Greek Philosopher: Aristotle

Aristotle the most famous of all the Greek philosophers, was a disciple of Plato, after whose death he retired from Athens, and later undertook the education of Alexander, later known as Alexander the Great. Subsequently at Athens he established the Lyceum and founded the Peripatetic school of philosophy, which has had great influence on the expansion of thought.

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.

-Aristotle

384 BC to 322 BC

Aristotle was born in 384 B.C., at Stagira, a Macedonian city about 200 miles north of Athens. His father was a physician and served as court doctor to King Philip of Macedonia.

As a youth Aristotle had both opportunity and encouragement to develop a scientific turn of mind. At eighteen he went to Athens to become a pupil in Plato's school. Plato exerted a profound influence on his pupil - an influence which is reflected in the happy balance of Aristotle's interests. His love of science, inspired by his father, was tempered under Plato's tutelage by an equal appreciation of philosophy, politics and metaphysics.

After leaving Plato's school Aristotle founded an academy of oratory, numbering among his pupils a wealthy young man, Hermais, who later would rule the city-state of Atarneus. After achieving this position, Hermais rewarded his former teacher by inviting Aristotle to the court and arranging a marriage between the philosopher and his sister.

About a year later Aristotle was called to Pella to the court of Phillip, King of Macedonia, to undertake the education of young Alexander, who later would become Alexander the Great.

When Alexander succeeded to Philip's throne in 336 BC he laid aside his books to take up the sword, Aristotle returned to Athens to found his own philosophical school which he called the Lyceum, helped by money sent to him by Alexander.

Here he walked about as he taught, hence the name Peripatetic by which his school and sect are known. For a dozens years he dominated the field of learning while Alexander conquered empires. When Alexander died and an anti-Macedonia party came into power in Athens, Aristotle fled to Chalcis, where he died in 322 B.C. - some say by drinking hemlock.

With Aristotle's death Greece lost her greatest philosopher, for his contributions were many. His works include treatises in the physical and biological sciences, psychology, politics, aesthetics, metaphysics and logic. He is considered to be the father of modern science. Many historians rate him as the greatest intellect that ever lived whose system of logical analysis formed one of the main bases of the philosophic thought of Western civilization. Aristotle's early medical training, given to him by his father, result in a biological emphasis in his philosophy. The 'ladder of nature', in which all natural objects had their place, was central to his thinking.

Aristotle teaching at the Lyceum
Aristotle teaching at the Lyceum

Aristotle has often been called the worlds greatest thinker. He tried to span the scope of knowledge as it existed in his time. He was a logician, aesthetician, biologist, ethical theorist and the administrator of an educational institution. He wrote dozens of works not only in philosophy but also in physics, biology, meteorology, psychology and politics. He also wrote a treatise in which he systematically dealt with the various mental processes of sensation, perception and memory. Will Durant in his 'Story of Philosophy' calls Aristotle "The Encyclopaedia Britannica of ancient Greece". So powerful was the domination of his intellect that he is generally acknowledged to be the father of modern science.

Aristotle the Investigator

Plato founded the first university, the Academy, whose most famous student was Aristotle. Though much influenced by Plato's teachings Aristotle was temperamentally so different that little of his work resembles that of his master. While Plato's later thinking, in line with his passion for the beauty of mathematics, was based on mysticism, Aristotle's favourite branch of science was biology. HE was a down-to-earth investigator, fascinated by the immense variety of concrete facts.

Plato favored absolutes, but Artistotle favored compromise. He argued that virtue is a middle way between excess and default. through sharing Plato's republicanism and his idea of the philosopher-king, Aristotle rejected the idea of the ideal state. In his Politics, he discusses six general types of constitution, and then compares them with all those existing in the city-states of the Greece of his time. Like Plato, Aristotle rejected democracy, arguing that a monarchical aristocracy was the best compromise form of government.

Aristotle's passion for classification, no doubt the fruit of his love for biology, led him to invent many new terms and fix clear definitions for others. He devised the Ladder Of Nature, classifying various forms of life according to their relative complexity and also defined the main branches of knowledge. By contrasting the two states of potentiality and actuality he explained Zeno's Paradox and accounted for the phenomenon of change. Things become what they are because of their potentialities, he argued. An acorn is potentially an oak tree, and carries within itself the 'form' of an oak. Therefore we should inquire to ends - the goal towards which things tend - rather than origins. This principle is called Teleology (from the Greek telos meaning 'goal'). Any objects consists of basic shapeless matter, on which a form is superimposed to make it what it is. These 'forms' are related to the forms of Plato, but Aristotle sees them as existing solidly in the objects we perceive, rather than in some imaginary 'perfect' world.

Aristotle formulated what was to become one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God. This was the 'first cause' argument which followed from his view that all nature tended towards a final cause. Plato had put a single god into the center of ethics; now Aristotle put him into physics and metaphysics. Combined with the rise of Christianity, this guaranteed that theology would be the first philosophy for centuries to come.

