Aristotle

 Greek philosopherGreek Aristoteles

Overview

Aristotle, marble bust with a restored nose, Roman copy of a Greek original, last quarter of the …
[Credits : Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna]Greek philosopher and scientist whose thought determined the course of Western intellectual history for two millenia.

He was the son of the court physician to Amyntas III, grandfather of Alexander the Great. In 367 he became a student at the Academy of Plato in Athens; he remained there for 20 years. After Plato’s death in 348/347, he returned to Macedonia, where he became tutor to the young Alexander. In 335 he founded his own school in Athens, the Lyceum. His intellectual range was vast, covering most of the sciences and many of the arts. He worked in physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, and botany; in psychology, political theory, and ethics; in logic and metaphysics; and in history, literary theory, and rhetoric. He invented the study of formal logic, devising for it a finished system, known as syllogistic, that was considered the sum of the discipline until the 19th century; his work in zoology, both observational and theoretical, also was not surpassed until the 19th century. His ethical and political theory, especially his conception of the ethical virtues and of human flourishing (“happiness”), continue to exert great influence in philosophical debate. He wrote prolifically; his major surviving works include the Organon, De Anima (“On the Soul”), Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Eudemian Ethics, Magna Moralia, Politics, Rhetoric, and Poetics, as well as other works on natural history and science. See also teleology.

Main

ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, one of the greatest intellectual figures of Western history. He was the author of a philosophical and scientific system that became the framework and vehicle for both Christian Scholasticism and medieval Islamic philosophy. Even after the intellectual revolutions of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, Aristotelian concepts remained embedded in Western thinking.

Aristotle, marble portrait bust, Roman copy (2nd century bc) of a Greek original (c. 325 …
[Credits : A. Dagli Orti/© DeA Picture Library]Aristotle’s intellectual range was vast, covering most of the sciences and many of the arts, including biology, botany, chemistry, ethics, history, logic, metaphysics, rhetoric, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, physics, poetics, political theory, psychology, and zoology. He was the founder of formal logic, devising for it a finished system that for centuries was regarded as the sum of the discipline; and he pioneered the study of zoology, both observational and theoretical, in which some of his work remained unsurpassed until the 19th century. But he is, of course, most outstanding as a philosopher. His writings in ethics and political theory as well as in metaphysics and the philosophy of science continue to be studied, and his work remains a powerful current in contemporary philosophical debate.

This article deals with Aristotle’s life and thought. For the later development of Aristotelian philosophy, see Aristotelianism. For treatment of Aristotelianism in the full context of Western philosophy, see philosophy, Western.

Life » The Academy

Aristotle was born on the Chalcidic peninsula of Macedonia, in northern Greece. His father, Nicomachus, was the physician of Amyntas III (reigned c. 393–c. 370 bc), king of Macedonia and grandfather of Alexander the Great (reigned 336–323 bc). After his father’s death in 367, Aristotle migrated to Athens, where he joined the Academy of Plato (c. 428–c. 348 bc). He remained there for 20 years as Plato’s pupil and colleague.

Many of Plato’s later dialogues date from these decades, and they may reflect Aristotle’s contributions to philosophical debate at the Academy. Some of Aristotle’s writings also belong to this period, though mostly they survive only in fragments. Like his master, Aristotle wrote initially in dialogue form, and his early ideas show a strong Platonic influence. His dialogue Eudemus, for example, reflects the Platonic view of the soul as imprisoned in the body and as capable of a happier life only when the body has been left behind. According to Aristotle, the dead are more blessed and happier than the living, and to die is to return to one’s real home.

Another youthful work, the Protrepticus (“Exhortation”), has been reconstructed by modern scholars from quotations in various works from late antiquity. Everyone must do philosophy, Aristotle claims, because even arguing against the practice of philosophy is itself a form of philosophizing. The best form of philosophy is the contemplation of the universe of nature; it is for this purpose that God made human beings and gave them a godlike intellect. All else—strength, beauty, power, and honour—is worthless.

