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The Life and Legacy of Aristotle, Ancient Philosopher

 Introduction of Aristotle (384-322) BCE

Discover why Aristotle is one of the most well-known philosophers in history with this comprehensive guide to his life, Aristotle's Philosophy Through His Writings and Legacy of Aristotle.

Aristotle is one of the most influential philosophers of all time, and his works have shaped the history of Western philosophy from ancient Greece to modern Europe. Aristotle developed a comprehensive philosophical system that was revolutionary for its time and remains the cornerstone of philosophy to this day.

The philosopher Aristotle

 IN reading any important philosopher, but most of all in reading Aristotle, it is necessary to study him in two ways: with reference to his predecessors, and with reference to his successors. In the former aspect, Aristotle's merits are enormous; in the latter, his demerits are equally enormous. For his demerits, however, his successors are more responsible than he is. 

Aristotle's biography

He came at the end of the creative period in Greek thought, and after his death it was two thousand years before the world produced any philosopher who could be regarded as approximately his equal. Towards the end of this long period his authority had become almost as unquestioned as that of the Church, and in science, as well as in philosophy, had become a serious obstacle to progress. Ever since the beginning of the seventeenth century, almost every serious intellectual advance has had to begin with an attack on some Aristotelian doctrine.

 Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. at Stagirus, a Grecian colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace. His father Nichomachus was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonia, and from this began Aristotle’s long association with the Macedonian Court, which considerably influenced his life and destinies. While he was still a boy his father died, and he was sent by his guardian, Proxenus, to Athens, the intellectual centre of the world, to complete his education. He was then aged seventeen. He joined the Academy and studied under Plato, attending the latter’s lectures for a period of twenty years. In subsequent times, Aristotle’s detractors, anxious to vilify his character, accused him of “ingratitude” to his master, Plato. 

It was said that Plato’s old age had been embittered by dissensions in the school caused by the factious spirit of Aristotle. That there is no ground for attaching any blame to Aristotle for the troubles of Plato, which either did not exist or have been grossly exaggerated, is evident both from the facts within our knowledge and from the reference to Plato in Aristotle’s works. It is not likely that, had Aristotle rendered himself genuinely objectionable, he could have remained for twenty years in the Academy, and only left it upon the death of Plato. 

Moreover, although Aristotle in his works attacks the teaching of Plato with unsparing vigour, there is nowhere to be found in these attacks any suggestion of acrimony or personal rancour. On the contrary, he refers to himself as the friend of Plato, but a greater friend of the truth. The fact, in all probability, is that a man of such independent and original mind as Aristotle did not accord to Plato the kind of blind adoration and hero-worship which he may have received from the inferior intellects in the school. As is so often the case with young men of marked ability, the brilliant student may have suffered from the impatience and self-assertion of youth. There was certainly nothing worse.
The Lyceum 

Aristotle wrote ten thousand words but we know 20% words. Aristotle formed the lyceum at Athens in 335 BCE. 

While at the Academy Aristotle exhibited an unflagging spirit and unwearied zeal in the pursuit of knowledge in all its forms, a spirit which gave rise to nick-names and anecdotes, which probably contained as much truth, or as little, as most of the anecdotes which gather round remarkable characters. One of these stories was that he used a mechanical contrivance to wake him up whenever sleep threatened to put an end to his hours of study.

In 347 B.C. Plato died, and his nephew Speusippus was chosen as head of the Academy. Aristotle left Athens with his fellow-student Xenocrates, and together they repaired to the court of Hermeias, King of Atarneus, in Asia Minor. Hermeias, a man of low origin, but of high instincts and advanced education, had himself attended the lectures of Plato, and received the two young philosophers as welcome guests. Aristotle stayed three years at Atarneus, and, while there, married  Pythias, the niece of the King.

In later life he was married a second time to one Herpyllis, who bore him a son, Nichomachus. At the end of three years Hermeias fell a victim to the treachery of the Persians, and Aristotle went to Mytilene. Here he remained for several years till he received an invitation from Philip of Macedonia to become the tutor of the young Alexander, afterwards conqueror of the world, then aged thirteen.

Aristotle obeyed the summons, and for about five years superintended the education of Alexander. Both Philip and Alexander appear to have paid Aristotle high honour, and there were stories that he was supplied by the Macedonian court, not only with funds for the prosecution of learning, but even with thousands of slaves for the collection of specimens. 

These stories are probably false and certainly exaggerated. But there is no doubt that, in his scientific and philosophical enquiries, he was backed by the influence of the court, and could even perhaps have looked to that quarter for supplies, had it ever been necessary.

