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Aristotle

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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Written By: Jermaine Brown
Course: Intro to Philosophy
Professor: V. Bartolini
Date Written: May 1st, 2002
Aristotle

Aristotle was born in 289 BC, as the son of Nichomachus. He was born at Stagira in Macedonia, which is located on the northwest coast of the Aegean Sea in Northern Greece. His farther was a friend and also the physician of the King of Macedonia. Since Aristotle's’ farther was so close to the King of Macedonia, Aristotle spent a great deal of his childhood time at the court. Being at the court would later show to be a great influence in his life.

People that lived in ancient Greece through Aristotle’s time usually only carried one name, and they were also referred to by the place from which they were born at. Because of this, Aristotle was often commonly known as “Aristotle of Stagira”. When Aristotle was just about the age of ten, his farther died and Aristotle was taken under the care of a man who was named Proxenus. At the age of 17, Proxenus sent Aristotle to Athens, which at the time was the intellectual center of the world. Aristotle went there to complete his education. He enrolled at the most famous academy in Athens, which was directed by Plato. Aristotle soon became a prominent figure at this academy.

While at this academy, Aristotle threw himself totally into the works of Plato’s Pursuit of the truth and goodness, even though Aristotle departed from the master’s teachings on many points. Aristotle was Plates’ most famous pupil and Plato soon start calling him “the mind of the school”. After Years of Aristotle being at that school, he decided to begin lecturing as well. Aristotle even renounced some of Plato’s theories and went beyond him in Breath of Knowledge. Aristotle stayed at the institution for a period of 20 years, and only left the school after Plato had past away in347BC. After Plato had died, his nephew Speusippus was chosen to take over the academy instead of Aristotle because his ideas were thought have diverged to far from Plato’s own ideas.

Aristotle parted from the academy and at the invitation of his friend Hermeas; he left for the court of Atarneus of Mysia. Aristotle stayed there for 3 years and became a teacher in a school, which is on the court of Asia Minor. While teaching there, he studied marine biology, and married his first wife. His first wife's name was Pythias, and was the niece of the king. After 3 years of living there, the Persians invaded Atarneus, killing Aristotle’s friend, Hermeas. Hermeas was the ruler at the time of his death, and during this time, Aristotle was forced to leave Mytilene by the Persians. Phillip Π of Macedonia invited Aristotle to return to the Macedonian court in order to teach his 13-year-old son Alexander. King Phillip Π and his son Alexander both respected Aristotle and gave high honor to him. Once Alexander became the king at the age of twenty, he gave his teacher, Aristotle a large sum of money to set up a school in Athens. Alexander later became the conqueror of the world and was known as Alexander the Conqueror, or Alexander the Great.

After Phillip Π had died and Alexander gained power to the throne, Aristotle went to Athens, once he finished his assigned work with Alexander. When Aristotle arrived in Athens, he set up his on school with the money he received from his former student and new king, Alexander the Great. His new school was called Lyceum, where Aristotle taught luminously. He collected the first great library and also established an exquisite museum at his new school.

Aristotle took stroll in the Lyceum gardens in the mornings while discussing related problems and class topics with the advance students of the school. It was because Aristotle liked to walk around the school while teaching and touching up on different topics, that Athenians called his school “the Peripatetic school”, which means to walk around. Aristotle guided his students to learn and research topics in every existing field of knowledge. Some of the activities that the students participated in were dissected animals and studied the habits of insects. Although the students did these experimentations, the act of science observation was very new to the Greeks. It was because of this and the lack of appropriate instruments, that the students were not always correct with their conclusions. Aristotle managed and taught the school for a period of thirteen years straight.

Aristotle had a lot of contributions to society, but one of his most important contributions was defining and classifying the various branches of knowledge. He accomplished this by writing a number of works. Aristotle's works come under three main headings, which are dialogues, collections: facts by scientific methods, and systematic works. He then sorted them into smaller categories, which are; physics, metaphysics, psychology, rhetoric, poetics, and logic. These works laid out the foundation of most of the sciences we know today. Aristotle was really one of the first scientist around.

One of the main facts in Aristotle’s works is logic. Aristotle was the founder of formal logic. The students from his school in Athens saw logic is the chief preparatory instrument of scientific investigation, while Aristotle himself saw logic more as an equivalent to verbal reasoning. Aristotle's first work in logic is title Categories, it is concerned with classifications of individual words which include; substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, situation, condition, action and passion. They seem to be situated in an order of importance, in an inquiry of an object. First someone would want to know what is, then the size of it, then what type it is. The most common form of argument you will find in Aristotle’s work will be the syllogistic form. This form of argument uses two premises and a conclusion. The first premise would be an assumed fact, which will be the “truth”. This premise usually starts off with “All’ or “No”. An example would be, “All cows are mammals” and “No dogs are reptiles”. The second premise would be, “this is a cow”. The conclusion will use the first fact to reach an argument about the second premise. The finish product would look like, “All cows are mammals. This is a cow; therefore, this cow is a mammal”.

