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Introduction to Aristotle

Introduction to Aristotle

Aristotle was arguably one of the most influential philosophers in history, but how much do you really know about him?
Penlighten Staff
Aristotle was a great philosopher, and many of his writings and teachings have formed the way we think about philosophy today. Next to Plato and Socrates, Aristotle is arguably the most famous philosopher in history. Aristotle wrote on many, many subjects including psychology, biology, metaphysics, medicine, physics, logic, and philosophy. While he lived and worked well before our time - he was born in 384 BC and died in 322 BC - many of his works are still taught and read by students today.

Life

Born in Stageira, Chalcidice in 284 BC, Aristotle was the son of Nicomachus, a personal physician to King Amyntas of Macedon. Aristotle was very fortunate in the fact that he was educated in a time when not everyone was. At eighteen, Aristotle went to Plato's Academy in Athens to study and stayed there for almost twenty years. From there, Aristotle went to Asia and then to the island of Lesbos, where he researched botany and zoology. After that, he went on to tutor Alexander the Great, as well as Ptolemy and Cassander. Perhaps the fact that he tutored several kings is why he is still so famous today. After tutoring these famous men, he went back to Athens to teach and write. However, Alexander the Great began to suspect Aristotle was making threats against his life. Eventually, after Alexander's death, he was forced to flee and he died of natural causes in Euboea.

Philosophy

Famously, Aristotle added much to the realm of philosophy. He wrote much about politics, ethics, and rhetoric. His political writing and his writing about ethics are closely intertwined. He saw the good of the city to be more important than the family, which was, in turn, more important than the individual. This is not the way we see things today, but some believe it should be. As far as ethics are concerned, he believed that people truly did good deeds because they wanted to become good, rather than just doing good deeds for their own sake. He thought that to be happy, one must fill him or herself with knowledge and become a philosopher. His teachings on rhetoric are still widely studied today, as well. Much of his writing in Poetics on comedy and tragedy are still accepted as truth in literature classes around the world.

Other Contributions

Aristotle made significant contributions to almost every field of science while he was alive. He wrote and contributed to biology, medicine, metaphysics, physics, natural sciences, philosophy, and much more. Most notably, in physics, Aristotle proposed that there was, actually, a fifth element. In addition to earth, water, air, and fire, Aristotle believed there was a fifth element made of heavenly bodies and spheres - or, in our terms, stars and planets - that he called Aether. In the natural sciences, he also began a classification of living things that was still in existence into the nineteenth century. He spent so much time studying the botany and zoology of the island of Lesbos that his work that has survived has been invaluable to many scientists studying in modern times. His observations have formed the way we think about science.

Post-Mortem

Aristotle's writing and philosophies have influenced such famous Christian thinkers as Chaucer, Dante, Thomas Aquinas, and many more. He has even influenced many Islamic theologists as well. Furthermore, Friedrich Nietzsche took much of his political philosophy from Aristotle, and Ayn Rand looked up to him as well. With so many people looking to Aristotle for philosophic cues, it is no wonder that his works have survived the test of time. Aristotle truly was one of the most influential scientists in human history.