Upon the death of Philip, Alexander succeeded to the kingship. The period of his studies was now over, and he began to make preparations for his subsequent conquests. Aristotle’s work being finished, he returned to Athens, which he had not visited since the death of Plato. He found the Platonic school flourishing under Xenocrates, and Platonism the dominant philosophy of Athens. He thereupon set up his own school at a place called the Lyceum. It was in connection with this that his followers became known, in after years, as the “peripatetics,” a name which arose from Aristotle’s habit of walking about as he discoursed.

The period of  his residence in Athens lasted thirteen years, during which time he was occupied in the leadership of his school and in literary labours. This appears to have been the most fruitful period of his life. There is no doubt that all his most important writings were composed at this time. But at the end of this period his fortunes changed.

In B.C. 323 Alexander the Great died suddenly at Babylon in the midst of his triumphs. The Athenian Government was in the hands of a pro-Macedonian party. Upon the death of Alexander this party was overthrown, and a general reaction occurred against everything Macedonian.

Alexander had been regarded in Greece much as Napoleon was regarded in Europe a century ago. He had insulted the free Greek cities. He had even sacked the city of Thebes. The whole of Greece lived in perpetual terror of invasion. Now that this fear was removed by his death, there was a general outburst of feeling against Macedonia. An anti Macedonian party came into power. Now Aristotle had always been regarded as a representative and protege of the Macedonian court, although, as a matter of fact, he had recently fallen out of favour with the autocratic Alexander. A charge of impiety was trumped up against him. To escape prosecution he fled to Chalcis in Euboea, in order that, as he said, “the Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy as they had already done in the person of Socrates.” He perhaps intended to return to Athens as soon as the storm had blown over. But in the first year of his residence at Chalcis he was overtaken by a sudden illness, and died at the age of sixty-three, in B.C. 322.

The Orphic elements in Plato are watered down in Aristotle, and mixed with a strong dose of common sense; where he is Platonic, one feels that his natural temperament has been overpowered by the teaching to which he has been subjected. He is not passionate, or in any profound sense religious. The errors of his predecessors were the glorious errors of youth attempting the impossible; his errors are those of age which cannot free itself of habitual prejudices. He is best in detail and in criticism. Third man argument : Aristotle's criticism of Plato. 

What are the 3 important study of Aristotle?

Aristotle divided the sciences into three kinds: productive, practical, and theoretical.

 Aristotle writing style 

 Aristotle, as a philosopher, is in many ways very different from all his predecessors. He is the first to write like a professor: his treatises are systematic, his discussions are divided into heads, he is a professional teacher, not an inspired prophet. His work is critical, careful, pedestrian, without any trace of Bacchic enthusiasm. 

How many books did Aristotle write

Aristotle is said to have composed some four hundred books. Our astonishment at this productivity diminishes somewhat when we remember that what is here called a “book” is much the same as what we should call a chapter in a modern treatise. More than three-quarters of these writings have been lost. But, by good fortune, what remains to us is undoubtedly by far the most important part, and we have preserved in it a fairly complete account of the whole Aristotelian system in all its departments. Nearly all the writings, however, have come down to us in a mutilated state. This is especially the case with the “Metaphysics.”

Aristotle written works

This treatise is unfinished, and it was probably left unfinished by its author at his death. But apart from this, several of the books of the “Metaphysics” are undoubtedly spurious. Others apparently come in the wrong order. We end one book in the middle of a discussion, and when we begin the next we find ourselves in the middle of an entirely different subject. There are frequent repetitions, and parts of it read as if they were mere lecture notes. There are many interpolations. The same characteristics are to be observed in Aristotle’s other writings, though in a less degree.

It seems probable that they were not intended, in their present state, for publication. Final revision and finishing touches are lacking. In spite of these defects, the writings are voluminous and clear enough to enable us to trace out the whole of the main positions of Aristotle’s thought.

The whole of his writings, or rather those that have come down to us, seem to have been written during his last thirteen years, while he was at Athens, that is to say, after he had passed his fiftieth year. His system was then complete, mature, and fully developed. The question of the order in which they were written has no great importance. The result of critical investigations, however, is to show that he probably began with the various works upon logic, composed next the treatises upon physical science, next the ethical and political books, and lastly the “Metaphysics,” which he left unfinished.

