Aristotle

• Born 384 BC in northern Greece • Father: physician to King of Macedon • Arrived at Plato’s academy in 367 BC (17 yrs old). Socrates had been dead for 32 yrs; Plato was 61 yrs old; academy had existed for 19-20 yrs • Stayed in Athens for 20 yrs. • Not much known about his time at academy. Did he study with Plato? Not known. Aristotle makes no such claim.

• Early years:
– enthusiastic Platonist – Expressed yearning for death – release of the immortal soul from the body
• Soul pre-exists body, leads unnatural existence while in the body, and is released by death to return to its real existence

– wrote in ―dialogue‖ form – not Socratic; long ―speeches‖ . None of these has survived (some fragments)

• Plato dies ca 348-347 BC and succeeded by others
– Early case of academic politics?

• Aristotle leaves Athens for Asia Minor; away from Athens for 12 yrs
– Studied, wrote, collected biological specimens – Became part of the court of Hermius (Tyrant of Assus). – Married Hermius’ niece/adopted daughter
• Anecdote: spent honeymoon collecting seashells.

• A becomes Pan-Hellenist
– I.e., Greece united against Persian Empire – Invited to become part of court of Philip of Macedon and becomes Alexander (―The Great’s‖) tutor– legend has it that Aristotle had much to do with Alexander’s passion for spreading Greek ideals in his conquest of the East

• Philip assassinated in 336 BC. Court in turmoil. Intrigue. Aristotle returns to Athens in 335 BC.

• During years away, Aristotle starts to think differently from Plato
– Changed from Platonism to concern for empirical research
• If data contradicted philosophical thinking, the thinking had to be modified. The data win.

– Plato had been more of a mathematician/astronomer; Aristotle was more of a biologist. Different procedures:
• Aristotle more interested in particulars • Plato more interested in a priori concepts of fixed universal character • A. criticized P. for separating form/matter and giving separate existence to universals. Universals merely category names.

• Aristotle denied dualism– there is only one world, that of actual things. Forms may be real and may be studied, but in realm of philosophy, not science.
– By giving independent existence to Forms, Plato had made it impossible to explain the character and changing nature of objects. – Idea of 2 worlds is unnecessary duplication.

• Aristotle’s Lyceum
– More scientific than philosophical – Students did observational studies/prepared collections – Students worked in groups, with related assignments -- A was powerful scientific organizer. Not only did his own research, but able to direct/stimulate scientific work among colleagues.

• Eventually became unpopular with strong nationalist party in Athens (suspicious bec. Of past assn. With Alexander)
– Retired to mother’s former country estate in Chacis (strong Macedonian influence). – Died of stomach disorder at age 62 – A’s will still exists. Left something for every relative and dependent, incl. Provision for emancipation of several of his slaves

• Aristotle’s major works
– Early years more philosophical – Later years (after return to Athens)—more biological and psychological
• Pioneer in biology
– Research on structure & function was extensive.. More than anyone had done before – Familiar with more than 500 animal species – Dissected or investigated 50 in great detail

• In Psychology
– Master work: On the Soul (De Anima) plus books on senses, memory, sleep, dreams » De Anima: first systematic treatise on psychology as a systematic science—deals with the functioning of the individual as a whole.

• Aristotle’s Aim
– Sought knowledge. All kinds. Regardless of usefulness in other matters (one can’t imagine Plato making this statement)
• Man is only animal capable of acquiring knowledge

– Still, various kinds of knowledge must be distinguished
• • • • Theoretical knowledge Practical knowledge Productive knowledge ―Pride of place‖ given to theoretical knowledge (―first philosophy‖, later known as ―metaphysics‖… apparently for no greater reason than Aristotle’s lectures on this were placed by his editors so that they came after physics)

So.. What did Aristotle give us?
• First functional view of mind
– Sometimes he did treat it as substance, but generally treated it as moving toward some objective.
• E.g., thinking understood in terms of that which is thought; desiring, in terms of what is desired, etc.

• Advanced empirical point of view
– Reconciled extreme rationalism with extreme empiricism.. Took mediating position. Knowledge gained through senses and reason.

• Laid groundwork for later conceptions of memory/thinking
– Associative principles
• • • • • • Similarity Contrast Contiguity Frequency Emotional effect Degree of meaningfulness

– All this still vary much part of modern psychology

• A’s teachings adopted by Church, esp. through Thomas Aquinas. Dominated until beginning of modern period.
– His ―undoing‖:
• Insistence on primacy of final cause over efficient cause resulted in ―overthrow‖ during scientific revolution of 16th-17th centuries
– Rear guard action fought by Leibnitz and Harvey in defense of teleology and purpose, but generally the doctrine disappeared.

• As you read Aristotle, can’t help but notice the freshness and modernity of what he said
– For the first time, we see a reasonably complete, rounded picture of psychology as a whole – He was wrong in many of his ―facts‖, and omitted important topics, but the overall frame, with only few changes, bears a resemblance to modern psychology.

• Aristotle was the first psychologist.