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Aristotle vs. Plato
Aristotle vs. Plato

Aristotle vs. Plato

“If Plato’s prose was silver, Aristotle’s was a flowing river of gold.” –Cicero

Context of quote from its source, the History Channel’s entry on Aristotle: “Aristotle’s surviving works were likely meant as lecture notes rather than literature, and his now-lost writings were apparently of much better quality. The Roman philosopher Cicero said that ‘If Plato’s prose was silver, Aristotle’s was a flowing river of gold.’ “

And from the entry “Aristotle,” section “2. The Aristotelian Corpus: Character and Primary Divisions,” on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“All the more puzzling, then, is Cicero’s observation that if Plato’s prose was silver, Aristotle’s was a flowing river of gold (Ac. Pr. 38.119, cf. Top. 1.3, De or. 1.2.49). Cicero was arguably the greatest prose stylist of Latin and was also without question an accomplished and fair-minded critic of the prose styles of others writing in both Latin and Greek. We must assume, then, that Cicero had before him works of Aristotle other than those we possess. In fact, we know that Aristotle wrote dialogues, presumably while still in the Academy, and in their few surviving remnants we are afforded a glimpse of the style Cicero describes. In most of what we possess, unfortunately, we find work of a much less polished character. Rather, Aristotle’s extant works read like what they very probably are: lecture notes, drafts first written and then reworked, ongoing records of continuing investigations, and, generally speaking, in-house compilations intended not for a general audience but for an inner circle of auditors. These are to be contrasted with the ‘exoteric’ writings Aristotle sometimes mentions, his more graceful compositions intended for a wider audience (Pol. 1278b30; EE 1217b22, 1218b34). Unfortunately, then, we are left for the most part, though certainly not entirely, with unfinished works in progress rather than with finished and polished productions. Still, many of those who persist with Aristotle come to appreciate the unembellished directness of his style.”

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