Aristotle is a famous Greek philosopher. Given the name “The Philosopher,” his ideas were of great importance to Greece during his lifetime. Throughout his life in ancient Greece, he gained popularity because of his many teachings and brilliant logic. His early childhood influenced his scientific thoughts, and his time at the Academy in Athens brought him to the study of philosophy as well. Through many observations, he made large amounts of discoveries that are still proven true in modern times. He wrote over 200 treatises covering various topics such as ethics, biology, psychology, logic and physics.
His ideas spread rapidly making him a prominent figure in Western civilization. Not only did Aristotle’s thoughts set the foundation for the development of Greek thought, but also impacted the philosophy and sciences beyond his lifetime. Aristotle was born in a small Greek town called Stagira in 384 BC. His town, like many others in Greece, was one which held non-Greek people. Greece during this time was expanding, and gaining culture. The geography of Greece can be described as rich and fertile. The land was abundant with farmland and ideal for growing grain and fruit.
The land also provided space for livestock such as horses, sheep, and cows. This caused the economy to thrive. The main focus of Greece however, particularly in Athens, was politics. Athens’ progression from monarchy to democracy made them more advanced in politics than other civilizations at the time, but the sudden change also weakened Greece. Aristotle would later help to encourage the outlook on life of the majority of Greece and help the overall good of society. Aristotle grew up under the care of his father until his later childhood.
His father Nicomachus, was a popular physician at a court in Macedonia, which would later be a strong influence to Aristotle’s career because of his relationship with the king and his family. At the age of ten, Nicomachus passed away and Aristotle was then taken under the care of his uncle named Proxenus. He was raised by him for all of his teenage years. At the age of seventeen, Proxenus sent Aristotle to Athens where he joined Plato’s Academy. Plato was another highly respected Greek philosopher at this time.
At the Academy, Aristotle was taught by Plato and he became one of the best students. He studied everything there from astronomy, mathematics, literature, and science. When Plato died, Aristotle left Athens. Being one of the prominent figures in Greece by now, and because of his father’s connections with the court in Macedonia, Aristotle was invited by the king of Macedonia to tutor his son Alexander, who would later become his successor. During Aristotle’s lifetime, he spent a great amount of time thinking about the distinctions between thoughts and actions. This is called logic.
He was the first philosopher to study a formal type of logic and his logic remained dominant until the 19th century. He made clear lines between proof and inferences. His type of thinking later became known as Aristotelian logic, named after him. He also set fundamentals for speech, such as sentence structure. Aristotle said, “Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, just as written words are the symbols of spoken words” (Farrington, 65). Along with this came the idea of propositions. He taught that each proposition has to have two parts- a subject and predicate.
He thought that to make sense of a sentence, something has to be said about a person, or thing. Use of this language helped writers during his time, and is also how people speak today. It seems like common sense to people now, but Aristotle was the first to notice it and that is true of many other observations he made. For example, he believed that the mind and soul are separate from the actual human body. He also believed that humans’ souls still existed after they died. At the time, it set ideas about the afterlife for many people in Greece.
His teachings encouraged people to believe in a good life after death. His logic was very complex, which made him a leader in philosophy during his lifetime. His logic also coincides with his ideas about philosophy. One of Aristotle’s major accomplishments during his lifetime was impacting the study of philosophy. He was the founder of Western thought, and his philosophical thoughts are still studied widely in today’s society. His beliefs on philosophy covered various subjects but mainly ethics and politics. The study of ethics is involved with well-being and how people should best live their lives.
Ethics addresses individuals rather than a whole community. He taught that humans main goal in life is to reach happiness. He also believed that life should ultimately be about doing what is best to be fully content. He believed in temperance, and says that unlimited wealth is not needed in life. To have an enjoyable life, he believed that wealth is an obstacle to being happy, and people cannot want it too much. This way of thinking was popular because people liked the idea of being happy. His beliefs influenced some of the best medieval scholars, who also believed in the overall good of humans.
As for politics, Aristotle examined the growth of society and came to the conclusion that people should work for the common good of their community, and work towards maximum success. To obtain a successful way of life for all people in the community, laws and rules are required. Aristotle wrote, “‘Youth will not receive a proper ethical training unless brought up under right laws… Speaking generally, we need laws to cover the whole of life’” (Farrington, 88). This quote is an example of one of the many ideas that influenced the philosophy of whole communities.
