Aristotle is considered one of the greatest minds of classical Greece. Dante even proclaimed him “the master of those who know. ” He made tremendous contributions in the areas of science and mathematics, not to mention philosophy. In fact, he contributed extensively to chemistry, physics, biology, created formal logic, thoroughly studied systems of government, and developed a biological classification system. However, the majority of those alive at the time took greater stock in his political philosophies.
It is important to know that Aristotle was one of the first men to explore science, anatomy, and the animal kingdom in depth and to recognize his considerable contribution to philosophy. LIFE Aristotle was born in Stageira, a Greek colony in Macedonia, in 384 BC. Generations of Aristotle’s family including his father, Nichomachus, had served as physicians to the Kings of Macedonia. His parents died when he was about ten years old and he was taken in by foster parents: Proxenos and his wife. He moved to Athens at the age of seventeen, and he remained there for some twenty years.
This is where he got his first taste of the sciences and actively became a teacher. He studied under Plato, whose influences are most apparent in Aristotle’s theoretical and practical philosophies. He greatly admired Plato all the way to his death, despite the fact that he later opposed some of his most important points. Aristotle was married twice, first to the foster daughter of his noble friend Hermeias, named Pythias. After her death he married Herpyllis, who came from his birthplace, Stageira. There was some controversy surrounding this marriage because Herpyllis did not have as high a social position as his first wife, Pythias.
Herpyllis gave birth to his son Nichomachus and was entrusted with the care of his daughter from his first marriage. After the death of Alexander the Great, Athens was taken over by people who didn’t like Alexander. They suspected Aristotle of sympathizing with Alexander, and he was exiled from Athens. Aristotle died in 322 BC at the age of sixty-two in Chalkis on the island of Euboea, which had granted him refuge when he was exiled from Athens. ARISTOTLE’S SCHOOL Aristotle began his own education at the Academy in Athens when he first arrived from Macedonia.
When he first arrived the Academy had already been open for twenty years. Aristotle would spend twenty more years as a pupil and also as a teacher. The Academy was founded by Plato, but during a great deal of Aristotle’s stay Plato was away in Sicily. Math and science were taught as well as philosophical dialect. The school functioned primarily to examine thought itself and explore its power. It was thought at this time that philosophers were capable of solving the problems of mankind. They were the great thinkers who would guide their fellow men.
In 347 BC Aristotle left Athens, partly because he was growing dissatisfied with the Academy but mainly because of the anti-Macedonian atmosphere emerging there as a result of the political unrest in that country. Aristotle set out for the court of Hermias, ruler of Assos in Asia Minor. In the years that Aristotle spent away from Athens there were many political changes in Macedonia. Shortly after his arrival Hermias would be killed (as a part of his court Aristotle was forced to flee to Lesbos) and Philip would make peace with Athens and unite all of Macedonia.
Aristotle returned to a very different Macedonia, where he would give lectures to Alexander the Great. In 335 BC Aristotle returned to Athens where he founded the Peripatetic school. This new school was highly successful and came to outshine the Academy, despite the fact that the philosophy taught there was based on Plato’s work. Only later and gradually would Aristotle’s school develop its new philosophy. For now, it had a sort of improved Platonic philosophy, one that would appeal to the younger men in the Greek world.
One large difference is the library Aristotle installed at the school. It was to be the largest collection of books in history, and was the model for the famous State libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum. Differences in the fundamental attitudes of the schools were that while early philosophers such as Plato had directed their thinking to figuring out how you could improve human society, the Peripatetic school was focused more on observation rather than speculation and research rather than intuition. In 323 BC Aristotle’s work would come to an end.
Alexander’s rule was over and this meant Athens was liberated and again anti-Macedonian attitudes were present. Much of these negative feeling towards Macedonia were focused on Aristotle. He was charged with sacrilege and he and his family fled to the island of Euboea where he died only a year later. Aristotle was born in Stageira, a Greek colony in Chalice, a peninsula in the northern Aegean, bordering on Macedonia, in 384 BC. The fact that Aristotle was from Stagira and had strong ties to Macedonia played a key role throughout his life.
