Aristotle :

The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle was an amazing individual who possessed a multitude of talents ranging from mastery of rhetoric to interest in physiology. Aristotle lived during the fourth century B.C. in ancient Greece. The culture of the Greeks during this time differs greatly from our present day life and times. Aristotle came into contact with many great men of history, from Plato his instructor and mentor to Alexander the Great, conquerer and ruler of the east. The works of Aristotle have left many after him to contemplate his theories and attitudes toward life and his Realism movement.

The time in which Aristotle lived was one where to be heard one had to possess a loud voice and master the art of persuasion, or rhetoric. This was the case throughout Greece, specifically in Athens, where Aristotle spent the major part of his life. The law in Athens came from a group of about five thousand men who were the land holders in the city. In this group an individual must be heard in order to defend himself and others in need. This was accomplished by those trained in rhetoric. Therefore those who taught this art stood to obtain a lot of wealth from their endeavors. These were known as sophists with whom much contempt was held by such philosophers as Socrates. "The greatest school of Rhetoric in all Greece was at this period held in Athens by the renowned Isocrates, who was at the zenith of his reputation."(Collins p. 11) A competitor with this school was Plato's Academy of philosophy which is where Aristotle arrived at in the year 367 B.C.. Plato became Aristotle's teacher and soon realized the massive potential and sheer intellect that Aristotle possessed.

Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. in a town just outside the borders of the Macedonian Empire, called Stageira. He was rumored to have been raised in the customs of the Asclepiad. "It was the custom in Asclepiad families for the boys to be trained by their father in the practice of dissection just as regularly as boys in other families learn to read and write."(Collins p. 3) When Aristotle turned seventeen his father, Nicomachus died and he was put under the care of Proxenus of Atarneus, who sent him to Athens to further his education under the tutorship of the great philosopher, Plato.

It was at Plato's Academy that Aristotle was realized for his potential and was able to grow in knowledge and understanding of philosophy. It was not long before Aristotle became known as "the Mind of the School" and he stayed there for about twenty years. During this time Aristotle became well known and respected as a writer and orator. His philosophy however grew to differ greatly from that of his mentor's, as well as against those of the previously mentioned, Isocrates. In fact his orations "during his earlier residence at Athens show him somewhat petulantly attacking both Plato and Isocrates."(Collins p. His arguments against his teacher's philosophies were centered on the Platonic theory of Forms. Aristotle started the Realism movement which objected to the idea that the material world is unimportant and a shadow of existence. He disagreed with the belief that the true reality existed through universal ideas, truths, and forms. He had no room in his views for imagination and what he saw as guesses at truths. When Plato died in 347 B.C., Aristotle was thought to be the natural person to take over his work. Plato's nephew, Speusippus, however was named to run the Academy.

Aristotle and some of his followers left Athens and traveled to the town of Atarneus where he lived with the ruler, Hermeias for three years. Aristotle was married and appeared happy until Hermais was murdered and caused him to flee with his wife to Mitylene. There he lived for three years until he joined the court of King Philip of Macedonia to engage in tutoring the young Alexander. This continued until the year 336, when Phillip died and Alexander was crowned king of the Macedonia. Aristotle remained in the area as he was in a position of substantial power. There are rumors of Alexander doing favors for Aristotle and indeed using his forces to help Aristotle in his researches and quests for knowledge.

Aristotle eventually found his way back to Athens where another follower of Plato, Xenocrates, had taken over control of the Academy at the death of Speusippus. Aristotle founded and developed a rival school of philosophy in the city using his new influence with the Macedonian empire which had taken control of Athens. His reasoning for opening this school probably were involved with spreading his views to the younger generation and also give him an opportunity to put effort into his own works. It was likely that at this time Aristotle began his works on the science of Logic which he founded as the process by which we reason. "He was engaged in founding the physical and natural sciences, especially natural philosophy, physiology, [including] anatomy and psychology, and above all natural history."(Collins p.20) Aristotle was able to proceed in peace for many years working on his theories in relative seclusion. The growing resentment of the Macedonian rulers and those associated with the Empire by the Athenian citizens became clear in the year 323 B.C. when Alexander the Great died of a fever. With this event Aristotle became aware of his numerous enemies, for instance the followers of Isocrates with whom Aristotle argued, earlier in his life. Also those followers of Plato who did not appreciate the dissent by Aristotle away from their master's teachings were considerable in their opposition to him. Finally the obvious sect of anti-Macedonians held much contempt for Aristotle because of his simple orientation with Alexander and the Empire. As a result Aristotle was forced to flee Athens when he was indicted for charges similar to those against Socrates years before. Aristotle's reason for leaving was said to be "in order that the Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy, as they had already done once in the person of Socrates."(Collins p.26) He left for the city of Chalcis were he sought temporary refuge and planned to return to Athens following the expected re-invasion by Macedonia. Fate had something different in mind for Aristotle, he died in 322 B.C. of a sudden illness at the age of sixty-three.

Aristotelian thought has progressed and influenced cultures for nearly two millenniums. His founding and development of the theories behind the Realism movement created the debates that were engaged in during the greater part of the middle ages. His immense contributions to the natural sciences serve to be the basis of the standard curriculum for students and learners everywhere. Aristotle was clearly and impressive figure of history and philosophy for whom we should hold much respect and admiration.


1. Collins, Lucas. Aristotle.

2. Blaug, Mark. Aristotle, (384-322 B.C.)

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