The Philosopher, Aristotle Essay, Research Paper
The Philosopher, 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
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
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.).