It must not be forgotten that Aristotle was not only a philosopher in the modern restricted sense of that term. He was a man of universal learning. There is no branch of knowledge which did not receive his attention, and upon which he was not the greatest expert of his time, except perhaps mathematics. So far was he from being only an abstract philosopher, that his natural tastes seem to have lain rather in the field of physical science than of abstract thought. But his design seems to have been to work over the entire field of knowledge, thoroughly to overhaul the sciences already in existence, rejecting what seemed false in the work of his predecessors, and invariably adding to the residue valuable developments and suggestions of his own. 

 Aristotle contribute to science

Where there was no science already in existence, his plan involved the foundation of new sciences wherever necessary, and he thus became the founder of at least two sciences, Logic and Zoology. He thus attained to a preeminence in all branches  of knowledge which would be impossible for a single man in modern times. His works include treatises upon Logic and Metaphysics, upon Ethics, Politics, and Art. He wrote a treatise upon the principles of Rhetoric, another upon Astronomy, under the title “On the Heavens,” another upon Meteorology. Several of his treatises deal with the biology of animal life, in which he was intensely interested. They include books entitled “On the Parts of Animals,” “On the Movements of Animals,” “On the Origin of Animals,” as well as his great treatise, “Researches on Animals,” which contains an enormous mass of facts collected from every possible source. 

It is true that a large proportion of these facts have turned out to be fictions, but this was inevitable in the infancy of science. It has been calculated that Aristotle shows himself acquainted with about five hundred different species of living beings, though they are not, of course, classified by him in the modern way. With these books upon animals he founded the science of Zoology, for no one before his day had made any special study of the subject.

 Aristotle style of writing

First he created the logical system then he applied this system on all subjects. His logical system is called ORGHNON. 

if you want to understands Aristotle's philosophy, you must first study his logic. 

First Aristotle started with Endoxa means (literature review)  First he read every philosopher of philosophy then he gave his opinion. second   Dialectics ( oppositional views) means main opposition thought, main debate, which philosopher what said and where he stop. This two method he used and all knowledge carried him  through his logical system. 

He divided science into three categories.
1. The theoretical science include prominently what Aristotle calls first philosophy, or metaphysics. example mathematic and physics, or natural philosophy. In today's language we call theoretical science as natural science. 

2. Practical science : Both political and ethics fall under this branch. Example - Nicomachean ethics.  In today's language we call Practical science as social science. 

3. The productive science are mainly crafts aimed at the production of artifacts or of human production. example - ship-building, agriculture and medicine  but also the arts of music, theatre and dance.  Rhetoric, which treats the principle of speech-making appropriate to various forensic and persuasive settings, including centrally political assemblies.  

As this shows, Aristotle was systematic in his intention to achieve an encyclopaedic science. It ranged from the most fundamental questions about the nature of reality itself (in his Metaphysics) through his scientific enquiries as just noted, to his psychological studies of human beings (in his On the Soul and Short Treatises on Nature), to art and literature (included in his account of ‘productive sciences’ in his Poetics and Rhetoric), to matters of ethics and politics (in the Nicomachean Ethics, Eudemian Ethics and Politics). And alongside this great scheme lay his seminal studies of logic and reasoning; he created the science of logic almost from scratch, in the six books known as the Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics and Sophistical Refutations.

Aristotle theory

Aristotle has so much respect in the world. He has changed thinking way. In physics Aristotle ruled till Newton. Aristotle's thinking dominated for 200 years. We can say that until the Renaissance, Aristotle's thinking dominated. 

''The great Alexander conquered the whole world but Aristotle ruled the world of thought.''

Questions about Aristotle

what did Aristotle believe
Aristotle believed in looking at the real world and studying it. Aristotle spent many years teaching in Athens, which was under the control of Macedon. When Alexander the Great died, however, anti-Macedonians took control of Athens.

What is Aristotle full name   
Aristotle's full name was Aristoteles or Greek Aristoteles

Aristotle father of logic and science

Rationality Aristotle  was definite knowledge. It pained him to see poetic metaphors substituted for rational explanation.

What is Aristotle best known for?
Aristotle is known for his work and teaching , Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, On the Soul and Poetics. Aristotle studied and made significant contributions to "logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance, and theatre."

What did Aristotle contribute to philosophy

Aristotle  contribution -  social Science, political science, Ethics, natural philosophy, science, physics, biology, zoology, botany, metaphysics, science, ontology, Epistemology, logic, music, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, cosmology, history of philosophy, psychology, theology, rhetoric, political, history, government theory, poetry, art, theatre. 

What Are Aristotle's Main Ideas?

