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Aristotle

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English Literature

Aristotle (384 BCE) was a philosopher and scientist who made groundbreaking contributions to both fields. During Aristotle's lifetime, he also taught a variety of subjects, including philosophy, ethics, logic, and politics. Among Aristotle's best-known works are Poetics, Nichomachean Ethics, Politics, and Metaphysics. Let's take a look at Aristotle's life and death, philosophy, and books.

Aristotle: biography

Aristotle was born in approximately 384 BCE in Stagira, Greece, to parents Nicomachus and Phaestis. When Aristotle was still young, his father passed away, and as a result, Aristotle moved to Athens. Aristotle joined the Academy of Plato as a pupil, and later he became Plato's protégé. Little is known about Aristotle's life. However, what we do know is that during his lifetime, he contributed greatly to the fields of philosophy and science, teaching subjects such as philosophy, ethics, logic, and politics along the way.

In 322 BCE, Aristotle died of a stomach illness. Aristotle is buried in Stagira, Greece, in a tomb.

Aristotle: philosophy

Aristotle made many contributions to philosophy, ethics, science, the arts, and politics, and he had different theories concerning each of these. Many of Aristotle's key theories, however, pertained to metaphysics. Let's have a look at some of these below:

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy, which deals particularly in the study of the nature of reality. This study includes a number of abstract philosophical ideas; for example space, time, being (or existing), knowing, and identity.

Aristotle: ethical theory

Aristotle believed that in order to achieve eudaimonia, the ultimate state of happiness or human flourishing, individuals needed to focus first on being virtuous. According to Aristotle, it is by living a virtuous life that one can then become truly happy.

Aristotle: metaphysical theory

Aristotle: consciousness

Aristotle believed that life forms are not abstract objects, and posited that these forms live very much within space and time. Likewise, Aristotle believed that our consciousness is within our physical body, and is not separate from us.

Aristotle: the universe

According to Aristotle, everything in existence consists of one or more of these five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and aether.

Aristotle: evolution

Aristotle believed that life forms developed gradually from simple to more complex forms, and that all life forms first originated from the sea.

Aristotle: books and quotes

Aristotle: Poetics

Written circa 330 BCE, Aristotle's Poetics is a work of literary and dramatic theory. In Poetics, Aristotle focuses in particular on tragedy and poetry.

Aristotle: tragedy in Poetics

In his Poetics, Aristotle explores the typical features that make up a tragedy. Aristotle compared the genre of tragedy to comedy and the epic, and stated that it often contained serious action and incidents which were able to arouse pity and fear in its audiences. In defining the tragic hero, Aristotle noted that they could be neither excessively good nor excessively evil, but a balanced mixture of the two.

It follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are.1 (Ch.2)

Aristotle: poetry in Poetics

Aristotle examines the fundamental parts of poetry in his Poetics. According to Aristotle, poetry is the artful use of rhythm, language, and harmony, happening at once or separately. Aristotle posited that, unlike philosophy, poetry is imitative, as it draws from and reflects real-life people, objects, and events. It is for this reason, Aristotle says, that humans are so drawn in by poetry. He also states that we can, in fact, learn from poetry.

it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen, what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity1 (Ch.9)

Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics

Written circa 350 BCE, Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics is a philosophical and ethical exploration into humanity, and in particular, human moral virtues. Aristotle writes that balanced virtues are a means to eudaimonia, in other words, the ultimate state of happiness or human flourishing. Aristotle defines virtue, and distinguishes between the different types of virtue, i.e. moral and intellectual. He also answers the question of what exactly constitutes a virtuous person. Let's take a look at some of the different virtues that Aristotle explores in Nichomachean Ethics:

CourageBy courage, Aristotle means bravery, not being cowardly nor reckless
TemperanceThe practice of moderation
LiberalityAristotle's view of liberality is being able to give, especially giving to charity
MagnificenceBy magnificence, Aristotle means living and spending in a way which is extravagant, but that also produces good for others
MagnanimityAristotle's perception of magnanimity is being noble in both heart and mind, holding a sense of self-worth but without an over-inflated ego
Good temperAccording to Aristotle, being patient and calm, being able to practice self-restraint
FriendlinessAristotle specifies here that it should be the right amount of friendly, i.e. not overly friendly and to too many people, but ensuring that you are not unfriendly or hostile
TruthfulnessIn Aristotle's view, being candid and honest, refraining from lying
WitBy wit, Aristotle means having a sense of humour and being joyful without being tasteless or boorish
JusticeIn Aristotle's view, justice includes having a moral compass, or a sense of right and wrong, and using this to deal fairly with people

There is a similar uncertainty also about what is good, because good things often do people harm: men have before now been ruined by wealth, and have lost their lives through courage. Our subject, then, and our data being of this nature, we must be content if we can indicate the truth roughly and in outline.2 (Ch.3)

Aristotle: Politics

Aristotle's Politics, written around 350 BCE, is a close examination of politics, and in particular, of what exactly makes a good and a bad government. Aristotle states that as humans we are political animals. Aristotle claims that being associated with politics is what will allow us to live fulfilled, high-quality lives. Let's take a look at Aristotle's categories of what he perceives to be good and bad government:

Aristotle: good government

Constitutional governmentAccording to Aristotle, government in the hands of the many. A constitutional government is a compromise between oligarchy and democracy, in which everyone's interests and demands can be accommodated for by the masses
AristocracyAristotle defines aristocracy as government in the hands of just a few, who deserve to be elected on the basis that they have the interests of the many in mind
KingshipAristotle's definition of kingship is government in the hands of one, that one person being the king, who is an exceptional ruler that has all of his subjects' interests at heart

