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Aristotle - Biography

By bobsagot May 01, 2006 2206 Words
Raphael portrays two of Greece's great philosophers as the focal point of his masterpiece The School of Athens. Aristotle has his hand pointing straight out as if he is declaring to Plato that truth is found right here around us. Aristotle was an excellent teacher who is considered to be the prince of philosophy and one of the world's most influential thinkers of all time. Aristotle was born in 384 B.C at Stragyra in Thrace, on the north coast of the Aegean Sea. This was fifteen years after the death of Socrates and three years after the founding of Plato's Academy. His father was the court physician and friend of King Amyntas of Macedonia. It is likely that Aristotle's great interest in biology and science, in general, was nurtured in his early childhood. At the age of seventeen, Aristotle moved to Athens and enrolled in Plato's Academy as a student of philosophy. He studied for over twenty years at the Academy until Plato died in 348 B.C. Throughout his time at the Academy, Aristotle became one of the top scientist and philosophers, and though he studied under Plato, he was not a Platonist. In fact, he would later criticize Plato and his various doctrines. After the mourning of Plato's death had subsided, Speusippus seized power of the Academy. At this time Aristotle quickly left Athens and lived for a time in Assos and Mytilen where he was able to write, research, and teach. He did return, for a time, to Macedonia to tutor Philip's son Alexander at his request. By the age of forty-nine, Aristotle had traveled back to Athens to found a school. Many historians believe this is when Aristotle began the most productive period of his life. His school was named the Lyceum, named after the groves where Socrates went to think and which was the sacred domain of Apollo Lyceus. The Lyceum had a fine library, an extensive collection of maps, and a zoo where Aristotle preformed much of his zoological research. . The school was located close to a long covered walk called in the greek peripatos. Aristotle would take his students on this long covered walkway where he conducted much of his teaching as they strolled along pondering many philosophical questions. As a result of this method of teaching, the students of the Lyceum were commonly referred to as peripatetics. Aristotle was only in Athens for twelve years when it was necessary for him to leave for political reasons to save his life. In 322 B.C. Aristotle died and his library was passed on to his successor, Theophratus. Aristotle is regarded as the first truly cosmopolitan thinker. He was interested in a plethora of subjects and gave significant contribution to many of them. He composed major studies of logic, ethics, and metaphysics. Today he is best renown for his work the Metaphysics and the Nichomachean Ethics. In addition to these major studies he also wrote on epistemology, physics, biology, meteorology, dynamics, mathematics, psychology, rhetoric, dialectics, aesthetics, politics, and philosophy. Choose any field of research and Aristotle probably studied it, select an area of human reason and he probably theorized on it. If all of his writings were published today they would fill fifty large volumes in print. Unfortunately, over the last two thousand years many of his writings have been lost. Only one fifth of his writings have endured time. What has been preserved are what many believe are Aristotle's lecture notes and notes of his students that were not meant to be printed. These rough notes have been edited in a cut paste fashion in order to try to make sense of Aristotle's profound thought. Aristotle philosophy is a development of Plato's philosophy. Aristotle respected Plato but rejected the dualism that Plato passionately embraced and taught his pupils. Plato's primary reality of the unchanging world existed separately from the world of particular things. Aristotle believed he was able to avoid this ambiguous ideal of two worlds and still communicate all the necessary concepts that Plato did. Metaphysically, Aristotle believed that every living being, except God, is a composite of two factors called form and matter. In Aristotle's system of epistemology, he believes that the forms that Plato held unattainable actually exist as essential parts of the things that we asses through our senses. He believed that a human being is a holistic unit of both the body and soul. Aristotle specialized in classifying the many different components in the universe: humans, animals, plants, inanimate objects, etc. His work Catergories was his flagship in the organization of the world. He believed that humans were certainly in a classification of their own, and that human beings could be divided up into three dimensions, or more specifically, three dimensional thinking. The first dimension is "productive thinking" and refers to man as a maker; the second is "practical thinking" and refers to man as a learner and knower. All of the books that Aristotle wrote can basically be divided into these three categories. For example his book on poetry would be in the category of productive thinking; ethics would be in the category of practical thinking; philosophy, science, and metaphysics would be in the category of theoretical thinking. Aristotle can be credited with the creation of both the science and the philosophy of biology. His work in science involved the discovery of interconnections between characteristics of organisms. This led to the biological specialties of taxonomy and systematics. This evidenced that he was able to adapt his metaphysical and logical thought to that of the area of zoology. His application of thought to the experimentation makes him one of the founders of laboratory research.