The reason for this becoming important was that Greece was always resistant to Macedonian power, and Macedonia was asserting an ever growing dominant role in Greece at this time. As Aristotle was, therefore, an outsider to Athens, he lived there with non-citizen rights and restrictions. As for his family, Aristotle’s father, Nicomachus, was a physician to the King Amyntas II of Macedonia. It is, of course, speculated that his great interest in biology sprouted from his father’s interests. Guiding his early childhood was also his mother, Phaestis, who had ties to Chalice.
Unfortunately, his parents both passed away when he was about the age of ten. As a result, Aristotle was raised by a relative named Proxenus. According to certain sources he also had a brother and a sister; however there is no mention of either of his siblings in his works or in historical accounts of Aristotle’s life. Academies Moreover, Aristotle left his home when he was seventeen years old in order to make the journey to Athens. Athens was after all the city of philosophers and general knowledge. In 376 BC, soon after his arrival in Athens, Aristotle entered Plato’s school.
He stayed in Plato’s school for about twenty years, until about the time of Plato’s death. While Aristotle was enrolled in Plato’s school, the school had evolved into a place of intensive study of all knowledge rather than a place where one would only recite the works of Homer. This was well suited to the needs of Aristotle and his devouring appetite for knowledge. After the end of his student days in this school Aristotle still continued with the school by lecturing, writing, and pursuing his research. Aristotle often touched on controversial issues in his lectures, igniting a flame within his listeners.
However, Aristotle left not only the school, but Athens as well, around 347 BC upon the invitation of King Hermias of Assos in Asia Minor. Around fifteen years later, he opened his own establishment in Athens, the Lyceum. This school, the Peripatetic school, was not one that focused on reading, writing, arithmetic, and the sciences. In fact, there was no classroom or diploma, but rather Aristotle would give lectures to two groups of people at school or at designated areas. In the morning he lectured to a select few, usually heavily involved in his research, and in the evenings to the general public.
In his endeavor to create a new school, Aristotle opened an impressive library filled with some of the greatest of all works. It was the largest collection of books in history, and was the model for the famous State libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum. Differences in the fundamental attitudes of the schools were that while early philosophers such as Plato had directed their thinking to figuring out how you could improve human society, the Peripatetic school was focused more on observation rather than speculation and research rather than intuition.
Death While in the realm of Hermias, Aristotle continued his studies and philosophical inquires. Moreover, he took Hermias’s niece, Pythias, as his bride during his stay. Information on his life with his young bride is extremely limited. However, evidence suggests that they had a very happy life together. Sometime later Aristotle returned to Athens (335-334 BC) And it is around this time that his wife died. Pythias left him a daughter also named Pythias. Arguments exist as to whether or not Aristotle then had an ongoing affair with a woman named Herpyllis whom bore him a son, Nicomachus.
There are those who greatly dispute this claim. Again Aristotle ventured back to Macedonia when Philip of Macedon invited him to tutor his son Alexander. This is the same Alexander who became known as Alexander the Great. When Alexander had firm control over Athens, the city was made a much friendlier place for Aristotle. It is within this time period that Aristotle truly begins to flourish. Finally, in 323 BC Alexander the Great died in Babylon, leaving Athens and other cities in revolt. It was again an unstable place for Aristotle to live and work.
Soon after the death of Alexander the Great, Aristotle was charged with impiety, as Socrates had been. In order to prosecute Aristotle, they used a hymn he had written for Hermias years prior to the death of Alexander and the subsequent loss of Macedonian control in Athens. Aristotle left Athens for Chalcis, on Euboea, his mother’s old home. In regards to his withdrawal from Athens and noting the similarity of charges brought against Socrates, he is quoted as stating that he would “not let Athens sin twice against philosophy” (Edel 26). He lived in Euboea for another year before his death in 322 BC.
