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Philosophy Paper Plato / Derrida / Aristotle / Foucault

korrupshun 4 | 4  
Apr 13, 2009 | #1
Topic question:

Please respond to the following question in the form of a short essay of 1000 words maximum:

It is sometimes said that Plato is to Derrida as Aristotle is to Foucault. What do you think?

Philosophy Research - Plato is to Derrida as Aristotle is to Foucault

Philosophy is all-encompassing. The very nature of it makes it possible to make an impression on every aspect of life. It does then, becomes a daunting task to discuss in totality all principles, theories, assertions, arguments and standpoints of the four theorists in which this paper concerns of: Plato and Derrida, Aristotle and Foucault. Rather, this paper, for more clarity, will explore the parallels and the intersections of the notable works of these four and how they correlate to each other.

Sample Philosophy PaperAs history would show, Plato and Aristotle are two of the three founders of Ancient-Western Philosophy together with Socrates. While Plato was Aristotle's mentor, Foucault was once Derrida's teacher. Derrida and Foucault are both French philosophers who are part of 20th-Century-Western Philosophy. As would be expected, the latter philosophers would have a considerable amount of study on the works or references of the earlier theorists. Derrida's work Plato's Pharmacy is an attack to Plato's famous work Phaedrus. While Foucault counters Aristotle's "enduring substances" with his claim that everything is "historically contingent".

Plato's Phaedrus "is a rich and enigmatic text that treats a range of important philosophical issues, including metaphysics, the philosophy of love, and the relation of language to reality, especially in regard to the practices of rhetoric and writing" (Zuern par. 1). In this particular dialogue, Plato through the character Socrates (with his conversation with Phaedrus) shows explicit criticisms on the art of rhetoric and writing. He argues that rhetoric is not based on truth but that rhetoric practitioners can and will "make small things appear great and great things small", and adds that these people "have discovered how to argue concisely and at infinite length about any subject" and use "words' magic spell" (267). His stance is that, rhetoric is misleading and only aims to be persuasive to achieve its goal in whatever means, without being truthful. It is, as far as he is concerned, only dependent on language and words and not on truth.

What Plato favors and promotes is the use of his dialectical method, the method which is "capable of helping itself as well as the (person) who planted it" and "produces a seed from which more discourse grows in the character of others" (277). The idea is that, compared to rhetoric (writing), the dialectical method (speech), can construe clearer definitions by means of producing further discussions, which would validate or not the claim of truth, and thus, would achieve value, with the truth it is affirming and not merely by the rhetoric of writing.

This argument is deconstructed by Derrida in his work Plato's Pharmacy, where he centralizes his analogy on Plato's use of the term pharmakon in his works. With that analogy, Derrida highlights the ambiguity of Plato's distinction of the sophist's rhetoric from the philosopher's dialectical method. Derrida questions Plato's preference of "living" speech over "dead" writing.

To understand the way Derrida deconstructed Plato's Phaedrus, it is important to go back to the latter's work and analyze the way pharmakon was used. First off though, we have to establish what the term means prior to Plato's context. Pharmakon is "from a Greek word meaning both poison and cure" (Maslin par. 8). Thus, it has a neutral stance, it does not have a negative or a positive connotation attached to it. It can either be a harmful poison or a helpful medicine, making the word ambiguous and would only take its meaning depending on the context of its use.

The term is first encountered on Phaedrus, taking on a different form pharmacia. On their way to leave Athens, Phaedrus and Socrates came across the place where it was said that the mythic Oreithuia was taken away by Boreas. Socrates then goes to assume that perhaps "a gust of the North Wind blew (Oreithuia) over the rocks where she was playing with Pharmacia; and once she was killed that way people said she had been carried off by Boreas" (Plato 229). The assumption made by Plato through the character of Socrates creates a context which implies that the interaction with Pharmacia became harmful for Oreithuia since it led her to her death. Clearly, the supposed neutral term ceases to become neutral and takes with it a negative harmful meaning.

To reinforce, towards the end of Phaedrus, Plato's character Socrates relates of an Egyptian myth about Theuth, who discovered writing. In his story, Theuth approached the King Thamus and propositioned a way to preserve memory and wisdom. Theuth tells Thamus, "I have discovered a potion (pharmakon) for memory and wisdom" (274). To that, the King said, "You have not discovered a potion (pharmakon) for remembering, but for reminding" (275). In further reading the story, it will be gathered that the King does not see writing as anything helpful to the memory, but rather, a tool that would deteriorate it. Derrida "explains that Socrates actually likens writing to a pharmakon. Like a pharmakon, and indeed like Pharmacia herself, writings make you stray from your usual path" (Spurgin par. 12).

