56. Aristotle - One of the Founders of Western Philosophy and Polymath

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Who Was Aristotle ?


Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, together with Socrates and Plato, laid much of the ground work for Western Philosophy.


Aristotle ( 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic school of philosophy, and the Aristotelian tradition. His writings cover many subjects. including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, esthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics, and government.


Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him. It was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

At seventeen or eighteen years of age he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BC). Shortly after Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip II of Macedon, tutored Alexander the Great beginning in 343 BC. He established a library in the Lyceum which helped him to produce many of his hundreds of books on papyrusscrolls. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues for publication, only around a third of his original output has survived, none of it intended for publication.


Aristotle's views on physical science profoundly shaped medieval scholarship. Their influence extended from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages into the Renaissance, and were not replaced systematically until the Enlightenment and theories such as classical mechanics. Some of Aristotle's zoological observations found in his biology, such as on the hectocotyl (reproductive) arm of the octopus, were disbelieved until the 19th century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, studied by medieval scholars such as Peter Abelard and John Buridan. Aristotle's influence on logic also continued well into the 19th century.


He influenced Islamic thought during the Middle Ages, as well as Christian theology, especially the Neoplatonism of the Early Church and the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church. Aristotle was revered among medieval Muslim scholars as "The First Teacher" and among medieval Christians like Thomas Aquinas as simply "The Philosopher". His ethics, though always influential, gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics, such as in the thinking of Alasdair MacIntyre and Philippa Foot.


I.Early Life, Family and Education


Aristotle was born circa 384 B.C. in Stagira, a small town on the northern coast of Greece that was once a seaport.

Aristotle’s father, Nicomachus, was court physician to the Macedonian king Amyntas II. Although Nicomachus died when Aristotle was just a young boy, Aristotle remained closely affiliated with and influenced by the Macedonian court for the rest of his life. Little is known about his mother, Phaestis; she is also believed to have died when Aristotle was young.


After Aristotle’s father died, Proxenus of Atarneus, who was married to Aristotle’s older sister, Arimneste, became Aristotle’s guardian until he came of age. When Aristotle turned 17, Proxenus sent him to Athens to pursue a higher education. At the time, Athens was considered the academic center of the universe. In Athens, Aristotle enrolled in Plato’s Academy, Greek’s premier learning institution, and proved an exemplary scholar. Aristotle maintained a relationship with Greek philosopher Plato, himself a student of Socrates, and his academy for two decades. Plato died in 347 B.C. Because Aristotle had disagreed with some of Plato’s philosophical treatises, Aristotle did not inherit the position of director of the academy, as many imagined he would.


After Plato died, Aristotle’s friend Hermias, king of Atarneus and Assos in Mysia, invited Aristotle to court.


II. Aristotle’s Books


Aristotle wrote an estimated 200 works, most in the form of notes and manuscript drafts touching on reasoning, rhetoric, politics, ethics, science and psychology. They consist of dialogues, records of scientific observations and systematic works. His student Theophrastus reportedly looked after Aristotle’s writings and later passed them to his own student Neleus, who stored them in a vault to protect them from moisture until they were taken to Rome and used by scholars there. Of Aristotle’s estimated 200 works, only 31 are still in circulation. Most date to Aristotle’s time at the Lyceum.

Poetics


Poetics is a scientific study of writing and poetry where Aristotle observes, analyzes and defines mostly tragedy and epic poetry. Compared to philosophy, which presents ideas, poetry is an imitative use of language, rhythm and harmony that represents objects and events in the world, Aristotle posited. His book explores the foundation of storymaking, including character development, plot and storyline.


Nicomachean Ethics' and 'Eudemian Ethics


In Nicho machean Ethics, which is believed to have been named in tribute to Aristotle’s son, Nicomachus, Aristotle prescribed a moral code of conduct for what he called “good living.” He asserted that good living to some degree defied the more restrictive laws of logic, since the real world poses circumstances that can present a conflict of personal values. That said, it was up to the individual to reason cautiously while developing his or her own judgment. Eudemian Ethics is another of Aristotle’s major treatises on the behavior and judgment that constitute “good living.”


