Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher who made major and enduring contributions to practically every facet of human understanding, from logic to biology to ethics and aesthetics. Though overshadowed by his instructor Plato’s work in ancient times, Aristotle’s surviving writings were enormously influential from late antiquity to the Enlightenment. In Arabic philosophy, he was regarded as “The First Teacher,” whilst in the West, he was referred to as “The Philosopher.”

Aristotle’s Childhood

Aristotle was born in the northern Greek town of Stagira around 384 B.C. His parents were both from traditional medical families, and his father, Nicomachus, was the court physician to King Amyntus III of Macedonia. His parents died when he was young, and he was most likely raised at his family’s Stagira home. At age 17, he was transferred to Plato’s Academy in Athens. He spent 20 years at the institution as a student and instructor, emerging with admiration and criticism for his teacher’s views. Plato’s later works, in which he softened some of his earlier beliefs, are certainly the result of lengthy debates with his most skilled student.

When Plato died in 347, the Academy was handed over to his nephew Speusippus. Aristotle left Athens soon after. However, it is unclear whether this was due to dissatisfaction at the Academy or political issues caused by his family’s Macedonian connections. He spent five years as a guest of former classmates at Assos and Lesbos on the coast of Asia Minor. Here, he conducted his groundbreaking marine biology study and married his wife Pythias, with whom he produced his only daughter, also called Pythias.

In 342, King Philip II brought Aristotle to Macedonia to instruct his son, the future Alexander the Major—a meeting of great historical personalities that, according to one modern writer, “had surprisingly little impression on either of them.”

The Lyceum and Aristotle

In 335 B.C., Aristotle returned to Athens. He couldn’t own property as an alien, so he hired space at the Lyceum, a defunct wrestling school outside of town. Like Plato’s Academy, the Lyceum drew students from around Greece and constructed a curriculum based on its founder’s principles. The Lyceum amassed a collection of manuscripts that represented one of the world’s first big libraries, in accordance with Aristotle’s notion of surveying the works of others as part of the philosophical process.

The Works of Aristotle

Aristotle most likely wrote most of his nearly 200 writings, of which only 31 survive, at the Lyceum. His known works are dense and nearly jumbled in style, implying that they were lecture notes for internal use at his school. Aristotle’s surviving works are divided into four categories.

The “Organon” is a collection of writings that serve as a logical toolbox for any philosophical or scientific investigation. Aristotle’s theoretical writings follow, most notably his treatises on animals (“Parts of Animals,” “Movement of Animals,” and so on), cosmology, the “Physics” (a fundamental study into the nature of substance and change), and the “Metaphysics” (a quasi-theological investigation of existence itself).

Third, there are Aristotle’s so-called practical writings, most notably “Nicomachean Ethics” and “Politics,” which are both in-depth examinations of the nature of human flourishing at the individual, family, and social levels. Finally, his “Rhetoric” and “Poetics” investigate the final products of human creativity, such as what constitutes a compelling argument and how a well-crafted tragedy may engender cathartic terror and pity.

The Organun

Around 40 B.C., Andronicus of Rhodes and his disciples compiled “The Organon” (Latin for “instrument”), a compendium of Aristotle’s works on logic (what he calls analytics). The collection contains six pieces, including “Categories,” “On Interpretation,” “Prior Analytics,” “Posterior Analytics,” “Topics,” and “On Sophisticated Refutations.” Aristotle’s work on syllogisms (from the Greek syllogisms, or “conclusions”), a type of reasoning in which a conclusion is reached from two presumed premises, is contained in the Organon. For example, all males are mortal, and because all Greeks are mortal, all Greeks are mortal.


The “Metaphysics” of Aristotle, published immediately after his “Physics,” investigates the nature of existence. He referred to metaphysics as “the primordial philosophy” or “wisdom.” His primary interest was “being qua being,” which investigated what can be said about being based on what it is rather than any particular qualities it may possess. Aristotle also muses about cause, shape, matter, and even a logic-based justification for God’s existence in “Metaphysics.”


Rhetoric, according to Aristotle, is “the capacity of perceiving in every particular instance the accessible instruments of persuading.” He defined three major rhetorical methods: ethos (ethics), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic). He also classified speeches into three types: epideictic (ceremonial), forensic (judicial), and deliberative (where the audience is required to reach a verdict). His seminal work on this subject gave him the moniker “the father of rhetoric.”


The first surviving book of theatrical theory is Aristotle’s “Poetics,” written around 330 B.C. It is frequently interpreted as a rebuttal to his teacher Plato’s argument that poetry is morally suspect and thus should be prohibited in a perfect society. Aristotle adopts a different method, studying the goal of poetry. He claims that creative activities such as poetry and theatre bring catharsis or the positive cleansing of emotions via art.

The Death and Legacy of Aristotle

After Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C., anti-Macedonian prejudice prompted Aristotle to abandon Athens again. He died of a stomach problem in 322, a little north of the city. He requested to be buried close to his wife, who died some years ago. In his last years, he had an affair with his slave Herpyllis, who produced him Nicomachus, the boy called after his major ethical treatise.

Aristotle’s favourite pupils took over the Lyceum, but the school’s prominence declined in contrast to the rival Academy within a few decades. Aristotle’s works were mostly forgotten for several generations. According to the historian Strabo, they were kept in a damp dungeon in Asia Minor for years until they were discovered in the first century B.C. However, it seems improbable that they were the only copies.

Andronicus of Rhodes gathered and edited Aristotle’s remaining writings around 30 B.C., laying the groundwork for all subsequent editions. Aristotle was still studied in Byzantium after the fall of Rome, and he became well-known in the Islamic world, where philosophers like Avicenna (970-1037), Averroes (1126-1204) and the Jewish scholar Maimonodes (1134-1204) reinvigorated Aristotle’s logical and scientific teachings.

Aristotle in the Middle Ages and Beyond

Aristotle was reintroduced to the West in the 13th century by Albertus Magnus and, in particular, Thomas Aquinas, whose remarkable synthesis of Aristotelian and Christian ideas provided a foundation for late mediaeval Catholic philosophy, theology, and science.

As religious and scientific reformers questioned how the Catholic Church had assimilated Aristotle’s doctrines, Aristotle’s global impact faded significantly throughout the Renaissance and Reformation. Scientists like Galileo and Copernicus refuted his geocentric conception of the solar system, while anatomists such as William Harvey demolished many of his biological hypotheses. Even now, Aristotle’s work remains an important starting point for every debate in logic, aesthetics, political philosophy, and ethics.

  1. We’re a group of volunteers and tarting a rand new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with…

  2. I very delighted to find this internet site on bing, just what I was searching for as well saved to…

, , ,

Leave a Comment