Ancient Greek philosopher.
Country: Greece

Biography of Aristotle

Aristotle (384-322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and educator. He was born in Stagira in 384 or 383 BC and died in Chalcis in 322 BC. Aristotle spent nearly twenty years studying at Plato's Academy, and it is believed that he also taught there for some time. After leaving the Academy, Aristotle became the tutor of Alexander the Great. As the founder of the Lyceum in Athens, which continued its activities for many centuries after his death, Aristotle made a significant contribution to the ancient educational system. He conceived and organized large-scale scientific research, which was financed by Alexander. These studies led to many fundamental discoveries, but Aristotle's greatest achievements were in the field of philosophy.

Aristotle's father, Nicomachus, was a physician in the city of Stagira and also the court physician of Amyntas III, the king of neighboring Macedonia. Left without parents at an early age, Aristotle was raised in Atarneus by Proxenus, his relative. At the age of eighteen, he traveled to Athens and enrolled in Plato's Academy, where he remained for about twenty years until Plato's death in 347 BC. During this time, Aristotle studied Plato's philosophy, as well as its Socratic and pre-Socratic sources, and many other disciplines. It is believed that Aristotle taught rhetoric and other subjects at the Academy. During this period, he wrote several popular dialogues in defense of Platonic doctrine. It is possible that during this time, he also worked on logic, physics, and some sections of the treatise "On the Soul." The widely spread legend of serious conflicts and even a rupture between Aristotle and Plato during his lifetime has no basis. Even after Plato's death, Aristotle continued to consider himself a Platonist. In his later work, the "Nicomachean Ethics," there is a touching excursion in which the feeling of gratitude to the mentor who introduced us to philosophy is likened to the gratitude we should feel towards the gods and our parents.

However, around 348-347 BC, Speusippus became Plato's successor at the Academy. Many members of the Academy, including Aristotle, were dissatisfied with this decision. Together with his friend Xenocrates, he left the Academy and joined a small circle of Platonists gathered by Hermias, the ruler of Assos, a small city in Asia Minor. Initially in Assos, and later in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Aristotle devoted himself to teaching and research. Criticizing Speusippus, Aristotle began to develop an interpretation of Plato's doctrine that, in his opinion, was closer to the philosophy of his teacher and better aligned with reality. By this time, their relationship with Hermias had become closer, and under his influence, Aristotle, following the fundamental orientation of Platonism towards practice, connected his philosophy with politics. Hermias was an ally of the Macedonian king Philip II, the father of Alexander, so it is possible that thanks to Hermias, in 343 or 342 BC, Aristotle received an invitation to take the position of tutor to the young heir to the throne, who was then 13 years old. Aristotle accepted the offer and moved to the capital of Macedonia, Pella. Little is known about the personal relationship between the two great men. According to the available information, Aristotle understood the need for political unification of small Greek city-states, but he did not like Alexander's ambition for world domination. When Alexander ascended the throne in 336 BC, Aristotle returned to his hometown, Stagira, and a year later, he returned to Athens.

Although Aristotle continued to consider himself a Platonist, his thinking and ideas were now different, which contradicted the views of Plato's successors at the Academy and some positions of Plato's own doctrine. This critical approach is reflected in the dialogue "On Philosophy" and in the early sections of the works that have come down to us under the provisional titles of "Metaphysics," "Ethics," and "Politics." Feeling his ideological divergence from the prevailing doctrine at the Academy, Aristotle preferred to establish a new school, the Lyceum, in the northeastern suburb of Athens. Like the Academy, the Lyceum aimed not only at teaching but also at independent research. Here, Aristotle gathered around him a group of talented students and assistants. Their collaborative work was highly productive. Aristotle and his students made many significant observations and discoveries that left a noticeable mark in the history of many sciences and laid the foundation for further research. They were aided by samples and data collected during Alexander's distant campaigns. However, the head of the school increasingly focused on fundamental philosophical issues. Most of Aristotle's extant philosophical works were written during this period.

After the sudden death of Alexander in 323 BC, Athens and other cities in Greece were swept by a wave of anti-Macedonian uprisings. Aristotle's position was threatened due to his friendship with Philip and Alexander and his politically expressed beliefs that contradicted the patriotic enthusiasm of the city-states. Fearing persecution, Aristotle left the city, stating that he did not want the Athenians to commit a crime against philosophy for the second time (the first being the execution of Socrates). He moved to Chalcis on the island of Euboea, where he inherited an estate from his mother. After a short illness, Aristotle died in 322 BC.