Aristotle: Bad government

DemocracyGovernment of the people, by the people, for the people - Aristotle viewed the system of democracy as corrupt, and believed that it served to undermine the important rule of law
Oligarchy Government by the few, and in particular, the wealthy few. Aristotle viewed oligarchy as a system in which the needs of the poor are ignored in favour for the interests of the wealthy
TyrannyThe worst system according to Aristotle is tyranny, in which society is governed by one individual who is often corrupt, and is only interested in what will benefit them

Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good.3 (Ch.1)

Aristotle: Metaphysics

Also written circa 350 BCE, Aristotle's Metaphysics is a study of existence, or being. In Metaphysics, Aristotle rejects the Theory of Forms presented by Plato, in which Plato posited that reality is abstract and that we exist beyond the physical world. According to Aristotle, our life forms are not abstract objects, and live within space and time. Likewise, Aristotle posited that our consciousness is not separate from us, but lies within our physical body.

It is requisite there should be a certain nature, either one, or more than one, from which other things are generated while it is itself preserved.4 (Ch.3)

Aristotle's theories, such as that of the five elements (earth, air, fire, water, and aether), laid fundamental groundwork for studies within biology long after he had passed away. He also inspired the works of many important figures and their discoveries. There are clear parallels, for example, between his theory that life forms developed gradually from simple to more complex forms, and Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Aristotle has made important contributions to almost every field of knowledge, and those he gave to the fields of science and philosophy are still relevant to us today.

Aristotle: Key takeaways

  • Aristotle was born around 384 BCE in Stagira, Greece.
  • While Aristotle was still young his father Nicomachus passed away, and as a result, Aristotle moved to Athens.
  • Aristotle joined the Academy of Plato as a pupil, and later Aristotle became Plato's colleague.
  • Aristotle made many contributions to philosophy, and many of Aristotle's key theories pertained to metaphysics, in particular on consciousness, the universe, and evolution.
  • Among Aristotle's best known works are Poetics, Nichomachean Ethics, Politics, and Metaphysics.
  • Aristotle died of a stomach illness in 322 BCE.
  • Aristotle is buried in Stagira, Greece, in a tomb.

1. Aristotle, Poetics, circa 330 BCE (translated by S. H. Butcher, 1902 edition)

2. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, circa 350 BCE (translated by F. H. Peters, 1906)

3. Aristotle, Politics, circa 350 BCE (translated by B. Jowett, 1885)

4. Aristotle, Metaphysics, circa 350 BCE (translated by T. Taylor, 1801)

Aristotle

Aristotle is best known for his contributions to philosophy and science

Aristotle was a philosopher and scientist, and he made groundbreaking contributions to both fields. During Aristotle's lifetime, he also taught a variety of subjects, for example, philosophy, ethics, logic, and politics.

Many of Aristotle's key theories pertained to metaphysics, for example on consciousness, the universe, and evolution

Aristotle believed that life forms are not abstract objects, and posited that these forms live very much within space and time. Likewise, Aristotle believed that our consciousness is within our physical body, and is not separate from us. 

Aristotle was a pupil in the Academy of Plato. He wrote Poetics (330 BCE), Metaphysics (350 BCE) and Nichomachean Ethics (350 BCE), and taught a variety of subjects including philosophy, ethics, logic, and politics. 

Final Aristotle Quiz

Question

Who is Aristotle?

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Answer

Aristotle was a philosopher and scientist, and he made groundbreaking contributions to both fields. During Aristotle's lifetime, he also taught on a variety of subjects, for example, philosophy, ethics, logic and politics, as well as many more 

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Question

What is Aristotle best known for?  

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Answer

Aristotle is best known for his contributions to philosophy and science 

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Question

What was Aristotle's main theory?  

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Answer

Many of Aristotle's key theories pertained to metaphysics, for example on consciousness, the universe, and evolution 

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Question

What did Aristotle believe in?  

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Answer

Aristotle believed that life forms are not abstract objects, and posited that these forms live very much within space and time. Likewise, Aristotle believed that our consciousness is within our physical body, and is not separate to us  

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Question

When was Aristotle born?

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Answer

Aristotle was born around 384 BCE 

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Question

Where was Aristotle born?

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Answer

Aristotle was born in Stagira, Greece  

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Question

When did Aristotle die?

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Answer

Aristotle died in 322 BCE 

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Question

How did Aristotle die? 

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Answer

Aristotle died of a stomach illness 

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Where is Aristotle buried?

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Answer

Aristotle is buried in Stagira, Greece, in a tomb 

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Question

What are Aristotle's best known works?

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Answer

Among Aristotle's best known works are Poetics, Nichomachean Ethics, Politics, and Metaphysics 

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Question

How did Aristotle know Plato?

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Answer

Aristotle joined the Academy of Plato as a pupil, and later became Plato's colleague

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Question

Which forms of government did Aristotle consider to be good?

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Answer

Constitutional government, aristocracy, and kingship

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Question

Which forms of government did Aristotle consider to be bad?


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Answer

Democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny

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Question

From which of Aristotle's works is the following quote taken?


"There is a similar uncertainty also about what is good, because good things often do people harm: men have before now been ruined by wealth, and have lost their lives through courage. Our subject, then, and our data being of this nature, we must be content if we can indicate the truth roughly and in outline"


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Answer

Nichomachean Ethics

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Question

From which of Aristotle's works is the following quote taken?


"Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good"


Show answer

Answer

Politics

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Question

From which of Aristotle's works is the following quote taken?


"it is requisite there should be a certain nature, either one, or more than one, from which other things are generated while it is itself preserved"

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Answer

Metaphysics

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