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Introduction: Plato & Aristoteles
This sounds a very difficult chapter. But give it a try. People are going for years to college or university, studying philosophy, coming out of it with a degree, and often still have no clue what exactly those two philosophers have said. Often the problem is that their professors have no clue neither. Or if they know, they don’t tell you, otherwise you don’t have to study anymore. Because almost all of the western world philosophy you can reduce to those two giants. Once you know the thinking of Plato & Aristotle, you can easily put the rest of the history in this fresco of Raphael; some philosopher’s on the left - others on the right of Plato & Aristotle.
The dualism between those two helps us to understand the difference between Perugino & Caravaggio, Bernini & Borromini, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and even between Republicans & Democrats. They are the Ying & Yang of the history.
and she belongs to the race of “dogs”, even she is nearly human. And we know, every dog is different. So we are humans, different race and age, because we belong to Humanity. “dogs” and “humanity” we call Ideas, the rest Plato called “chaos”. Today we would say diversity. More complex it get when we are talking about concepts (ideas) like “the truth”. Opposite of it is “the false”. But isn’t there some grey zone in between? A lie of commodity, a white lie, a lie in order to survive, a proper lie ??? It keeps lawyers busy. Not for nothing they call their profession the second oldest in the history.
Plato tries to explain “The Idea” with the myth of the Cave. A man is chained in a cave. He can’t look back, but only looks at the wall at the end of the cave. Behind him is a fire burning and during the day the sun is shining. The prisoner can’t see anything else than his own shadow and nor hear anything else than the echo of his own voice returning from the wall of the cave. For him, the shadow, the voice that is coming back like an echo, are his own real world. He tries to make himself an idea of what’s behind him, that makes that he is seeing that black figure (his shadow) moving from one point to another. What’s behind him he calls it God=the pure intellect. It is similar to what the creationists are saying. From the idea is created the world: God created the world in seven days. The first day he divided light from darkness, the second day land and water, the third day animals, the forth day the sun and the moon.... and so on. God is the intellect (Idea), and emerging from him we see the world that’s surrounds us. God is the One, and from Him are emerging a multitude of creations. Therefore, the world that surrounds us, is the Visible God and everything that surrounds us, is part of the divine.
The part of the Vatican Museum that reflects “The Ideas” is the library: Every book tells you the ideas of his author, over the centuries, in different cultures .... The library is the Platonic part of the museum, but we will see how it also works in the different arts.
It is stated that Plato’s Ideas never really worked. He hoped that political rules in his Polis-City state would be inspired by those fantastic ideas of “beauty, truth, goodness and humanity”, and that from those ideas would emerge the laws. But, elas, humans are no gods!
But he inspired many writers in different epochs to write their ideal of a better world often called Utopia. So we have De Civitas Dei of St.Augustin, Utopia of Thomas More, Looking Backward of Bellamy, Erehwon of Samuel Butler and so many more. (at the end of the article you can find them with some personal reflections).
Plato is an idealist; Hegel (the philosopher described himself as a pure idealist ... if he was on the School of Athens of Raphael in the Vatican, he would be seated on the side of Plato.
Arnaldo Pomodoro made a sphere within the sphere for the Vatican Museum. It is in the courtyard called “della Pigna”.
But it is not the only one he made: There is one in the courtyard of the Trinity College in Dublin-Ireland (see left), and one is at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. But why should he have one as well in the Vatican, as in the university and the United Nations all at the same time? Why in the Vatican is it located in a beautiful courtyard amid ancient sculptures? The answer is Aristotle. When you see it in the Pinecone-courtyard of the Vatican Museum, ask the guardian if you can give it a push. It will rotate on itself. It represent the Physical World (Aristotle), the world made by man: The efficient cause (the artist Arnaldo Pomodoro) gave form (a sphere) to the matter (the bronze) But you should view it, looking from a distance at the dome of the St.Peter’s Basilica. On the top is also a sphere ... and one of exactly the same size of the one in the courtyard. It glooms there on the top but it’s a perfect sphere, invariable. It’s the coronation of the Spiritual World (Plato) from which, we on earth are a reflection. The Vatican Museum, showing the duality between the spiritual and material world was the final cause.
material cause = the bronze
formal cause = the sphere that was made of the bronze
efficient cause = the artist Pomodoro who made it
final cause = together with the sphere on top of the St.Peter’s Basilica showing
you the duality of the museum, composed by Ideas (library)
and Material (the artifacts)
GOD (Idea) GOD
REALITY REALITY (Material)
(John Paul II) (Benedict XVI)
(St.Peter Basilique) ( St. John in Lateran
** Those distinctions are maybe to superfluous, because there is of course a big grey-zone in between. But it’s a bit the Ying and Yang of humanity. During our walk in the Vatican Museum, describing the treasures it holds, I will refer often to this page.