Aristotle was the first to create the study of deductive inference. His theory of syllogism, simply put, is a discourse in which certain things having been stated, something else follows of necessity of doing so. Aristotle believed that the laws of logic apply to more than just human thinking. He believed that these laws of being allow the understanding of the logical structure of the world. The premise to his logical system is the law of noncontradiction. Aristotle states in his law that "It is impossible for the same attribute at once to belong and not belong to the same thing in the same relation." More simply would be that (B) can not be both (B) and non(b) at the same time in the same sense. This law cannot be proven but it must not be ignored. It is a universal core principle of human thinking. However, a caveat is necessary because the absence of a contradiction doesn't necessary guarantee truth. The world is in a constant state of change. Aristotle believed that changes could be natural or could be a product of human art. The four causes that Aristotle articulated answer the four questions that can be asked about anything. The four questions are (1) what is it? (2) what is it made of? (3) by what is it made? (4) for what end is it made? Aristotle four responses are the four causes: (1) the formal cause (2) the material cause (3) the efficient cause (4) the final cause. The biologist in Aristotle affected the way he observed the world. He observed everything going through change happens to something that is a combination of form and matter becoming something different or new. Teleology is the notion that the present could be understood by reference to the future. The nature of anything is linked to its telos, meaning its goal or final end. The final end of an object reveals its nature and this nature drives it to its goal. This idea is what Aristotle thought could explain many things from a fetus in the womb to an acorn from a oak tree. These four causes are a significant contribution to science in explaining nature Within the dimension of practical thinking is Aristotle's view on ethics and how it relates to us not only as individuals but to the world as a whole. His views are contained in basically his two works called the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics. The Nichomachean ethics is the better one of the two because it is clearer, it addresses more issues within the field of ethics, and it arguments are usually superior. Aristotle believes that everyone has an ultimate goal, and they pursue it by doing what they view as good. What a person views as good is ultimately what will bring them long-term satisfaction and happiness. He goes on too describe the soul of man and its various virtues. He believed that the soul could be divided into two characteristics: reason and desire. These two characteristics may conflict in the soul of a man when trying to make a decision. Aristotle believes that the more disciplined a man is the more reason will win when a decision is made. He believed that these virtues were innate in every man and not acquired in any fashion. Lastly, the way Aristotle viewed God was a product of how he viewed everything else. Aristotle was not a zealot when it came to religion. He believed there was a supreme being because he thought it would be impossible to explain some things. Aristotle's view of God was more of a metaphysical necessity. Through his thought of telos he knew the world must have an ultimate cause and this cause must be God. Exposition

I specifically like how Aristotle classified everything, and approached fields of study with common sense and practicality. He believed that humans are the highest classification, and I would certainly agree with that. I also agree that the three dimensions of man: productive, practical, and theoretical thinking, are basically the three main areas in life, but I also think that there are other areas on the side, and that everything can be categorized as concretely as he seeks to do. Aristotle's ideas of the four different causes are very good. The hegemony of these causes communicate their fundamental value. His central idea that everything has a cause is true and very important. The deductive reasoning he used also helps to clarify things. I believe that the use of syllogisms should not be used to test if a belief is true. A worldview could pass a few tests but that doesn't prove that it is correct. Aristotle's view of God is a disturbing product of his system. He is the victim of his own mind. He is a perfect example of how a philosopher may become trapped in his own system. He had made some presuppositions early on that had become the core of what he believed. As he progress in his thought he had to be consistent with what he had first believed and this necessitated him to plug everything into his presuppositions or mold that he had created. This resulted in God becoming an after thought of his life, instead of the focal point of his life. Aristotle had forgotten to place God into his system when it was in infancy. As a result of the complexity, he had to place his unknowable God in a box. Aristotle ethics of having an ultimate goal that provide your happiness is quite interesting. If your ultimate goal is to glorify God then you will find true happiness. John Piper would say that a Christian hedonist finds pleasure in being satisfied with the Lord to bring God the utmost glory. I do not, however, agree with Aristotle's division of the soul.

There are many problems in Aristotle system. In spite of the problems, his philosophy has affected just about everyone. I believe that the ideas of Aristotle not only influenced the ancient greeks, but also affected medieval philosophy, and modern philosophy. The prevalence of the contributions of Aristotle is ingrained in almost every discipline. Without the teachings of Aristotle the world would be years behind. We owe a lot to this man who gave his life in order to understand our existence and things that exist around us. Raphael painted Aristotle in the middle of his School of Athens for a reason. He must of known of the influence that Aristotle would posses on young minds for centuries to come.

Works Cited

Adler, Mortimer J. 1978. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult thought made easy ,New York: Macmillian Publishing Co.

Aristotle. 1980. Metaphysics I-IX, Harvard University Press.

Barnes, Jonathan. 1996. Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press.

Cottingham, John. 1996. Western Philosophy: An Anthology, Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Fearn, Nicholas. 2001. Zeno and the Tortoise: How to Think like a Philosopher, New York: Grove Press.

Honderich, Ted. 1995. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press.

Lennox, James G. 2001. Aristotle's Philosophy of Biology, Cambridge University Press.

Nash, Ronald H. 1999. Life's Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy, Zondervan.

Stumpf, Samuel E. and James Fieser. 2003. Philosophy: History and Problems, McGraw- Hill Higher Education.

Wilson, Fred L. Science and Human Values: Aristotle, flwstv/aristotl1.html. Accessed 6 October, 2004.

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