Even today’s society cannot survive without law. He believed that to achieve a civilness, people must fulfill their responsibilities for the good of the whole. “He sought intelligible definitions of the virtues and employed in the quest the method of induction” (Farrington, 6). This means that he wanted to prove that society was able to thrive with showing high virtue. His philosophy was later named after him, as Aristotelian philosophy. His basic thoughts about life and the Aristotelian philosophy and logic still remains relevant today all over the world.
Not only did Aristotle set the philosophical foundation for Greece, but also had an impact on the sciences. His study of biology is important, because it gives people an idea of the history of science. At the Academy, Aristotle had a major interest in anatomy and examined the cycle of the life of man and animals. Through experiments and observations, he made many conclusions. Aristotle dissected about fifty animals in his lifetime and studied over 500 different species of animals, making many discoveries about living things.
“Aristotle thought of a living thing’s inherent potentialities as guiding and controlling what it becomes in its process of growth and development” (Adler, 47). He noticed that species inherit characteristics from their parents, similar to DNA, which is proven today. Aristotle taught that the mind was separate from the rest of the body, and that the mind was not a physical feature. He also distinguished mammals from non-mammals. In his biological research, he focused on mechanical causation as well. He distinguishes the differences between mechanical and chemical changes.
Another discovery Aristotle made before modern times even proved it is the ladder of nature. He came to the conclusion that plants are the least complex living thing and humans are the most complex. In society today, that is called a food chain. His order of society remained prevalent for centuries after his death in the West. His thoughts on nature set guidelines for the progress of biology for the future, as well the fundamentals of physical science. The study of physics is one of Aristotle’s main contributions to Western civilization, and to the modern world.
His thoughts on physics were originally provoked by earlier scientists, but Aristotle created his own ideas that disagreed with former scientist’s thoughts. He made major improvements on previous knowledge. “He is conscious of measuring himself against the older thinkers and refers to them mainly in order to disagree with them or at least, to make clear where he has done better” (Farrington, 72). His ideas to science are primary today. One of the major concepts adopted by later scholars that Aristotle discovered was his laws of motion.
He taught that the heavier the object is, the faster it will fall, and that the speed of objects falling depends on the density of the surroundings its falling through. For example, a rock falling through a river will be slowed down by the water. He also said that the speed of an object depends on the force being applied to it. For instance, if you stop pushing an object, the object will stop moving as well. Aside from motion, he also studied substances. He noticed the difference between physical mixtures and chemical mixtures.
He discovered that when two ingredients are joined together, it creates a new substance, or chemical change. Aristotle also created four forms, or causes of matter. The first is material cause, which explains the chemical and physical appearance of an object, or what is it made out of. The second is formal cause, and this pertains to the characteristics of an object, or what it will develop into. The third cause is called efficient cause. Efficient cause explains how a change is made when objects are in motion, similar to the idea of kinetic energy which is a main principle in science today.
The last cause is called final cause, which analyzes why something exists. His four causes are extremely relevant throughout history because they explain the basics of why things are the way they are. Aristotle’s works in physics also involve the study of the Earth.. He taught that the Earth is made of four elements- earth, water, fire, and air. His approach to the basics of matter differs from Plato’s thoughts on what matter consists of because Aristotle relied more on his senses from actual things. Aristotle’s thoughts were more realistic. He studied how his four elements reacted with cold, wet, hot, and dry things.
It provided a better understanding of the natural world. Aristotle influenced many people during his lifetime, but one of the most important people to history that he taught was Alexander the Great, who grew up to become one of the greatest military leaders in history. As mentioned earlier, Aristotle’s father was a personal physician to the king of Macedon. When the king decided his son needed a better education, he picked Aristotle because of his connection to the royal family, and he also came to the realization that Aristotle was one of the greatest intellectual leaders in Greece.
During his time teaching, Alexander showed many interests in science and medicines. When Alexander invaded Asia, he brought a number of botanists and zoologists, and together they discovered new species. Aristotle also taught Alexander how to be a good public speaker, and how to debate. He taught him poetry, which Alexander had a big interest in. While studying poetry, Alexander even considered one of the gods in Greek poetry as his role model. Aristotle greatly impacted Alexander’s thoughts on ethics and politics as well. He taught Alexander to love all things Greek.
