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(384-322 BC) "Every realm of nature is marvellous."
Overview Aristotle was a materialist philosopher who developed Ethics and Logic as newly important elements of philosophy and whose thought had the most profound effect on medieval scholars. Aristotle undertook objective, scientific study of all major fields of knowledge: logic, physics, natural history, politics, ethics and the arts. He also gave an account of what he termed the First Philosophy, metaphysics, the science of being, which underlay all sciences and was thus primary. For Aristotle, the essence of being was not perfection but change. Everything has a potential and a goal or end towards which it progresses. Man is a "political animal" who best fulfills his potential and natural end within a society with laws and customs. His highest goal is the "good life", not a life of ease, but a life of virtue which results in "eudaimonia" , or having a good spirit, often translated as happiness. Ultimate happiness lies in pursuit of wisdom for its own sake. At a cosmic level, Aristotle conceived of an "Unmoved Mover", an initiator of all motion but perfect and unchanging itself. This is the final end towards which all things are drawn. To the medieval scholastics this was God. Man MAN A THINKING ANIMAL Man fits into the scheme of nature as a "thinking animal". The mind, that which distinguished man as a rational being, is "incapable of being of being destroyed." It is a special part of the psyche or soul which in turn is the animating force of the body. The soul is the body's "form", and unlike Plato's soul, does not have an existence separate from the body. Thus it does not survive the death of the body. Yet it possesses both actuality and potentiality, and is the efficient, formal and final cause of the body. That is, it has a goal or end, and carries within it the means to that end. MAN A POLITICAL ANIMAL Man is also a "political animal". By this, Aristotle means Man lives best in a "polis", the city-state form of the Greek state. That is, he is characterized by living within a society with laws and customs. Man best fulfills his potential and natural end within a social context. This is the "good life". This is not a life of ease, but a life of virtue which results in the highest good, eudaimonia, or having a good spirit, often translated as happiness. THE GOOD LIFE Aristotle's "Ethics" is a study of choice in action; how should man best live? For Aristotle, this has a social as well as individual aspect. Some virtues, like courage and generosity, he describes as "practical" virtues, because they relate to man's social nature. The truly balanced individual also pursues the "theoretical" virtues which are related to man as a rational being. Ultimate happiness lies in pursuit of wisdom for its own sake.
All is Revealed KNOWLEDGE THROUGH RESEARCH
A classic example of a valid argument is his syllogism: All men are mortal. metaphysics. Given the structure of this argument. which states that properties such as beauty are abstract universal entities that exist independent of the objects themselves. For example. then the conclusion is also guaranteed to be true. . Aristotle distinguishes sense perception from reason. physics. a past and the potential for future change. four kinds of aetia or causes must be considered: a material cause . Aristotle famously rejected Plato’s theory of forms. Unfortunately for us. as long as the premises are true.” In his lifetime.e. botany. Aristotle radically transformed most. Aristotle’s emphasis on good reasoning combined with his belief in the scientific method forms the backdrop for most of his work. Aristotle applied logical reasoning to experience. Instead. of which only 31 survive. dance and theatre." ("Posterior Analytics") Where Plato sought knowledge of an ideal world through reason. there is something that changes and something that stays the same i. And in his work on psychology and the soul. that is. these works are in the form of lecture notes and draft manuscripts never intended for general readership. therefore. areas of knowledge he touched.the matter of which it is composed a formal cause . To explain how and why a thing is as it is. a moral person is one who cultivates certain virtues based on reasoning. all life was permeated with meaning and his encyclopaedic mind undertook objective. For Aristotle. It is no wonder that Aquinasreferred to him simply as “The Philosopher. scientific study of every major field of knowledge. ethics.the law or pattern that determines its development an efficient cause . He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. Aristotle identifies the highest good with intellectual virtue. which unifies and interprets the sense perceptions and is the source of all knowledge. to understand its being. mathematics. politics. Aristotle observed that the validity of any argument can be determined by its structure rather than its content. What Can we Know? Characteristic of all nature is movement and change. Socrates is mortal. including the Roman Cicero. and so must be studied in relation to them. any individual object has both substance and form or essence. making contributions to logic. Socrates is a man. in his work in ethics and politics. Aristotle’s brand of logic dominated this area of thought until the rise of modern propositional logic and predicate logic 2000 years later. Aristotle was the first to classify areas of human knowledge into distinct disciplines such as mathematics. It also has a present actuality. Modern science and logic owe much to this side of his work. Aristotle wrote as many as 200 treatises.All scientific truths are necessarily and universally true and deal with the general not the particular. so they do not demonstrate his reputed polished prose style which attracted many great followers. In the process. a classifier.the agent or initiator of the process a final cause .its end or result ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy. if not all. Human knowledge of these scientific truths is based on repeated sense experiences which reason allows a universal to form in the mind. biology. he was the first to develop a formalized system for reasoning. its reality. agriculture. he argued that forms are intrinsic to the objects and cannot exist apart from them. As a prolific writer and polymath. and ethics. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato’s theory of forms. medicine. The sheer breadth of the material encouraged him to be a systematiser. Some of these classifications are still used today. As the father of the field of logic. biology.
