This essay has a total of 4398 words and 18 pages.
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, logician, and scientist. Along with his teacher Plato, Aristotle is generally regarded as one of the most influential ancient thinkers in a number of philosophical fields, including political theory.
Aristotle was born in 384 BC in Stagira in northern Greece. Aristotle came from a family of physicians and he received training and education that inclined his mind towards the study of nature phenomena. Aristotle’s father died when he was young boy and his guardian Proxenus raised him. Proxenus sent him to study at Plato’s academy in Athens. Aristotle stayed at the academy for twenty years until Plato’s death in 347 B.C. Aristotle was supposed to succeed Plato as head of the academy but Aristotle didn’t because he had different theories then Plato.
After Aristotle left Plato’s academy he went and lived with his friend Hermeas, ruler of Atarneus and Assos in Mysia. Aristotle stayed there for three years during which time he married Pythias, the niece of the king. After her death Aristotle also married Herpyllis and he had a son, which he named after his father. Hermeias fell under the control of the Persians, and refusing to betray his friends under torture, he was killed. After Aristotle’s dear friend Hermeias died Aristotle moved to Mytilene where he doubtless engaged in biological research. King Amyntas asked Aristotle to tutor his son Alexander. Aristotle tutored Alexander for five years until king Amyntas died and Alexander came to power. During the time before King Amyntas died Aristotle introduced his nephew Callisthenes to Alexander but warned him to be careful of what he said. Though Alexander later took Callisthenes to Asia where he collected research materials, Callisthenes was eventually suspected by Alexander of plotting against him with Hermolaus: he was confined to an iron cage in which he became infested with vermin before being thrown to a lion.
In 323 BC Alexander the great died unexpectedly and anti-Macedonian forces overthrew the government of Athens. Aristotle had close connections with the Macedonian royal family. Aristotle was associated with the Macedonians and was unpopular with the new ruling powers. The new government brought charge of impiety against Aristotle, but he fled to his country house in Chalcis in Euboea to escape prosecution. Aristotle commented that he fled so that “ the Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy as they had already done in the person of Socrates.” Alone there he wrote Antipater that he had become fonder of myths.
In 335 BC Aristotle went back to Athens and found out that the academy was flourishing under Xenocrates. Aristotle opened his own academy, the Lyceum, he ran it for twelve years. Some people called Aristotle’s academy The Peripatetic School because he walked around and discussed his ideas with the colleagues. Peripatetic are “ people who walk around.” For the next thirteen years he devoted his energies to his teaching and composing his philosophical treatises. He is said to have given two kinds of lectures: the more detailed discussions in the morning for an inner circle of advanced students, and the popular discourses in the evening for the general body lovers of knowledge. At this Aristotle wrote extensively on a wide rage of politics, metaphysics, ethics, logic and science. Aristotle agreed with Plato that the cosmos is rationally designed and that philosophy can come to know absolute truths by studying universal forms. Their ideas went in different direction but in that Aristotle thought that the one finds the universal in particular things, while Plato believed the universal exists apart from particular things, and that material things are only a show of true reality, which exists in the place of ideas and forms. The differences between the two philosophers is that Plato thought only pure mathematical reasoning was necessary, and therefore focused on the metaphysics and mathematics, Aristotle, on the other hand, thought that in addition to this “ First Philosophy,” it is also necessary to undertake detailed empirical investigations of nature, and thus study what he called “ second philosophy,” which includes such subjects as physics, mechanics and biology.
The life of Aristotle was spent in a period which he seemed confused and dim to historians who have learned from Demosthenes to see it as the time of the loss of Greek liberties and the decline of Greek ideal; it has seemed a period of stirring action which came close to the fulfillment of an ambitious hope to those who see in the growth of panhellenism preached by Isocrates the beginnings of more stable political organizations and in the exploits of Alexander the Great and spread of Greek ideals. Aristotle spent a large part of his life as an alien in Athens, and he seems to have been unsympathetic with the ambitions of Alexander. Contemporary political events and social changes left few marks on his political and moral philosophy, and the search for effects of social conditions in his metaphysics and in his contributions to science has led only to speculative generalizations concerning the influence of environment on thought: to the conclusion that the existence of classes in society suggested hierarchies in his conception of the universe, that slave labor led him to neglect the mechanical arts and prefer the theoretic to the practical sciences, that his theories were therefore verbal rather than based on the resources of experiences, and that his physical principles reflected his conception of political rule. Apart from such speculations, it is clear that the peace which was forced on Athens by Macedonian domination permitted Aristotle to organize a course of studies and to initiate a vast scheme of research into the history of political organizations, of science, and philosophy- the study of constitutions of Greek states, of the history of mathematics and medicine, and of the opinions of philosophers- as well as into the natural history of minerals, plants, and animals, and to lay the foundations thereby for one of the first attempts at an encyclopedic organization of human knowledge. Aristotle died of stomach illness and in his will Aristotle made provisions for his family, Herpyllis, and his slaves, some of whom he freed. Aristotle’s writings were preserved by his student, Theophrastus. He was also the successor as leader of the Perpatic School. Theophrastus’ pupil Neleus and his heirs concealed the books in a vault to protect them from theft, but dampness, moths and worms damaged them. The books were found around 100 BC by Apellicon, who brought them to Rome. In Rome, scholars took interest in the works and prepared new editions of them.
