Compare and Contrast: Philosophers
Analyzing the similarities and differences among the philosophers is an opportunity to understand the relationships and variations in their thinking. The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast such philosophers and their works as Socrates and Plato, Descartes (Mediations on First Philosophies), Immanuel Kant, William James (The Will To Believe), and Kierkegaard (A Kierkegaard Anthology).
Plato was one of Socrates' philosophy students, and one of the areas where he made a profound contribution was the conceptualization of the ideal state. Plato discussed the just state by relying on the description of the just soul. Therefore, according to Plato, the state can only exercise justice if the leaders are people with just souls. Plato argued that the philosopher was the ideal person to head the state (Wright, 2012). Whereas Plato gave philosophical explanations about the state, Descartes' central concern was based on the definition of the truth. Descartes explained that doubting is the source of knowledge and determines human existence: that if I am doubting then I exist (Descartes, 1639, Third Meditation, para. 4). According to Descartes, humans possess consciousness and innate ideas, e.g. mathematical concepts and the thought of God (From Descartes to Kant, 2015).
Descartes and Kant had different conceptions about the source of knowledge. Kant expressed ideas that supported Descartes' innateness of the knowledge argument. However, Kant states that rationalism is only partly correct. The innate structures are the foundations of the mind, but the external world also contributes to knowledge. According to Kant, therefore, knowledge is a product of the inner structures of mind and experience of the world. He argued that there is a gap between what humans know and the reality. While Descartes and Kant shed the light on the source of knowledge, William James' concern was the will to believe. James argued that humans did not have to choose to believe, but they had the beliefs (Corbett, 1980). Although he wrote about human belief, the idea of innateness that is present in Kant's and Descartes' philosophies is also apparent in James' proposition of faith. Plato claimed that the state's perfect leaders were philosophers, while James supported his idea, stating that leaders had the role of shaping human beliefs, because the rest of the society depended on them as their models (Corbett, 1980).
Kierkegaard's philosophy was different from other philosophers analyzed in this essay because his preoccupation was existentialism. Kierkegaard, for instance, proposed that human life occurred in two spheres called the ethical sphere and the aesthetic one. He explained that people who lived in the first sphere (ethical) followed the societal obligations and their sense of duty (Start of Kierkegaard biography, n.d.). However, people who lived in the aesthetic area sought things like pleasure and novelty. He also put great emphasis on the religious issues and personal search of God as the only true path contrary to mass religious mentality (Bretall, 1946). Therefore, Kierkegaard was different from the ancient philosophers from the perspective of his existential philosophy.
In conclusion, the paper has analyzed, compared, and contrasted the positions of the five philosophers on different matters reflected in their works. Plato's philosophy explained the state's origin and the ideal head of the state, while Descartes' mainly focused and contributed to epistemology. Similarly, Kant explained the concept of knowledge. He partially agreed with the innateness of knowledge and explained that human experience of the world also affected awareness. Kierkegaard was an existentialist in his philosophical convictions, while James wrote about the will to believe which predetermines the person's fate.
Bretall, R., & Kierkegaard, S. (1946). A Kierkegaard Anthology. R. Bretall (Ed.). New York, NY: Random House.
Corbett, B. (1980). The will to believe: William James. Retrieved on December 16, 2016
Finally! From Descartes to Kant in two pages (January 27, 2015). .Reason and Meaning. Retrieved on December 16, 2016
Start of Kierkegaard biography and philosophy of existentialism. (n.d.). Age-of-the-sage.org. Retrieved on December 16, 2016 from http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/philosophy/kierkegaard.html
Wright, C.C. (2012). Plato's Just State. Philosophy Now. Retrieved on December 16, 2016
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