Aristotle's main ideas revolve around the concepts of causation, the four causes of motion and change, difference between matter and form, unity of matter and form, dualism versus monism, and preferential option for the mean. He believed that everything had a purpose or telos and that all phenomena could be explained by identifying its cause. He espoused a belief in an ‘unmoved mover’ which he also referred to as “Prime Mover” to explain how the universe could keep moving without anything actually causing it to do so. His theory on forms argued that every single thing has two aspects – the form and matter - each of which contributes to its structure while still remaining distinct entities.

Aristotle and women

Aristotle had negative thoughts for women and slaves. Aristotle said for women ,''Women is an unfinished man.'' '' Man was the sower and woman the soil. Children inherit only male characteristics.'' ''The male is by nature superior.'' Aristotle had used many abusive words for women. ''The courage of a man is seen in commanding and that of women in obeying.''

But Aristotle one thing good said for women, '' A society cannot be happy unless women are happy.'' 

Aristotle and slavery

Aristotle referred to slaves as '' tools with a voice.'' 

Men by nature were divided into two groups. Those who were rulers by nature and those who submitted by nature. Aristotle considered  slavery to be good for the society. Aristotle never wrote against slavery and never gave value and authority.

Aristotle one of the great thinker (Philosopher) in the world.

Aristotle's influence

Although 2,500 years have passed, Aristotle continues to shape contemporary philosophical thought. His philosophy was incredibly diverse in its principles, theories and methods. He devoted much of his work to exploring logic and reason, as well as ethical and political thought which still influence modern students of philosophy. His writings are credited with laying down the foundation for most branches of knowledge from metaphysics to botany. Without his groundbreaking scholarship, many ambitious thinkers would have been unaware of the potential of serious academic inquiry into the nature of being. His writings have been heavily studied and continue to be some of the most influential texts in modern Western philosophy.

Over the centuries, Aristotle’s teachings have had an immense influence on later philosophers. Theologians such as Aquinas, Maimonides and Augustine used his texts to explain their own theories. Later thinkers adopted some of his ideas as well. RenĂ© Descartes was heavily influenced by Aristotle's concepts of dualism, while Immanuel Kant discussed many of Aristotle’s key points in “Critique of Pure Reason”. For better or for worse, virtually every philosopher after Plato owes some part of their success to Aristotle and his legacy lives on through their work.

Aristotle philosophy on education

The book, which, in the form in which we have it, appears to be unfinished, ends with a discussion of education. Education, of course, is only for children who are going to be citizens; slaves may be taught useful arts, such as cooking, but these are no part of education. 

The citizen should be moulded to the form of government under which he lives, and there should therefore be differences according as the city in question is oligarchic or democratic. In the discussion, however, Aristotle assumes that the citizens will all have a share of political power. 

Children should learn what is useful to them, but not vulgarizing; for instance, they should not be taught any skill that deforms the body, or that would enable them to earn money. They should practice athletics in moderation, but not to the point of acquiring professional skill; the boys who train for the Olympic games suffer in health, as is shown by the fact that those who have been victors as boys are hardly ever victors as men. Children should learn drawing, in order to appreciate the beauty of the human form; and they should be taught to appreciate such painting and sculpture as expresses moral ideas. 

They may learn to sing and to play musical instruments enough to be able to enjoy music critically, but not enough to be skilled performers; for no freeman would play or sing unless drunk. They must of course learn to read and write, in spite of the usefulness of these arts. But the purpose of education is virtue," not usefulness. What Aristotle means by "virtue" he has told us in the Ethics, to which this book frequently refers.

Famous quote by Aristotle

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” - Aristotle wisdom

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
- Aristotle, Metaphysics

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
― Aristotle friendship

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
― Aristotle education

“Hope is a waking dream.”
― Aristotle dream

“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”
― Aristotle great-minds

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
― Aristotle happiness

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
― Aristotle  choice

“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 anger

“A friend to all is a friend to none.”
― Aristotle friendship

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”
― Aristotle  friendship

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
― Aristotle happiness

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”
― Aristotle philosophy

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
― Aristotle patience 

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
― Aristotle freedom

“To perceive is to suffer.”
― Aristotle life

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
― Aristotle teaching

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.”
― Aristotle education

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.”
― Aristotle solitude

A History of Western Philosophy Book by Bertrand Russell
Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, rev. edn, ed. H. Tredennick and Jonathan Barnes, trans. J. A. K. Thomson, London: Penguin Classics, 2004
Barnes, J. (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle. Available online:
Ackrill, J. L., Aristotle the Philosopher, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981
Anagnostopoulos, G. (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2009 Barnes, J. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle, Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1995 
Ross, W. D., Aristotle, London: Methuen, 1923
Shields, C., Aristotle, 2nd edn, London: Routledge, 2014

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