It is possible that two of Aristotle’s surviving works on logic and disputation, the Topics and the Sophistical Refutations, belong to this early period. The former demonstrates how to construct arguments for a position one has already decided to adopt; the latter shows how to detect weaknesses in the arguments of others. Although neither work amounts to a systematic treatise on formal logic, Aristotle can justly say, at the end of the Sophistical Refutations, that he has invented the discipline of logic—nothing at all existed when he started.

During Aristotle’s residence at the Academy, King Philip II of Macedonia (reigned 359–336 bc) waged war on a number of Greek city-states. The Athenians defended their independence only half-heartedly, and, after a series of humiliating concessions, they allowed Philip to become, by 338, master of the Greek world. It cannot have been an easy time to be a Macedonian resident in Athens.

Within the Academy, however, relations seem to have remained cordial. Aristotle always acknowledged a great debt to Plato; he took a large part of his philosophical agenda from Plato, and his teaching is more often a modification than a repudiation of Plato’s doctrines. Already, however, Aristotle was beginning to distance himself from Plato’s theory of Forms, or Ideas (eidos; see form). (The word Form, when used to refer to Forms as Plato conceived them, is often capitalized in the scholarly literature; when used to refer to forms as Aristotle conceived them, it is conventionally lowercased.) Plato had held that, in addition to particular things, there exists a suprasensible realm of Forms, which are immutable and everlasting. This realm, he maintained, makes particular things intelligible by accounting for their common natures: a thing is a horse, for example, by virtue of the fact that it shares in, or imitates, the Form of “Horse.” In a lost work, On Ideas, Aristotle maintains that the arguments of Plato’s central dialogues establish only that there are, in addition to particulars, certain common objects of the sciences. In his surviving works as well, Aristotle often takes issue with the theory of Forms, sometimes politely and sometimes contemptuously. In his Metaphysics he argues that the theory fails to solve the problems it was meant to address. It does not confer intelligibility on particulars, because immutable and everlasting Forms cannot explain how particulars come into existence and undergo change. All the theory does, according to Aristotle, is introduce new entities equal in number to the entities to be explained—as if one could solve a problem by doubling it.(See below Doctrines: Physics and metaphysics: Form.)

Citations

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APA Style:

Aristotle. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 22, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/34560/Aristotle

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Student Britannica Articles (Ages 11 and up) on "Aristotle (Greek philosopher)" from the Britannica Online Student Edition

Aristotle
  (384–322 ). One of the greatest thinkers of all time was Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher. His work in the natural and social sciences greatly influenced virtually every area of modern thinking.
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About a century later, the philosopher Aristotle (384–322 ) devised a classification of political systems that would influence political thinkers for the next 2,000 years. He identified three kinds of government, which differed according to the number of people allowed to rule—one, few, or many. Each kind of government also had both an “ideal” form and a corrupt form. In an ideal form of government, the rulers pursue what is best for everyone; in a corrupt form, they pursue what is best only for themselves.
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One of the clearest and most useful statements of ethical absolutism came from Aristotle in his ‘Nichomachean Ethics'. He realized that what people desire they regard as good. But to say no more than this means that all desires are good no matter how much they conflict with one another. Consequently, there can be no standards at all.

Children's Encyclopedia Articles (Ages 8-11) on "Aristotle (Greek philosopher)" from the Britannica Online Student Edition

Aristotle(from the Aristotle article)
(384–322 ). The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was one of the greatest thinkers of all time. His writings make up practically an encyclopedia of ancient Greek knowledge. Aristotle's work influenced almost every area of modern thought.
Death and legacy(from the Aristotle article)
Aristotle left Athens in 323 . He went to his country house in Chalcis on the Greek island of Euboea. Aristotle died the following year of a stomach illness.
Early years(from the Aristotle article)
Aristotle was born in Stagira in northeastern Greece in 384 . His father was a doctor for the king of Macedonia, a country to the north.
Ideas(from the Aristotle article)
The surviving works of Aristotle fill more than 2,000 printed pages. They include his studies on an amazing range of subjects. The works of Aristotle that still exist today were probably lecture notes from the courses he gave at the Lyceum. They may have been texts used by his students.
Career(from the Aristotle article)
After Aristotle left Athens he spent time in several Greek cities and Macedonia. While in Macedonia he tutored the king of Macedonia's son. That prince would later become a famous conqueror and be known as Alexander the Great.

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