He thought that the non-Greeks that were settling should be enslaved, and discouraged Alexander to accept the new people. Alexander had already been skeptical about Persians, and Aristotle’s advice encouraged this thought. Aristotle also wanted Alexander to have self-control and self honor, which helped Alexander to focus on what he needed to do to gain success not only for himself, but for Greece as a whole, coinciding with the type of philosophy that Aristotle believed in. What Alexander learned during this time with Aristotle he took with him on all of his journeys to conquer surrounding lands.
He ultimately conquered most of the known world at that time, and united Greece by the young age of twenty-five. Aristotle provided him with the knowledge and skills to become one of the greatest leaders of all time. Without having Aristotle as a teacher, Alexander may not have been as effective in expanding Greece, which could have led to changing the course of history. The impacts that Aristotle had on the philosophy and sciences during his time was great, and the scientific and philosophic world is still learning from him today.
His intellect led him to influence every major subject in the ancient world. His type of philosophy gave people a way to manage their problems, and gave them different ways to look at the world. His ideas reinforced people’s faith yet also supported new ideas about faith. In medieval times, his philosophy was used by the majority of the population. It set the basis for medieval scholasticism, which was the philosophy used throughout the middle ages. His philosophy was rediscovered during the beginning of modern scholarship.
His philosophy was rediscovered in the late Middle Ages because it pertained to the values of Christianity. His works were also studied by pre-Renaissance scholars, who were some of the greatest in the world. Pope Silvester II advanced his logic by studying Aristotle’s thoughts and influenced him as pope of the Roman Catholic Church. His writings were so successful that they have been translated into dozens of languages and studied by scholars after his death, and even today. As for science, Aristotle was one of the biggest contributors to the growth of the biology and physics during his time.
He introduced scientific theories that no one ever studied in the ancient world. By studying animals, he increased the number of animal species, and explained the growth and development of animals, which even led to many discoveries in human anatomy. His contributions were so great that without his research, Europe’s scientific development would be very delayed. Aristotle also tutored one of the most successful leaders who managed to conquer more than half of the known world. Aristotle’s intelligent mind helped to make the ancient world flourish.
The underlying reason to why Aristotle was so successful as a philosopher is because he was one of the first to study logic. He studied real life unlike philosophers such as Plato. This is emphasized in a famous Renaissance painting called The School of Athens which portrays an image of Plato pointing upwards, representing his study of the heavens. Aristotle is pointing downwards, representing his study of Earth. His teachings seemed logical to the people of his time because he believed knowledge should be obtained by observation and reasoning, and this made him very popular.
Although much of Aristotle’s work was rediscovered during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, he was incorrect in some areas. For example, he was incorrect about the placement of the Earth in outer space. “He believed terrestrial elements rise from or fell toward the center of the Earth, which is also the center of the universe… and everything revolves around the Earth” (Langford, 25). The first person to realize Aristotle was wrong was Galileo. He discovered that planets revolve around a physical center other than Earth by studying the moon phases of Jupiter and Venus.
He had proved Aristotle wrong. This caused problems with the Church because the christians were so dedicated to Aristotle’s philosophy. They believed that there were no differences between his philosophy and Christianity. When Galileo started to prove Aristotle’s science wrong, people began to believe that Christianity was wrong. This later led to the loss of Roman Catholic authority. Aristotle’s teachings in philosophy was one of his biggest contributions to the world because his philosophical ideas managed to impact the faith of Christianity and also the power of the Church..
“He was called “Ille Philosophus” (the philosopher) by his medieval followers, and his work was discussed as the eternal truth” (“Aristotle of Stagirus”). The Greek philosopher Aristotle was called “The Philosopher” for a reason. In his lifetime, he made numerous discoveries, wrote hundreds of works, influenced scholars in the middle ages, and taught one of the greatest conquerors in the world. He directly influenced the philosophy of ancient civilizations, and by dedicating his life to his studies and experiments, he set the fundamentals of science. Overall, he built the basis of the philosophy and sciences during his lifetime and beyond.