Life of Аristotle

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Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato’s theory of forms.observation, the Socratic dialogue or dialect, was unique. He explored human nature through tedious examination and studied people in a way never done before.



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Almaty 2013




















Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato’s theory of forms.observation, the Socratic dialogue or dialect, was unique. He explored human nature through tedious examination and studied people in a way never done before.





       II.     LIFE

                Aristotle was born in 384 BCE at Stagirus, a now extinct Greek colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace. His father Nichomachus was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonia, and from this began Aristotle’s long association with the Macedonian Court, which considerably influenced his life. While he was still a boy his father died. At age 17 his guardian, Proxenus, sent him to Athens, the intellectual center of the world, to complete his education. He joined the Academy 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. At the death of Plato in 347, the pre-eminent ability of Aristotle would seem to have designated him to succeed to the leadership of the Academy. But his divergence from Plato’s teaching was too great to make this possible, and Plato’s nephew Speusippus was chosen instead. At the invitation of his friend Hermeas, ruler of Atarneus and Assos in Mysia, Aristotle left for his court. He stayed three year and, while there, married Pythias, the niece of the King. In later life he was married a second time to a woman named Herpyllis, who bore him a son, Nichomachus. At the end of three years Hermeas was overtaken by the Persians, and Aristotle went to Mytilene. At the invitation of Philip of Macedonia he became the tutor of his 13 year old son Alexander (later world conqueror); he did this for the next five years. Both Philip and Alexander appear to have paid Aristotle high honor, and there were stories that Aristotle was supplied by the Macedonian court, not only with funds for teaching, but also with thousands of slaves to collect specimens for his studies in natural science. These stories are probably false and certainly exaggerated.

Upon the death of Philip, Alexander succeeded to the kingship and prepared for his subsequent conquests. Aristotle’s work being finished, he returned to Athens, which he had not visited since the death of Plato. He found the Platonic school flourishing under Xenocrates, and Platonism the dominant philosophy of Athens. He 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 in connection with this that his followers became known in later years as the peripatetics, meaning “to walk about.” For the next thirteen years he devoted his energies to his teaching and composing his philosophical treatises. 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 BCE., the pro-Macedonian government in Athens was overthrown, and a general reaction occurred against anything Macedonian. A charge of impiety was trumped up against him. 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.” In the first year of his residence at Chalcis he complained of a stomach illness and died in 322 BCE.


        III.        Two important parts of Aristotle's philosophy are provided here in a structured html. These are:

  • The Organon - a collection of works on Logic, broadly conceived.
  • The Metaphysics - what Aristotle called "First Philosophy"




    Aristotle’s Metaphysics has as its central theme an inquiry into how substance may be defined as a category of being. Aristotle defines substance as ultimate reality, in that substance does not belong to any other category of being, and in that substance is the category of being on which every other category of being is based. Aristotle also describes substance as an underlying reality, or as the substratum of all existing things. He describes substance as both formal and material reality, and discusses the relation between potentiality and actuality.

According to Aristotle, the being of any individual thing is primarily defined by what it is, i.e. by its substance. Substance is both essence (form) and substratum (matter), and may combine form and matter. Substance constitutes the reality of individual things. The substance of each individual thing is the particular nature of that thing. The substance of each individual thing is that which does not belong to other individual things, while the universal (principle or element) of an individual thing is that which belongs to many individual things.

Aristotle differentiates between three kinds of substances, according to whether or not change can occur in their actual or potential being. The first two kinds of substances are physical (or material), and are ‘movable’ or ‘changeable.’ These physical substances are capable of changing, or of being changed. They may be either: 1) perishable, or 2) imperishable (i.e. eternal). The third kind of substance is non-physical, non-material, eternal, ‘immovable,’ and 'unchangeable.' Non-material substances may include: 1) mathematical objects (such as numbers), and 2) Ideas.

The elements of a substance may be singular (one) or multiple (many). A simple substance may consist of only one element. A composite substance may consist of many elements. The same elements may be shared by many different kinds of things. However, Aristotle says that eternal substances do not consist of elements, because elements may not always be the same in a substance, and because elements may not exist eternally.

Aristotle discusses the causes, principles, and elements of substances. According to Aristotle, wisdom is knowledge of the causes and principles of things. Wisdom is a science of first principles, and all knowledge is of universals. Substances are particular things, while universal principles (elements, or attributes) are common to many things.

Aristotle explains that there are four kinds of causes of things: 1) the substance or essence of a thing (the formal cause), 2) the matter and subject of a thing (the material cause), 3) the source of 'motion' or change in a thing (the efficient cause), and 4) the purpose for which a thing has being (the final cause).

Aristotle maintains that to know the truth of a proposition is to know what causes that proposition to be true. The truth of a proposition may be caused by the truth of another proposition. The truest proposition may be the proposition which is always true. The truest proposition may also be the proposition which causes other propositions to be true, and which does not depend on the truth of other propositions.