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Comments 19 comments

Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Gee he did a lot in his lifetime, thanks for all that info.


robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

Excellent, informative and oh so well written! You laid out the life and logic of Aristotle beautifully BTW I knew that Aritotle was a student of Plato but I never knew his school was called the "peripetetic" school. So that's where the word comes from,eh?--I'm kinda peripetetic myself LOL. Really enjoyed this. Thanks


prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 8 years ago from Tumkur

Very good hub Mr.Darkside. It summerises almost every important and interesting things about Aristotle. As a student of litereture. I have read about him sufficiently.I can say with confidence that no important thing has missed here.Ecen today, after some of his theories being disproved, he is remembered and commented.He wrote about almost everything.That shows his wide range of interests.Thanks mr. Darkside.


godfrey profile image

godfrey 8 years ago from California

An elegant treatise all to itself. Bravissimo! The discourse is replete with contrapunto which underscore Platonic abstractions and Aristotlean independence, intransigence to clarity of reason and eventual mastery at ideation. That is to say: Plato was to platonic dreams what Aristotle was to concrete, rational thought.

It was his resolution in thought that has informed mine - as a student of speculative reasoning. It was through this classicist modality of perfect arrangement in thought that Mozart, Beethoven, et al would imagine...and return to centuries later; simplifying compositions of the simple sonata form.

Your writing is a delight to the melodic sense of language; syntactically complex, yet lyrical. You must sing the evocative tunes of ancient Greece deep in your soul.

Thank you.

Godfrey Silas


bob 7 years ago

I had to do a project on him and this really helped a lot.<3(:


Nickny79 profile image

Nickny79 7 years ago from New York, New York

I really love that quote of Aristotle that you put in the side-bar. It is the epitome of his ethics.


Andrew Hawkley 7 years ago

I'm wondering what time period you are talking about when you say "Aristotle the most famous of all the Greek Philosophers". I would have thought Plato and Socrates were easily the first and second most famous with Aristotle as a lagging third.

I personally think Aristotle was the most boring and lifeless philosopher ever to exist. His quote on anger clearly proves this. Anger is supposed to be an emotion not a skill. What is the point in anger if it is not impulsive?


darkside profile image

darkside 7 years ago from Australia Author

I guess it's a matter of opinion. Aristotle definitely benefits from having had Plato as his teacher, and the wisdom that Plato learned from Socrates as Plato's teacher.

I believe that Aristotle is correct about anger. It is easy to become angry. Should we let impulse rule our action? Isn't anger management a skill? Being angry for the sake of being angry is an affliction that far too many people let rule their lives. I think if more people applied Aristotle's quote to their lives we'd have less domestic violence, less international conflict and certainly less innocent victims.


jasmine 6 years ago

Aristotle do very nice thing in his world.he discover many things geography and other subjects .if we think in that period how the people were intelligent. iam doing project on him it really helps me in doing work.


guccci mane 6 years ago

Good information yahhh diggg...


Tom Koecke profile image

Tom Koecke 6 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

I'm happy that I found your work on the great philosophers, Darkside! I disagree that Aristotle was the greatest of philosophers as he seemed to be a bit prejudiced and glory seeking in some of his conclusions.

Though he was regarded as the smartest man in the world, he was so declared by those who liked his "common sense" answers. His conclusion that Earth was the center of the universe set astronomy back 1,600 years. He is also regarded as a misogynist, which probably brought him into great favor in his day, but is also totally incorrect since survival of any species is far more dependant on females than on males.

Still, I appreciate not only your perspective on this philosopher, but also your skills as a writer. I am off to peruse some more of your work on the great philosophers! Kudos for your fine work!


Ali Charaar 5 years ago

this helped me with a history project thnx


Mehari Okubay(profeesor) 5 years ago

It helped me a lot in my research about the wisdoms that the philosophers contributed to mankind like them.It is a base of today`s civilization.I am grateful to your ability of writing things just the way they are...


S.Meaney 5 years ago

Thanks! this helped me with my SS homework!!


Dq16 4 years ago

This page helped my research and the intelligence of philosophers keeps me in awe.I cant help but to wonder about all things.That's why i wish i can condone philosophy like Aristotle,Plato,and Socrates.


charles 4 years ago

i am doing a paper on him and this page really helped me understand what he did during his life as a student and a teacher he was a very important man in hes time and he will always be remembered for years to come thx for the the page it really helped me understand his part in education


lemoncaster =P 4 years ago

phew!

Arigato! i needed this for my history project! i always do my work last minute so this was really convinient!


Onyedikachi oforah 4 years ago

In a normal circumstance aristotle work was very nice but what is the best conclusion of the definition of the state


moin shakil 4 years ago

i like Aristotle s philosophy....

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    References

    • Systems & Theories of Psychology, Second Edition, 1970, Chaplin & Krawiec
    • Library of Essential Knowledge, Volume 2, Readers Digest, 1980
    • Pears Cyclopaedia, Twenty-Ninth Edition, 1926.

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