The next important fact that Aristotle discussed and wrote about was Metaphysics. Metaphysics is concerned with the fundamental nature or reality and being. Aristotle said that philosophy arose out of history after the basic necessities were secured. It came out of a curiosity and wonder. It came from things that religions and myths didn't give any satisfaction to. For Aristotle, metaphysics dealt with scientific knowledge and the ultimate conditions of all existence. In particular, it dealt with existence in its most fundamental state. This contrasted with the mathematical thoughts of Pythagoras, which he deals in existence in geometry, but not existence itself. This is one of the reasons why Aristotle was seen as the first real scientist, all because he was the first person to use scientific logic and thought process to explain existence.

In Aristotle's arguments, he talks about there being a handful of universal truths, and he defends the saying that rejecting them would become suicidal, and would lead to sameness of all facts. Aristotle produces works on natural history during his scientific explorations. His scientific work prompted research into the natural world.

The metaphysics that was introduced by Aristotle was dominant in turning philosophers away from Plato. Plato had made the conclusion that we were living in the “sensory” world where everything was a product of the “ideal” product, the perfect product. Aristotle said in contrast to Plato, that the material world is real and not a creation of eternal forms. He taught that individual things combine form and matter in ways that determine how they grow and change. Plato said that the “ideal horse came first, then come all the sensory world’s horses, which weren’t faultless, like he explains in the ”Cave“. In question of “what comes first, the chicken or the egg”? Plato answers that the “idea” chicken came before the egg and the chicken. Aristotle thought that Plato had it backwards. Aristotle did agree with Plato that the horse doesn’t change the “flow” and that a horse is imperfect and mortal, and the basic form of horses is eternal. But Aristotle argued that the “idea” horse is just a concept that humans came up with after seeing a lot of horses. Aristotle believed that the “idea” or “form” horse was made up of the horse’s characteristics, know to be called DNA, and DNA controls the characteristics of every living thing. This is the “form” Aristotle was talking about, even though DNA was unknown and undiscovered back in his era.

Aristotle discussed the causes in nature, where he named four causes in nature, but his main one was his “final cause”. In this, Aristotle asked “why” things happen. Other philosophers were not asking “why” things happen, but instead “how” things happen. Aristotle is asking a general purpose of why things happen, what purpose does it serve? An example would be the cycle of rain. We know that it rains when moister in the clouds cool down, condense into water droplets, and fall to the earth by gravitational force. Aristotle would probably agree to this, but the explanation mentions only three of these causes. It mentions the “material cause”, which is that moisture was there when the clouds cooled. The “efficient cause” is the process of moisture cooling, and the final cause is that the rain has to fall to the ground from gravitational force. Even though these reasons might be true, it doesn’t touch up on the Aristotle's “final cause”, which would be the question “why it rains, what is it‘s purpose”? To answer this question, Aristotle would turn it around by saying, the plants on the ground need water to grow, which animals and humans need for the production of oxygen and food. That would be the conclusion. In today's world, there are disagreements on this topic. People of religious beliefs would probably go with what Aristotle believed, but scientist of today would probably not see it in that way. Religious people would say that god everything for the benefit of mankind in order for survival, but scientist would see rain as a natural effect that comes from evaporation.

In 323 BC, 13 years after Aristotle had started his school in Athens, Alexander the Conqueror was overthrown. The government, which was pro-Macedonian, was overthrown as well. Anti-Macedonian feelings broke out in Athens, and anything that was Macedonian was reacted against strongly, which included Aristotle. Aristotle ended up being accused of impiety, and he chose to flee Athens in order not to be captured and sent to trail. He also fled so that Athenians wont have the chance to sin against philosophy a second time, the first time being the Socrates trial and conviction. Aristotle ended up fleeing to Chalcis, which is on the island of Euboea. A year later in 322 BC, he died after complaining of stomach pains. He was only 33 years old.

After Aristotle's death, his students kept some of his works, other pieces of his work was either lost or scattered around to other people. Theophratus had the majority of the works that were given to his students, and he also took over Aristotle's school. Year’s later Theophratus handed Aristotle's work down to his student Neleus. Neleus decided to put them in a vault in order to preserve and protect them. They got a little damaged by moisture and moths, but in 100 BC they were rediscovered by Apellicon, who brought them to Athens. From there, they traveled to Rome after Athens was captured in 86 BC. In Rome, scholars took interest in them and began to study Aristotle's writings and philosophy. Aristotle's writings later moved into Western Europe, but mainly just the writings on logic. In 13th century they reached Spain, where they were translated into Latin.

Aristotle is considered to be the first scientist, and he started off a new way of thinking, which has formed our daily lives. His contributions are so great that he stands beside Plato as one of the greatest philosopher of the ancient world. Everything that we do and know in our current way of life has something to do with scientific thought, which Aristotle first established.

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"Aristotle." Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Mattel, 1999.

Guthrie, William Keith. The Greek Philosophers: From Thales to Aristotle. Harper Trade, November 1990.

Wilson, Fred L. Science and Human Value: Aristotle. Rochester Institute of Technology.

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