To make a true statement is to say of what is, that it is, or to say of what is not, that it is not. To make a false statement is to say of what is not, that it is, or to say of what is, that it is not.

According to Aristotle, ‘that which is’ cannot simultaneously be ‘that which is not.’ Being and non-being (or existence and non-existence) cannot be predicated of the same subject at the same time in the same respect.

Although a proposition may potentially be either true or false, it cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same respect. A proposition may appear to be true, and yet may be false. A proposition may appear to be false, and yet may be true.

If a proposition is not necessarily false, then it may possibly be true. If a proposition is not necessarily true, than it may possibly be false. A proposition which is necessarily true cannot possibly be false. A proposition which is necessarily false cannot possibly be true.

The appearance of something may differ from the true reality of that thing. Moreover, the appearance of something may be relative to the position of an observer, and may depend on the opinions and attitudes of the observer. Things may not appear the same to everyone, and may have contradictory appearances.

Aristotle claims that the causes of things are not infinite, and that there must be a first cause, or a first principle of all things. All things may have the same first cause, or may have the same things as their first causes.

Aristotle explains that while physics (or natural science) is concerned with things which are ‘movable’ or ‘changeable,’ metaphysics is concerned with things which are ‘immovable’ or ‘unchangeable.’ Metaphysics is a ‘first philosophy’ in that it is concerned with defining the nature of being, while the other branches of science and philosophy are concerned with defining the classes (genera and species) of being.


The Organon was used in the school founded by Aristotle at the Lyceum, and some parts of the works seem to be a scheme of a lecture on logic. So much so that after Aristotle's death, his publishers (Andronicus of Rhodes in 50 BC, for example) collected these works.

Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, much of Aristotle's work was lost in the Latin West. The Categories and On Interpretation are the only significant logical works that were available in the early Middle Ages. These had been translated into Latin by Boethius. The other logical works were not available in Western Christendom until translated to Latin in the 12th century. However, the original Greek texts had been preserved in the Greek-speaking lands of the Eastern Roman Empire (aka Byzantium). In the mid-twelfth century, James of Venice translated into Latin the Posterior Analytics from Greek manuscripts found in Constantinople.

The books of Aristotle were available in the early Arab Empire, and after 750 AD Muslims had most of them, including the Organon, translated into Arabic, sometimes via earlier Syriac translations. They were studied by Islamic and Jewish scholars, including Rabbi Moses Maimonides (1135–1204) and the Muslim Judge Ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroes (1126–1198); both were originally from Cordoba, Spain, although the former left Iberia and by 1168 lived in Egypt.

All the major scholastic philosophers wrote commentaries on the Organon. Aquinas, Ockham and Scotus wrote commentaries on On Interpretation. Ockham and Scotus wrote commentaries on the Categories and Sophistical Refutations. Grosseteste wrote an influential commentary on the Posterior Analytics.

In the Enlightenment there was a revival of interest in logic as the basis of rational enquiry, and a number of texts, most successfully the Port-Royal Logic, polished Aristotelian term logic for pedagogy. During this period, while the logic certainly was based on that of Aristotle, Aristotle's writings themselves were less often the basis of study. There was a tendency in this period to regard the logical systems of the day to be complete, which in turn no doubt stifled innovation in this area. However Francis Bacon published his Novum Organum ("The New Organon") as a scathing attack in 1620.[2] Immanuel Kant thought that there was nothing else to invent after the work of Aristotle, and a famous logic historian called Karl von Prantl claimed that any logician who said anything new about logic was "confused, stupid or perverse." These examples illustrate the force of influence which Aristotle's works on logic had. Indeed, he had already become known by the Scholastics (medieval Christian scholars) as "The Philosopher", due to the influence he had upon medieval theology and philosophy. His influence continued into the Early Modern period and Organon was the basis of school philosophy even in the beginning of 18th century.[3] Since the logical innovations of the 19th century, particularly the formulation of modern predicate logic, Aristotelian logic has fallen out of favor among many analytic philosophers.


Aristotle sees the universe as a scale lying between the two extremes: form without matter is on one end, and matter without form is on the other end. The passage of matter into form must be shown in its various stages in the world of nature. To do this is the object of Aristotle’s physics, or philosophy of nature. It is important to keep in mind that the passage from form to matter within nature is a movement towards ends or purposes. Everything in nature has its end and function, and nothing is without its purpose. Everywhere we find evidences of design and rational plan. No doctrine of physics can ignore the fundamental notions of motion, space, and time. Motion is the

passage of matter into form, and it is of four kinds: (1) motion which affects the substance of a thing, particularly its beginning and its ending; (2) motion which brings about changes in quality; (3) motion which brings about changes in quantity, by increasing it and decreasing it; and (4) motion which brings about locomotion, or change of place. Of these the last is the most fundamental and important.

