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(From Guardian Unlimited)
The most famous image of Plato is found in the Vatican mural by Raphael, The School of Athens . Positioned centrally are Plato, pointing to the heavens, and Aristotle, pointing to the earth. It conveys a presumed difference between the two philosophers, Plato being the idealist, Aristotle the materialist. And yet it was Aristotle who wrote the following: "We must be like immortals insofar as possible and do everything toward living in accordance with the best thing in us." That's a sentiment with which his teacher, Plato, could readily agree, and the painting is misleading.
Moreover, if materialism is associated with humanism today, and so Aristotle tends to be preferred over Plato, for much of the Renaissance, it was Aristotle who was sidelined. He was the philosopher most closely associated with the theology of the Middle Ages. For the Renaissance humanists, …