I will try to apply this distinction in art. Below you will find a work of Bernini (Plato) and Borromini (Aristotelian)
For sure, Bernini never had the mystical experience of Saint Teresa, as we can see in his sculpture in the church “Santa Maria della Vittoria” in Rome. The statue was even highly scandalous ... so much that Wittgenstein in the 19th century wrote: “If you never have seen a woman with an orgasm, go to Rome and view Saint Teresa of Bernini.” But what Bernini here really did, was first reading the diary of Saint Teresa of Avila, XXIX, 16-17:
Our Lord was pleased that I should have at times a vision of this kind: I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form. This I am not accustomed to see, unless very rarely. Though I have visions of angels frequently, yet I see them only by an intellectual vision, such as I have spoken of before. It was our Lord's will that in this vision I should see the angel in this wise. He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful--his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call cherubim. Their names they never tell me; but I see very well that there is in heaven so great a difference between one angel and another, and between these and the others, that I cannot explain it.
.... I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.”
After contemplating this text, Bernini (who for sure never had seen angels or had a mystical experience like St. Teresa), closed his eyes and made himself an Idea what She must have felt. And from the “Idea” of what an ecstasy could be, he carved his statue in marble.
Borromini was always said to be his rival. And it was not only in character that they were different. Bernini loved to be in the public eye, visiting all the salons of Rome, while Borromini was reclusive. But their biggest difference was the approach to art. Borromini started from practical problems that had to be resolved, using geometric figures as you can find in nature. He started from the world that surrounded him. A good example is the Gallery Spada. The cardinals Vergil and Bernadino Spada wanted a house that “looked” as big as that of their neighbors, the family Farnese. And Borromini created that lovely gallery as you can see above. It only is 28 ft. deep, and at the end, against the wall is a statue of two feet. Walls and ceiling are coming together at the end, the floor is going up and the ceiling is going down. And so created the illusion of a large gallery. For creating this illusion, he departed by looking at world that surrounded him, just like Aristotle.
Plato & Aristotle in politics
As I pointed earlier out, the difference between Plato and Aristotle is the ying and yang of our world. We find it everywhere back ... even in politics.
What is coming now is a generalization, with a lot of grey in between. In American politics we never have to forget that Republicans and Democrats want exactly the same for the people: A better America tomorrow! The question is how to achieve it. Like Plato, the Republicans are campaigning with the Ideas: They are standing for moral values, family, a strong nation, private initiative a.s.o. If you are voting for them, by their laws, they will lead the country inspired by those ideas for making a better society. And it can work! We have seen how Giugliani cleaned up New York. Rules imposed and equal for everybody. It didn’t made a difference is you are a poor man or a senator; if you are double parked with your car, you will receive a fine. And by imposing his laws, he made from New York a safer city. We can put it together by a quote of Plato: “All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince.”
Democrats on the other hand are trying to improve the quality of life of every single member of the society. This by making laws concerning public works, public schools, healthcare for everybody. Just like Aristotle, they start from problems that surrounds them from the base. With the purpose, that, if every person has a higher quality of life, the whole society will be better of. Wasn’t it Aristotle who said: “Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers”.
But we know that politics is ying and yang. President Obama won the election with the slogan “Yes, we can” (Aristotle). But once he became president, he is also the commander in chief (Plato), who has to decide about others. During the campaign the item of who would be the best commander in chief played a big part: Hillary Clinton or Obama? Someone was afraid that the real commander would be her husband Bill. And it was also that what people were missing in Obama during the first years of his presidency. He emerged from the negative polls for the first time after the American Army caught Osama Ben Laden. That was the really first time he emerged as a commander in Chief (Plato). Every president has to learn that, from whatever side he comes: politics are Ying and Yang ! In my article about the St.Peter’s Basilica I will apply this distinction to explain the difference between John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Do you live in a “House”? The obvious answer will be yes! But I didn’t ask you in what kind of house you’re living. It can be a mansion, a apartment, a castle, a caravan, a hut, a tent .... For each of you that’s your house, your home. In your mind (intellectual world) you have the idea of a house. In the reality (sensitive world) it depends of many factors what your house will be (your income, location, relation ....); and so it can be a flat for a bachelor, a mansion for a CEO, a boat for a shipper and we can go on.