Aristotle rejects the definition of space as the void. Empty space is an impossibility. Hence, too, he disagrees with the view of Plato and the Pythagoreans that the elements are composed of geometrical figures. Space is defined as the limit of the surrounding body towards what is surrounded. Time is defined as the measure of motion in regard to what is earlier and later. It thus depends for its existence upon motion. If there where no change in the universe, there would be no time. Since it is the measuring or counting of motion, it also depends for its existence on a counting mind. If there were no mind to count, there could be no time. As to the infinite divisibility of space and time, and the paradoxes proposed byZeno, Aristotle argues that space and time are potentially divisible ad infinitum, but are not actually so divided.

After these preliminaries, Aristotle passes to the main subject of physics, the scale of being. The first thing to notice about this scale is that it is a scale of values. What is higher on the scale of being is of more worth, because the principle of form is more advanced in it. Species on this scale are eternally fixed in their place, and cannot evolve over time. The higher items on the scale are also more organized. Further, the lower items are inorganic and the higher are organic. The principle which gives internal organization to the higher or organic items on the scale of being is life, or what he calls the soul of the organism. Even the human soul is nothing but the organization of the body. Plants are the lowest forms of life on the scale, and their souls contain a nutritive element by which it preserves itself. Animals are above plants on the scale, and their souls contain an appetitive feature which allows them to have sensations, desires, and thus gives them the ability to move. The scale of being proceeds from animals to humans. The human soul shares the nutritive element with plants, and the

According to Aristotle, each species has its particular nature, and the good life for that species is one that fulfills its nature. So he begins his ethical inquiry, in the Nichomachean Ethics, by asking what is the nature of man. He decides man has both a rational and an irrational system in his psyche, and that human nature also has a natural drive for human society (‘man is a political animal’), for knowledge, for happiness, and for God. The good life is a life that fulfils these natural drives, and directs them to their highest end. That’s what philosophy does: it uses our rational mind to guide the natural desires of our psyche to their highest fulfillment, which Aristotle calls eudaimonia, or flourishing. Philosophy, then, is the bridge between human nature in its raw and undeveloped form to human nature at its highest. element with animals, but also has a rational element which is distinctively our own. The details of the appetitive and rational aspects of the soul are described in the following two sections..

       V.        ETHICS

          Aristotle considered ethics to be a practical rather than theoretical study, i.e., one aimed at becoming good and doing good rather than knowing for its own sake. He wrote several treatises on ethics, including most notably, the Nicomachean Ethics.

Aristotle taught that virtue has to do with the proper function (ergon) of a thing. An eye is only a good eye in so much as it can see, because the proper function of an eye is sight. Aristotle reasoned that humans must have a function specific to humans, and that this function must be an activity of the psuchē (normally translated as soul) in accordance with reason (logos). Aristotle identified such an optimum activity of the soul as the aim of all human deliberate action, eudaimonia, generally translated as "happiness" or sometimes "well being". To have the potential of ever being happy in this way necessarily requires a good character (ēthikē aretē), often translated as moral (or ethical) virtue (or excellence).[47]

Aristotle taught that to achieve a virtuous and potentially happy character requires a first stage of having the fortune to be habituated not deliberately, but by teachers, and experience, leading to a later stage in which one consciously chooses to do the best things. When the best people come to live life this way their practical wisdom (phronesis) and their intellect (nous) can develop with each other towards the highest possible human virtue, the wisdom of an accomplished theoretical or speculative thinker, or in other words, a philosopher.


starting with the thought of the object present to us, then considering what is similar, contrary or contiguous.

Reason is the source of the first principles of knowledge. Reason is opposed to the sense insofar as sensations are restricted and individual, and thought is free and universal. Also, while the senses deals with the concrete and material aspect of phenomena, reason deals with the abstract and ideal aspects. But while reason is in itself the source of general ideas, it is so only potentially. For, it arrives at them only by a process of development in which it gradually clothes sense in thought, and unifies and interprets sense-presentations. This work of reason in thinking beings suggests the question: How can immaterial thought come to receive material things? It is only possible in virtue of some community between thought and things. Aristotle recognizes an active reason which makes objects of thought. This is distinguished from passive reason which receives, combines and compares the objects of thought. Active reason makes the world intelligible, and bestows on the materials of knowledge those ideas or categories which make them accessible to thought. This is just as the sun communicates to material objects that light, without which color would be invisible, and sight would have no object. Hence reason is the constant support of an intelligible world. While assigning reason to the soul of humans, Aristotle describes it as coming from without, and almost seems to identify it with God as the eternal and omnipresent thinker. Even in humans, in short, reason realizes something of the essential characteristic of absolute thought — the unity of thought as subject with thought as object.



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