What is higher on the scale of being is of more worth. Aristotle argues that space and time are potentially divisible ad infinitum. his followers from the Lyceum. Even the human soul is nothing but the organization of the body. (2) motion which brings about changes in quality. and (4) motion which brings about locomotion. The scale of being proceeds from animals to humans. and the appetitive element with animals. Aristotle was the founder of the Lyceum. a school of learning based in Athens. and cannot evolve over time. and their souls contain an appetitive feature which allows them to have sensations. Further. particularly its beginning and its ending. The passage of matter into form must be shown in its various stages in the world of nature. Plants are the lowest forms of life on the scale. and instead argues for idealized universal form which artists attempt to capture in their work. Time is defined as the measure of motion in regard to what is earlier and later. and thus gives them the ability to move. Greece. it also depends for its existence on a counting mind. Aristotle rejects the definition of space as the void. because the principle of form is more advanced in it. To do this is the object of Aristotle’s physics. Animals are above plants on the scale. Species on this scale are eternally fixed in their place. After these preliminaries. Empty space is an impossibility. Philosophy of Nature Aristotle sees the universe as a scale lying between the two extremes: form without matter is on one end. Of these the last is the most fundamental and important. he disagrees with the view of Plato and the Pythagoreans that the elements are composed of geometrical figures. and time. The higher items on the scale are also more organized. Hence. The human soul shares the nutritive element with plants. Motion is the passage of matter into form. Aristotle seems to reject this. Everything in nature has its end and function. there could be no time. in discussing art. If there were no mind to count. The principle which gives internal organization to the higher or organic items on the scale of being is life. (3) motion which brings about changes in quantity. and the paradoxes proposed byZeno. the lower items are inorganic and the higher are organic. but also has a rational element which is distinctively our own. It thus depends for its existence upon motion. or philosophy of nature. and nothing is without its purpose. space. and matter without form is on the other end. too. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ . No doctrine of physics can ignore the fundamental notions of motion. Aristotle passes to the main subject of physics. Everywhere we find evidences of design and rational plan. there would be no time. or change of place. but are not actually so divided. It is important to keep in mind that the passage from form to matter within nature is a movement towards ends or purposes. The first thing to notice about this scale is that it is a scale of values. Since it is the measuring or counting of motion. As to the infinite divisibility of space and time. by increasing it and decreasing it. and it is of four kinds: (1) motion which affects the substance of a thing. or what he calls the soul of the organism. Space is defined as the limit of the surrounding body towards what is surrounded. and their souls contain a nutritive element by which it preserves itself. and he was an inspiration for the Peripatetics. the scale of being. desires.However. The details of the appetitive and rational aspects of the soul are described in the following two sections. If there where no change in the universe.