And so it is with everything: I have a golden Retriever, Ayesha (see right),
PLATO - the man of the “Ideas” (1)
The Sphere made by Pomodoro, this one is at the Trinity College in Dublin, an other one at the United Nations in New York and the most famous in the courtyard della Pigna in the Vatican.
ARISTOTLE: the physics.
Aristotle was a pupil of Plato in 366 BC, but founded later the “Liceo or Peripato”. He died in 322 BC. His most famous work, is hold in his hands in the fresco of Raphael in the Vatican: Etica.
While Plato starts with “God” in order to explain the world around him, Aristotle starts with observing the world which surrounds him, and climbs up from there to reach “God” at the end.
When Aristotle looked around him, he had questions. The pavement on which I walk, he asked, has a soul? is it animated? No ! he said. Stones are just undergoing the elements. Plato, I called him the creationist, on the other hand Aristotle is the Darwinist.
But than, flowers and trees ... do they have a soul? Yes, was his response ... but only on the level of a plant: a vegetarian soul (or in Latin: Anima Vegetaris):
It is living, growing, turning towards the sun, reproducing and dying. Still we don’t know the full extent of the vegetarian soul. Some people will tell you that, if you’re speaking with your plants, they grow better. Follow the link where Prince Charles is instructing his plants.
And animals? do they have a soul? Look at my dog Ayesha (see photo above), of course she has a soul ... but only on the level of an animal. More than just living and dying as plants and flowers are doing, she has feelings, they move, have instincts, behavior. But her soul remains that of an animal: she has a sensitive soul, “Anima Animalis”. Her memory is a memory of present and past, but she can’t project that to the future. I never can make an appointment to encounter my dog on a certain time or place the next day. And when I come home, and see that she destroyed the sofa (what she never would do!), I can’t punish her for that. I only can change her behavior when I’m seeing her doing something. That’s often the mistake that people make: they treat their dog like a human .... but hélas, and we know, some people are treating their children as dogs.
But my dog has a soul, we also should have one: Yes !!! We have a rational soul: Anima Rationalis. We can link past with future. We know that colors are existing, also when it’s dark. We can sentence someone for what he did in the past.
All the inferior kinds of “soul” are included in the higher level. But our mind is only in potential !! We never can grip everything. And so Aristotle is coming to the ultimate question: Does God have a soul?
And the answer is Yes !! His soul comprehend all the inferior levels (vegetarian, animal and rational soul) but goes beyond it. He has an Universal Soul - Anima Universalis. But how we can recognize that ? He is the supreme good, beauty, truth and the One (Unity). Those are called the transcendentals. The more we are approaching those elements, the closer we get to God, is saying St. Thomas of Aquino.
If you’re going to an auto show: a beautiful Rolls Royce is exposed, cut in half to see the beauty of it’s engine. That car is a further distant of God than a simple Fiat 500, where you only have to turn the key and drive away. Because the Rolls Royce is lacking “truth”: it’s not a car, it’s a model - how beautiful it might be.
Therefore a car that has a hideous dent in the front passenger door is lacking beauty, even it’s a Ferrari-car.
The One, as transcendent property of God is probably the most difficult to understand, because it doesn’t exclude multitude, but division. The number "One", seems and easy number, but give it a thought: Living as a bachelor alone is easier than living together and sharing your life. But if you manage to create “one” family, you’re reaching a higher level of humanity. Sometimes you’re hearing that people want to save their marriage by having a child, and so binding their partner. They maybe will forget that becoming One family with three members is even more difficult! That’s the mystery of the Trinity: Three in One, multitude without division.
The same we can apply on macro-economics: America today would never be what it is today, if it was not for being “the United States of America”. Also, if the 27 countries of Europe manages to become One Europe, than we are coming closer to God.
Being "One" is never easy: we have seen it in 2014 in the discussion about the Budget in America in the Congress: Only when the parties are seeking genuine the Good, Beauty and Truth, than they can stay One. Seeking the One will help to avoid all the wars that we have seen over the centuries. I don’t say it will be easier !! But united, there should be more goodness, beauty and truth, and therefore being closer to God. The problem is that if one of the member fails in one of the transcendentals (goodness, beauty or truth), the unity collapses. See what happened with Greece that lied about its economical situation.
Pope Francis in his Encyclic "Lodato si" (83-87) writes that "animals will join humans in Heaven !
“Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all,” the text reads.