Aristotle (384-322BC) was a Greek philosopher and scientist, who share with Plato and Socrates the distinction of being the most famous of the ancient philosophers. Borns at Stagira, in Macedonia, the son of a physician to the royal court, Aristotle moved at the age of 17 to Athens to study at Plato’s Academy. Aristotle was a prolific writer. He wrote a vest number of works on a wide range of topics. Three ancient catalogues credit him with having written more than 170 separate texts, although it is likely that a significant number of these are false attributions.
Like Plato, Aristotle published philosophical dialogues. However, apart from a few fragments in the works of later writers, his dialogues have been wholly lost. He also wrote summaries of the works of other philosophers, and is credited with works on topics as diverse as music and optics, and a book of proverbs. Of these, only a few brief excerpts have survived. Still in existence, however, is a substantial body of unpublished writings, usually taken to be the material on which courses in the Lyceum were based. These works were collected, arranged, and given titles by later editors, the first of whom was Andronicus of Rhodes, the last head of the Lyceum, who put together and published an edition of them in. 60 BC, over 200 years after Aristotle’s death. This edition provided the body of Aristotelian work on which so much of the later history of Western philosophy would be based.
When Plato died in 347 BC, Aristotle moved to Assos, a city in Asia Minor, where a friend of his named Hermias was the ruler. He counseled Hermias a married his niece and adopted daughter, Pythias (Wierd names, huh). After Hermias was captured and executed by the Persians, Aristotle went to Pella, Macedonia’s capital, and became the tutor of the king’s young son Alexander, later known as Alexander the Great. In 335 BC, when Alexander became king, Aristotle went back to Athens and established his own school, the Lyceum.
When Alexander died in 323BC, strong anti-Macedonian feeling was felt in Athens, and Aristotle went to a family estate in Euboea. He died there the following year. Aristotle had great confidence in human beings’ ability to arrive at a reasoned understanding of the world around them. He was committed to the claim that the world itself makes understanding possible; that it is structured in such a way as to be amenable to rational inquiry and understanding. Further the nature of human beings to have both the capacity and the desire to understand the world. Thus, the world and human nature cooperate in making understanding possible.
Aristotle also wrote some short technical writings, including a dictionary of philosophic terms and a summary of the “doctrines of Pythagoras” (the guy from the Pythagorean Theorem). Of these, only a few short pieces have survived. Among the writings are short informative lectures on logic, called Organ on (which means “instrument”), because “They provide the means by which positive knowledge is to be attained “His writing on natural science include Physics, which gives a huge amount of information on astronomy, meteorology, plants, and animals. One of the most famous of Aristotle’s contributions was a new notion of causality. “Each thing or event,” he thought, “has more than one ‘reason’ that helps to explain what, why, and where it is. In astronomy, Aristotle proposed a finite, spherical universe, with the earth at its centre. The centre is made up of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.
The influence of Aristotle’s philosophy has been pervasive; it has even helped to shape modern language and common sense. His doctrine of the Prime Mover as the final cause played an important role in theology. Before the 20th century, logic meant Aristotle’s logic alone. Until the Renaissance, and even later, astronomers and poets alike esteemed his concept of the universe. Zoology rested on Aristotle’s work until the British scientist Charles Darwin modified the doctrine of the changelessness of species in the 19th century. In the 20th century a new appreciation has developed of Aristotle’s method and its relevance to education, literary criticism, the analysis of human action, and political analysis.