the motes in the air”. It is also remarkable and suggestive of Idealism that the thinker believed in reincarnation, or transmigration of souls. This doctrine implies an idea that soul is immortal and is superior to its physical implementation; hence the ideal is superior of the material in this case.

If Pre-Socratic thinkers mostly determined the scope of Idealism, Plato was the one who developed its ideas into an ordered theory. In a discussion of what comes first: ideas or matter, Plato suggested that reality is just an imperfect reflection of divine harmony, which is ideal. Because ideas are superior to the material world, it should be understood that people’s vision of this world is not objective but it is inspired by their own ideals, either true or distorted. Allegory of the Cave can be considered a quintessence of Platonic idealism, which metaphorically demonstrates that human consciousness is restricted by very scarce information about the world, in which people live. Because being in a cave is a normal state and there is no experience of a larger world, of the divine light and infinity that starts outside it, a common person believe that he is able to perceive the world as it is. Being in a cave means relying on one’s organs of perception like and on one’s mind and believing that what is perceived is equal to its reflection. Yet, because of limitation of human mind the ideas of reality are distorted and diminished. The cave is a physical reality, which exists because people have organs of physical perception, yet it is only possible to catch part of reality in such a way, the material one. However, the ideal reality, which exists on the level of ideas and was not physically implemented, is higher in hierarchy, much larger and versatile. Plato states that people’s life is an illusion because such erroneous vision of reality because only shadows reach their eyes in the absence of light: “They see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave”( Plato, VII). A philosopher is the one who can stand out of the crowd and get access to the world of ideas by constantly asking questions to himself. Yet, there is no sense about sharing these insights with common people because ideas can be only obtained by means of personal spiritual experience. Socrates, the character of most Plato’s works, claims that the world of perception is a prison for human soul, which originates from the ideal world:

“Behold! human beings living in a underground den… Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets”. Thus, it should be noted that Idealism is the core of Plato’s philosophy, which still has elements of Hylomorphism. When discussing Plato, it should be born in mind that many of his dialogues reflect the views of his teacher Socrates, who never wrote anything on his own. Thus, in Plato’s works Socratic methods of idealistic dialectics are used, such as asking consecutive questions in order to discover the truth. This method suggests that Socrates, like Plato, belonged to Idealism because spirit is superior of the material for him. Hence, for instance, in Apology Socrates stresses that human knowledge is limited, which is in alignment with Plato’s cave allegory: “Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know”( Apology). In Euthyphro, another dialogue of Plato, Socrates discusses the subject of holiness in idealistic way, as something that exists before it is implemented in the material world: “if that which is holy is the same with that which is dear to God, and is loved because it is holy, then that which is dear to God would have been loved as being dear to God; but if that which dear to God is dear to him because loved by him, then that which is holy would have been holy because loved by him”.

It is a well-known historical fact that Plato was a teacher of Aristotle, so no wonder that he directly influenced his philosophical beliefs. However, a teacher-disciple relationship in ancient Greek philosophy did not presuppose that a student inherited ideas, but the aim of such learning was to develop one’s own way of thinking, which might be different from the master’s one. Aristotle is known as a founder of Hylomorphism, and unlike Plato, he made it the centre of his philosophical doctrine. This approach to metaphysics suggests that each item in the Universe possesses two basic characteristics: matter and form. Human sense organs get hold of form in the first place, which is a momentary realization of the potential contained in matter. Matter is material because it does not change in the course of transformation, while form is ideal because it can change through perception. He also uses his theory to explain relationship between body and soul and suggests that body is a matter and soul is a form. As Aristotle writes in Metaphysics, “the nature of the matter that is the subject for the Forms”¦is also evident: it is the duality, the great and the small”.

In conclusion, it should be noted that each of the mentioned philosophers develops his own though on metaphysics. Pythagoras is the most mystical among the three ones, and introduces numerology as a form of Idealism. Plato is probably the most outstanding representative of Idealism and suggests that human sense organs are limited and are not able to cover the scope of ideas existing as part of divine harmony. His views go in line with Socrates, who believes that spirit is higher than the material world. Yet, Plato also has elements of Hylomorphism in his philosophy. Finally, Aristotle is a father of Hylomorphism, and focuses on the correlation of form and matter, which constitute every animate and inanimate item in the Universe.

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