Throughout the course of Phaedra and his utilization of the metaphor pharmakon, what's apparent is Plato's leaning towards binary oppositions: poison/medicine, good/evil, speech/writing, philosopher/sophist, and so on. And this is what Derrida worked on deconstructing showcased in his work Plato's Pharmacy. For Derrida, it is pointless to make sharp distinctions between those things. Spurgin, in his analysis of Plato's Pharmacy, said that Derrida takes that "the two pharmakons (speech and writing) are inseparable"(par. 32). The work's point is, that there is no method of learning superior over the other as Plato would put speech over writing.

Foucault on the one hand, has an antithetical view on Aristotle's stance on "enduring substances". Foucault propositions that everything is contingent on history.

In simplest terms, Aristotle views substance as having the following characteristics, as Ross would put it: "durable, separable and identical" (par. 2). It is also enduring, one that "has an extended existence in time" and "may come into existence, or cease to exist" (Ross par. 3). Regardless of what changes a substance may undergo, it is all superficial and such changes will not qualify as "substantial" and the original substance does not lose its essence regardless. "What makes the thing what it is are certain characteristics, and these inhere in the durable and separable substance" (par. 7).

In contrast, for Foucault, an object such as the man, is a result of the changes across history. As Kamiya puts it, "for Foucault, the idea of 'man'... as a problem to be solved, was historically contingent, the result of repressive rational power. As he famously put it in The Order of Things, 'Man is an invention of recent date' " (par 2).

The difference between the propositions of the two theorists are clear cut: Aristotle believes that a substance, already has an inherent form into it, and that regardless of any change it may undergo, the essence of the substance remains and does not alter. Foucault though, stands by his idea that an object is a result of rigorous historical changes and that every change creates a new definition for the object.

As is anything and everything in this world, philosophy and the understanding of things cannot be viewed one way. There would always be disagreements and contradictions. But there's no helping it, c'est la vie, that is the way of life. And so, the battle continues.

Works Cited

Kamiya, Gary. "The Passion of Michel Foucault".

Maslin, Janet. "One Pill Makes You Happy and One Pill Makes You Mad".

Plato. Phaedrus translated by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. Inidianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, Inc.,

Spurgin, Tim. "A Reader's Guide to Plato's Pharmacy".

Zuern, John. "Plato Phaedrus". Criticalink. March 1998. University of Hawaii.
Apr 13, 2009 | #2
Didn't you get paid for the paper, or are you giving a paper sample? I also found content on Plato, but it's related to learning systems (below).


PLATO Learning Systems are designed to allow students to work at their own pace while providing accurate online assessments for the student to use to self-monitor. The instructors can monitor the course but the primary emphasis is on self-monitoring. The student log on at any time of the day or night, and from any location. PLATO takes the student to the module where the student left off study, allowing the student to begin where they left off or to start a new module or lesson. The section menus indicate which modules have been completed and which modules are in progress. As far back as 1983, PLATO was being hailed for its flexibility and adaptability.

PLATO's software contains all of the information that would be in a well-written textbook, presented in an animated, interactive form. Students can use the menu controls to pause, to quit, or to jump to other sections of the module. Help and glossary functions are available at all times. If the student desires, a window can be opened that shows the text which is being narrated. This allows the student to real along with the voice of the narrator which accompanies the lesson. Students cannot skip narration to go on to the next module, nor can they change the pace of the program.

PLATO is a periodic practice monitoring system. Practice tests are available for each module and prepare the student to take the end of module assessments and examinations. The practice sets provide immediate feedback and reinforce to the student what they have learned and what must be reviewed. PLATO marks correct answers with a large green check mark. A chiming sound accompanies the correct answer. Incorrect answers are marked with a small red x and are accompanies by a less pleasant sound. Assessments and examinations are taken in the instructor's presence.

PLATO, a computer managed instructional system for academic institutions, produces detailed reports that can be used to self monitor as well as instructor monitor. The reports can also be utilized to produce an official record for the school. Detailed reports show the modules the student has completed and practice and mastery tests that have been attempted and completed. The system records how many times a student attempts a lesson, whether the lesson has been completed and mastered, and the dates the module was attempted. Once the student has successfully mastered the module, as signified by a successful completion score on the test, a completion certificate for the module is printed out and given to the student to reinforce motivation and a sense of achievement.


Jimerson, S., Burns, M., & Van der Heyden, A. Handbook of response to intervention: The science and practice of assessment and intervention. New York: Springer

McCombs, B., & Dobrovolny, J. Theoretical definition of instructor role in computer-managed instruction. NPRDC Technical Note 80-10.

Mödritscher, V., Garcia-Barrios, V., & Gütl, C. The past, the present and the future of adaptive e-learning. Proceedings of the Interactive Conference on Computer-Aided Learning, Villach, Austria.

Teichert, H. Computer-assisted instruction in beginning college German: An experiment. CALICO 2(3). 18-24, 43.
Lavinia 4 | 503 ☆☆   Freelance Writer
Apr 14, 2009 | #3
I think this is an example of the quality of writing from a particular company that the OP was unhappy with. The explanation is here.
OP korrupshun 4 | 4  
Apr 23, 2009 | #4
Yup, just an example of poor quality, thread above is my original link.

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