Scholars believe, generally, that he died of a stomach illness. However there are those who have their own ideas about how Aristotle died. (See-Myth of Aristotle’s Suicide) WRITINGS Aristotle is the author of several books about the sciences, mostly metaphysics and meteorology. He is also responsible for some of the world’s most important philosophical writings. Aristotle began his writing during Plato’s lifetime and there are similarities in the style of their writing. In fact, critics of the time praised Aristotle as being the second most accomplished writer next to Plato.
Here is a list of some of his writings: Posterior Analytics Topics De Partibus Animalium Historia Animalium Ethics De Sensu et Sensibili De Memoria et Reminiscentia De Anima (books I – III) Politics Rhetoric Metaphyics (books I – XII) Meterology (books I – IV) According to the Vita Aristotelis Hesychii, II Vita Aristotelis Syriaca and many similar records of the time written by Eumelus, Aristotle either died of a broken heart or took his own life. This is a popular assumption of the time about philosophers in general.
Aristotle supposedly committed suicide by drinking poison hemlock at the age of seventy. This story, many say, is too close to the circumstances of Socrates’ death, an earlier philosopher who like Aristotle, was condemned. Socrates, however, was condemned to death by drinking hemlock, not exile. Aristotle actually fled before his trial. In actuality, there are very few similarities between the two. Still it is possible that Eumelus’ account is simply a naive transfer of Socrates’ manner of death to Aristotle. What Makes A Life Worth Living? To the select few men Aristotle felt could live a worthwhile life, he offered his teachings.
Arguably one of the most important of his teachings was that Aristotle suggested an answer to the question “what makes a life worth living? ” Aristotle believed that the only worthwhile life was a successful life. He defined success in two key ways: “Living one’s whole life in a rational way, under the guidance of the best virtues of the rational soul” (Hutchinson 202) “Entirely excellent activity, together with moderate good fortune, throughout an entire lifetime” (Hutchinson 203) Critical to Aristotle’s definitions of success are two concepts: virtue and rationality.
On virtue, Aristotle is specific. He created the “doctrine of the mean” that stated “every virtue lies in the middle between two associated vices” (Hutchinson 217). The most common example used to illustrate this is the virtue of bravery. Bravery is the balance between cowardice and rashness, with cowardice being too much fear and rashness being too little. Aristotle thus believed in balance. Balance, however, was not just the middle point between two vices. Virtue was largely a continuum, with more or less of the vices necessary for different circumstances (see AGON).
Aristotle deemed the intellectual the rational. Emotions, in contrast, were irrational. Aristotle believed rational behavior, that governed by the intellect, to be the higher good and felt that it should determine the moral response and maintain control over the irrational emotions. Training was also vital to the achievement of success, especially in controlling impulses and emotions. Aristotle felt this training should be “under the guidance of the community’s laws, customs, and education, and the discipline of the family” (Hutchinson 213).
Despite Aristotle’s belief in the importance of training, he did not reduce virtue to the mere chance of good training. Rather, he stated “we influence the development of all aspects of our personalities by how we choose to spend our time and what we choose to do” (Huchinson 213). Thus, a successful life is made visible through a man’s choices. Aristotle stated, “decisions reveal the man” (Hutchinson 210). Thus Aristotle, proclaimed “the master of those who know” by Dante, held that success was the answer to the question “what makes a life worth living?
Rationality and virtue were the underpinnings of his definition of success. A virtuous man, he asserted, could be observed by his decisions, however no woman, slave, child, or non-property owner could be successful. He thus excluded these people from his teachings. Even the select men he taught would find success elusive though. Training was important to achieving success. Nonetheless, the attainment of success remained the responsibility and the possibility of the individual. If successful, the man would be living the life closest to the gods, of the highest good, and the most worthwhile.