The early writings of Aristotle were intended for the general public. Very few of these survived. What is left is mostly work that is intended for his serious students. His approach on philosophy was not dogmatic but systematic. He constantly questioned his conclusions and found difficulties. This is what made him one of the most influential philosophers in Western thought.
The works of Aristotle fall under three heading: (1) dialogues and other works of a popular character; (2) collections of facts and material from scientific treatment; and (3) systematic works. Aristotle’s systematic treatises are Logic, Physical works, Psychological works, Works on natural history, and Philosophical works.
Aristotle’s writings on the general subject of logic were grouped by the later peripatetic under the name Organon, or instrument. From their perspective, logic and reasoning was the chief preparatory instrument of scientific investigation. Aristotle himself, however, uses the term “logic” as equivalent to verbal reasoning. The Categories of Aristotle are classifications of individual words, and include the following ten; substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, situation, condition, action, passion. They seem to be arranged according to the order of the questions we would ask in gaining knowledge of an object. For example, we ask, first, what a thing is, then how great it is, next of what kind it is. Substance is always regarded as the most important of these. Substances are further divided into first and second: first substances are individual objects; second substances are the species in which first substances or individual inhere.
Aristotle's views on astronomy, as presented in Metaphysics, Physics, De Caelo (On the Heavens) and Simplicius' Commentary, will most likely seem very bizarre, as they are based more on a priori philosophical speculation than empirical observation. Although Aristotle acknowledged the importance of "scientific" astronomy - the study of the positions, distances and motions of the stars - he nevertheless treated astronomy in the abstract, linking it to his overall philosophical world picture. As a result, the modern distinction between physics and metaphysics is not present in Aristotle, and in order to fully appreciate him we must try to abandon this pre-conception.
Aristotle argued that the universe is spherical and finite. Spherical, because that is the most perfect shape; finite, because it has a center. The center of the earth, and a body with a center cannot be infinite. He believed that the earth, too, is a sphere. It is relatively small compared to the stars, and in contrast to the celestial bodies, always at rest. For one of his proofs of this latter point, he referred to an empirically testable fact: if the earth were in motion, an observer on it would see the fixed stars as moving, just as he now observes the planets as moving, that is from a stationary earth. However, since this is not the case, the earth must be at rest. To prove that the earth is a sphere, he produced the argument that all earthly substances move towards the center, and thus would eventually have to form a sphere. He also used evidence based on observation. If the earth were not spherical, lunar eclipses would not show segments with a curved outline. Furthermore, when one travels northward or southward, one does not see the same stars at night, nor do they occupy the same positions in the sky. That the celestial bodies must also be spherical in shape can be determined by observation. In the case of the stars, Aristotle argued that they would have to be spherical, as this shape, which is the most perfect, allows them to retain their positions. By Aristotle's time, Empedocles' view that there are four basic elements - earth, air, fire and water - had been generally accepted. Aristotle, however, in addition to this, postulated a fifth element called aether, which he believed to be the main constituent of the celestial bodies. This divine element, he believed, is uncompounded, ingenerated, eternal, unalterable, and neither heavy nor light. It can be found in its purest form in the celestial regions, but becomes adulterated in the area below the moon. Aristotle's view of the universe was hierarchical, and he made a sharp distinction between the sub lunar world of change, and the eternal and immutable heavens.
Aristotle characterizes everything that exists into certain categories; substance, quality, quantity, relation, etc. Substance is prior to the other categories since substances exist as separate entities, while the other categories exist only as the qualities of substance. These substances include individual substances like "dog" and "chair" and also their species and genera like "animal" and "furniture." For a dog is an animal, a dog is not just some quality of an animal.
Form is different from matter. A chair's form is the structure of the chair, the chair's matter is wood. He does not accept Plato's notion of a transcendental Form of Chair; the form of the chair is the form of that particular chair. The chair's matter, wood, can also be divided into form and matter, since wood is made of earth, air, water, and fire combined in a particular way. Aristotle calls prime matter the "stuff" that has no particular form. He raises the question whether form can have no matter, to which he answers that this form without matter is God. If matter becomes a chair the matter is chair potentially, or capable of being a chair, whereas the form is the actuality in virtue of which it is now an actual chair. Matter and form are the "causes" of what comes to be. Aristotle defines four kinds of causes; 1) material cause - what something is made of, 2) formal cause - what it is essentially, 3) efficient cause - what brought it into being, and 4) final cause - what its function is. The causes apply to things and not events”
He was a great physicist and wrote many books on the subject. His most famous one is Nicomacheun Ethics. The influence of Aristotle's philosophy has been pervasive; it has even helped to shape modern language and common sense. His doctrine of the Prime Mover as final cause played an important role in theology. Until the 20th century, logic meant Aristotle's logic. Until the Renaissance, and even later, astronomers and poets alike admired his concept of the universe. Zoology rested on Aristotle's work until British scientist Charles Darwin modified the doctrine of the changelessness of species in the 19th century. In the 20th century a new appreciation has developed of Aristotle's method and its relevance to educat
Read essay without registering
Donate an essay now and get the full essay emailed you