or why it is. For Aristotle's aesthetic views. through St. Nicomachus.Aristotle also taught that knowledge of a thing. an account of Athenian government. some distinguished members of the Academy followed him. Arab scholars introduced Aristotle to Islam. but rather was immanent in matter. Following Plato. Logic was for Aristotle the necessary tool of any inquiry. PhilosophyLogic and Metaphysics was the sequence that all logical thought follows. It was largely through Arab and Jewish scholars that Aristotelian thought was reintroduced in the West. beyond its classification and description. During the anti-Macedonian agitation after Alexander's death. engagement in politics (the moral life). In the Politics. Aristotelianism After the decline of Rome. the efficient cause (its maker or builder).. Aristotelian influence. The highest good for humans is the complete and habitual exercise of the specifically human function-rationality. Well-being (eudaemonia) is the pursuit not of pleasure (hedonism) but rather of the Good. Aristotle fled in 323 to Chalcis. He tutored (342-c. with the exception of the Prime Mover. and condition. He considered philosophy to be the discerning of the selfevident. He held that the Prime Mover alone was pure form and as the "unmoved mover" and final cause was the goal of all motion. . He introduced the notion of category into logic and taught that reality could be classified according to several categories-substance (the primary category). Ethics and Other AspectsAristotle's ethical theory reflects his metaphysics. In the late 19th cent. some passages appear to be interpolations of notes made by his students. determination in time and space. His teleological approach has continued to be central to biology. Rhetoric. There has also been a revival of Aristotelian influence on philosophy in the 20th cent. he argued that the goodness or virtue of a thing lay in the realization of its specific nature. He is sometimes called the Stagirite. and he explores the best forms these may take. His works became the basis of medieval scholasticism. a composite ideal. Works Aristotle's extant writings consist largely of his written versions of his lectures. Aristotle holds that. the texts were edited and given their present form by Andronicus of Rhodes in the 1st cent. b. much of Roman Catholic theology shows. was controverted by the investigations of Copernicus and Galileo. Only fragments of these dialogues are extant.He used this account of causes to examine the relation of form to matter. action. changeless first principles that form the basis of all knowledge. De Poetica [poetics]. Thus. in the 9th cent. Stagira. had no separate existence. consisting of contemplation (the intellectual life) and. form and matter together constitute concrete individual realities. Metaphysics. and Muslim theology. gave his school the name Peripatetic. or God. and in his conclusions differed sharply from those of his teacher. relation. Aristotle studied (367-347 ) under Plato at the Academy and there wrote many dialogues that were praised for their eloquence. He posited four causes or principles of explanation: the material cause (the substance of which the thing is made). which are set forth in the Poetics. Aristotle emphasized the traditional Greek notion of moral virtue as the mean between extremes. Life Aristotle's father. In 335 he opened a school in the Lyceum. was found. where he died.339 ) Alexander the Great at the Macedonian court. by nature. requires an explanation of Aristotle placed great emphasis in his school on direct observation of nature. the formal cause (its design). humans form political associations. and a series of works on biology and physics. his Constitution of Athens. quantity. moral and intellectual. and in science he taught that theory must follow fact. Aristotle believed that form caused matter to move and defined motion as the process by which the potentiality of matter (the thing itself) became the actuality of form (motion itself). but it was banished from physics by the scientific revolution of the 17th cent. Aristotle believed that a form. De Anima [on the soul].Aristotle 384-322 . Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics. His practice of lecturing in the Lyceum's portico. was a noted physician. In modern thought the efficient cause is generally considered the central explanation of a thing. later elaborated by Ptolemy. Thomas Aquinas. the Platonic system holds that a concrete reality partakes of a form (the ideal) but does not embody it. passion or passivity. Physics. and natural science all took on an Aristotelian cast. Chief among them are the Organum. Aristotle's work was lost in the West. subordinate to that. left to live in Stagira. consisting of six treatises on logic. and then returned to Athens. philosophy. but for Aristotle the final cause had primacy. in the Aristotelian system. see tragedy. or covered walking place (peripatos). His work in astronomy. quality. position. and the syllogism causality. However. and the final cause (its purpose or function). Greek philosopher. Plato. Rationality is exercised through the practice of two kinds of virtue.