On happiness:


In his treatises on ethics, Aristotle aimed to discover the best way to live life and give it meaning — “the supreme good for man,” in his words — which he determined was the pursuit of happiness. Our happiness is not a state but but an activity, and it’s determined by our ability to live a life that enables us to use and develop our reason. While bad luck can affect happiness, a truly happy person, he believed, learns to cultivate habits and behaviors that help him (or her) to keep bad luck in perspective.


The golden mean:


Aristotle also defined what he called the “golden mean.” Living a moral life, Aristotle believed, was the ultimate goal. Doing so means approaching every ethical dilemma by finding a mean between living to excess and living deficiently, taking into account an individual’s needs and circumstances.


Metaphysics


In his book Metaphysics, Aristotle clarified the distinction between matter and form. To Aristotle, matter was the physical substance of things, while form was the unique nature of a thing that gave it its identity.

Politics


In Politics, Aristotle examined human behavior in the context of society and government. Aristotle believed the purpose of government was make it possible for citizens to achieve virtue and happiness. Intended to help guide statesmen and rulers, Politics explores, among other themes, how and why cities come into being; the roles of citizens and politicians; wealth and the class system; the purpose of the political system; types of governments and democracies; and the roles of slavery and women in the household and society.


Rhetoric


In Rhetoric, Aristotle observes and analyzes public speaking with scientific rigor in order to teach readers how to be more effective speakers. Aristotle believed rhetoric was essential in politics and law and helped defend truth and justice. Good rhetoric, Aristotle believed, could educate people and encourage them to consider both sides of a debate. Aristotle’s work explored how to construct an argument and maximize its effect, as well as fallacious reasoning to avoid (like generalizing from a single example).

Prior Analytics


In Prior Analytics, Aristotle explains the syllogism as “a discourse in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from the things supposed results of necessity because these things are so.” Aristotle defined the main components of reasoning in terms of inclusive and exclusive relationships. These sorts of relationships were visually grafted in the future through the use of Venn diagrams.


Other Works on Logic


Besides Prior Analytics, Aristotle’s other major writings on logic include Categories,On Interpretation and Posterior Analytics. In these works, Aristotle discusses his system for reasoning and for developing sound arguments.

Works on Science


Aristotle composed works on astronomy, including On the Heavens, and earth sciences, including Meteorology. By meteorology, Aristotle didn’t simply mean the study of weather. His more expansive definition of meteorology included “all the affectations we may call common to air and water, and the kinds and parts of the earth and the affectations of its parts.” In Meteorology, Aristotle identified the water cycle and discussed topics ranging from natural disasters to astrological events. Although many of his views on the Earth were controversial at the time, they were re-adopted and popularized during the late Middle Ages.


Works on Psychology


In On the Soul, Aristotle examines human psychology. Aristotle’s writings about how people perceive the world continue to underlie many principles of modern psychology.


Summary


Trinity of Western Philosophy - Socrates , Plato and Aristotle....


Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC and lasted through the Hellenistic period (323 BC-30 BC). Greek philosophy covers an absolutely enormous amount of topics including: political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology (the study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality), logic, biology, rhetoric, and aesthetics (branch of philosophy dealing with art, beauty, and taste).


Greek philosophy is known for its undeniable influence on Western thought.

Although there were Greek philosophers before their respective births, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the only three can be treated as Trinity of Philosophers who lead this Philiosophical Movements during this period.


Their Philosophical Thinking and Thought process have left enoromous impact on the world at large and influencing even today.



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Sources :

https://www.biography.com/scholar/aristotle

https://www.google.com/search?q=aristotle+quotes&rlz=1C1PRFI_enIN874IN874&source=lnms&tbm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle

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