Aristotle (Ancient Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης, Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greekphilosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music,logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Together withPlato and Socrates (Plato's teacher), Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. Aristotle's writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality, aesthetics, logic, science, politics, andmetaphysics. Aristotle's views on the physical sciences profoundly shaped medieval scholarship, and their influence extended well into the Renaissance, although they were ultimately replaced by Newtonian physics. In the zoological sciences, some of his observations were confirmed to be accurate only in the 19th century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, which was incorporated in the late 19th century into modern formal logic. In metaphysics, Aristotelianism had a profound influence on philosophical and theological thinking in the Islamic and Jewish traditions in the Middle Ages, and it continues to influence Christian theology, especially the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church. His ethics, though always influential, gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics. All aspects of Aristotle's philosophy continue to be the object of active academic study today. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues (Cicerodescribed his literary style as "a river of gold"), it is thought that the majority of his writings are now lost and only about one-third of the original works have survived. Aristotle's Ethics
Aristotle conceives of ethical theory as a field distinct from the theoretical sciences. Its methodology must match its subject matter—good action—and must respect the fact that in this field many generalizations hold only for the most part. We study ethics in order to improve our lives, and therefore its principal concern is the nature of human well-being. Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. But he rejects Plato's idea that a training in the sciences and metaphysics is a necessary prerequisite for a full understanding of our good. What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons. Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion. Aristotle wrote two ethical treatises: the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics. He does not himself use either of these titles, although in the Politics (1295a36) he refers back to one of them—probably the Eudemian Ethics—as “ta êthika”—his writings about character. The words “Eudemian” and “Nicomachean” were added later, perhaps because the former was edited by his friend, Eudemus, and the latter by his son, Nicomachus. In any case, these two works cover more or less the same ground: they begin with a discussion of eudaimonia ( “happiness,” “flourishing”), and turn to an examination of the nature of aretê (“virtue,” “excellence”) and the character traits that human beings need in order to live life at its best. Both treatises examine the...
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