Aristotle's works can be divided into four main groups. First, there are his logical works, usually collectively referred to as the Organon. These include Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, and Posterior Analytics, and Topics.

Second, Aristotle wrote works on natural science. The most important ones are On Generation and Corruption, On the Heavens, Physics, History of Animals, Parts of Animals, and On the Soul. Aristotle did not write a treatise on plants, but his student Theophrastus composed a relevant work.

Third, we have the collection of texts known as Metaphysics, which represents a cycle of lectures compiled by Aristotle in the late period of his thought in Assos and in the final period in Athens.

Finally, there are works on ethics and politics, which also include Poetics and Rhetoric. The most important ones are the Eudemian Ethics, written in the second period, the Nicomachean Ethics, consisting of lectures written in various periods, Politics, Rhetoric, and partially preserved Poetics. Aristotle's extensive work on the political structure of various city-states has been completely lost, but miraculously, almost the entire text of the Athenian Constitution, which was part of it, has been found. Several works on historical topics are also lost.

Aristotle does not explicitly state that logic is part of philosophy itself. He perceives it rather as a methodological tool for all sciences and philosophy, rather than an independent philosophical teaching. Therefore, logic must precede philosophy. Aristotle divides philosophy into two parts: theoretical, which aims to achieve truth independent of anyone's desires, and practical, which deals with the mind and human aspirations, striving to understand the essence of human good and achieve it. Theoretical philosophy is further divided into three parts: the study of changing being (physics and natural science, including the science of man), the study of abstract mathematical objects (various branches of mathematics), and first philosophy, the study of being as such (what we call metaphysics).

Aristotelian logic examines the basic types of being that fall under separate concepts and definitions, the connections and divisions of these types of being expressed in judgments, and the ways in which the mind can move from a known truth to an unknown truth through reasoning. According to Aristotle, thinking is not the construction or creation of a new entity by the mind, but rather the assimilation of something external in the act of thinking. A concept is the identification of the mind with a certain type of being, and a judgment is the expression of the connection between such types of being in reality. The laws of contradiction and the excluded middle guide scientific conclusions, as they govern all being.

The main types of being and the corresponding categories of concepts are listed in the Categories and Topics. There are ten of them: 1) substance, such as "human" or "horse"; 2) quantity, such as "three meters long"; 3) quality, such as "white"; 4) relation, such as "greater"; 5) place, such as "in Lyceum"; 6) time, such as "yesterday"; 7) condition, such as "walking"; 8) possession, such as "being armed"; 9) action, such as "cutting" or "burning"; and 10) suffering, such as "being cut" or "being burned." However, in the Second Analytics and other works, "condition" and "possession" are absent, and the number of categories is reduced to eight.

Things outside the mind exist as entities, such as substances, quantities, qualities, relations, etc. In these basic concepts, each type of being is apprehended as it is, but in abstraction or detachment from the other aspects with which it must be connected in nature. Therefore, no concept in itself is true or false. It is simply a certain type of being taken in abstraction, separate from the mind.

Only propositions or judgments can be true or false, not isolated concepts. To connect or divide two categorical concepts, a judgment uses the logical structure of a subject and a predicate. If the given types of being are indeed connected or divided in this way, the proposition is true; if not, it is false. Since the laws of contradiction and the excluded middle apply to all existing things, any two types of being must either be connected or not connected with each other, and any given predicate must either be truly affirmed or truly denied with respect to any given subject.

Science itself is universal but arises through induction, starting from the individual essence and its individual properties derived from sensory perception. In experience, we sometimes perceive the connection of two types of being, but cannot see any necessity in this connection. A judgment expressing such a random connection in a general form is nothing more than a probable truth. The dialectical methods by which such probable judgments can be extended to other domains, criticized, or defended are discussed in the Topics. Science in the strict sense has nothing to do with this. It is discussed in the Second Analytics.

Once certain subjects and predicates, obtained from experience through induction, are clearly understood, the mind is capable of noticing that they are necessarily connected. This applies, for example, to the law of contradiction or the law of excluded middle. This is true knowledge. It is not based on sensory perception but on the necessary connection between concepts. This knowledge is the basis for scientific reasoning.