Aristotle and Meteorology

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Thesis: How accurate or inaccurate were Aristotle's writings on meteorology?

Introduction: Aristotle wrote about many subjects that can be grouped into five general divisions: logic, physical works, psychological works, natural history works, and philosophical works. One of the little known physical works concerned meteorology. Aristotle's views on meteorology are fascinating, but many of the views were not accurate. This paper compares only a few of his views to actual meteorological facts.

I. Biography

A. Birth and growth

B. Influence on writings

II. Basis of Aristotle's meteorology

A. Elements and theory

B. Science and facts

III. Water vapor and precipitation

A. Aristotle's view

B. Science and fact

IV. Winds

A. Aristotle's view

B. Science and fact

Conclusion: Aristotle explained the various meteorological phenomenon in simplistic terms. The explanations match his theory of how matter and shape were interrelated. Aristotle's ideas on water vapor and precipitation were somewhat accurate, considering that there were no tools to measure the atmosphere in his time. His views on wind, however, were not accurate at all. He wrote extensively on winds, but never fully comprehended how wind occurred.

September 5, 2000

Aristotle on Meteorology

Aristotle was born in 384 BC, at Stagirus, a Greek colony on the Aegean Sea near Macedonia. In 367 BC, Aristotle entered the Academy at Athens and studied under Plato, attending his lectures for a period of twenty years. In the later years of his association with Plato and the Academy, he began to lecture on his own account, especially on the subject of rhetoric. When Plato died in 347, Aristotle and another of Plato's students, Xenocrates, left Athens for Assus, and set up an academy (Encyclopedia 2).

In 342, Aristotle returned to Macedonia and became the tutor to a very young Alexander the Great. He did this for the next five to seven years. Both Philip and Alexander appear to have paid Aristotle high honor. There are stories that indicate the Macedonian court supplied Aristotle with funds for teaching, and with slaves to collect specimens for his studies in natural science (Encyclopedia 4).

Aristotle returned to Athens when Alexander the Great began his conquests. He found the Platonic school flourishing under Xenocrates, and Platonism the dominant philosophy of Athens (Encyclopedia 5). Aristotle thus set up his own school at a place called the Lyceum. When teaching at the Lyceum, Aristotle had a habit of walking about as he discoursed. It was because of this that his followers became known in later years as the peripatetics, meaning, "to walk about" (Shakian 126). For the next thirteen years, he devoted his energies to his teaching and composing his philosophical treatises. His institution integrated extensive equipment, including maps and the largest library collection in Europe. He is said to have given two kinds of lectures: the more detailed discussions in the morning for an inner circle of advanced students, and the popular discourses in the evening for the general body of lovers of knowledge.

At the sudden death of Alexander in 323 BC, the pro-Macedonian government in Athens was overthrown, and a general reaction occurred against anything Macedonian. A charge of impiety was trumped up against Aristotle. To escape prosecution he fled to Chalcis in Euboea so that (Aristotle says) "The Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy as they had already done in the person of Socrates" (Encyclopedia 5). In the first year of his residence at Chalcis he complained of a stomach illness and died in 322 BC (Encyclopedia 7).

One of Aristotle's writings is about meteorology. His theories are based on his belief that all objects in the world are composed of form and matter and the world is arranged...
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