Aristotle

 

Aristotle

When we talk about Philosophy, the first name that comes into our mind is that of Aristotle (384 BC- 322 BC) who followed a comprehensive system of ideas about human nature and the nature of the reality we live in.

Early Life and Contributions:

One of the prominent names of history, this famous personality was a Greek philosopher, was born in Stagira in North Greece, the son of Nichomachus, the court physician to the Macedonian royal family. He was trained first in medicine, and then in 367BC was sent to Athens to study philosophy with Plato. He stayed at Plato’s Academy until about 347. He has also been under the supervision of Alexander the Great.

Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in his time as his writings constitute a first at creating a broad system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics. Besides this his piece of work also includes other subjects, including physics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, government and ethics.

Though a bright pupil, Aristotle opposed some of Plato’s teachings, and when Plato died, Aristotle was not appointed head of the Academy. After leaving Athens, Aristotle spent some time traveling, and possibly studying biology, in Asia Minor and its islands. He returned to Macedonia in 338 to tutor Alexander the Great, after Alexander conquered Athens, Aristotle returned to Athens and set up a school of his own, known as the Lyceum. After Alexander’s death, Athens revolted against Macedonian rule, and Aristotle’s political situation became unstable. Therefore to keep away from being put to death, he fled to the island of Euboea, where he died soon after.

Legacy:

Now talking about Aristotle’s work and achievements, he was very versatile and his views on the physical sciences profoundly shaped medieval scholarship, and their influence extended well into the Renaissance, although they were ultimately replaced by Newtonian physics. In the biological sciences, some of his observations were confirmed to be accurate only for a few times. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, which was incorporated in the late nineteenth century into modern formal logic. A complete account of Aristotle’s contributions to science and philosophy is beyond the scope of this exhibit, but a brief summary can be made, whereas Aristotle’s teacher Plato had located ultimate reality in Ideas or eternal forms, knowable only through reflection and reason but on the other hand Aristotle saw final authenticity in physical matter, predictable through experience.

Matter has the potential to assume whatever form a sculptor gives it, and a seed or embryo has the potential to grow into a living plant or animal form. In living creatures, the form was known with the soul, plants had the lowest kinds of souls, animals had higher souls which could feel, and humans alone had rational, reasoning souls. In turn, animals could be classified by their way of life, their actions, or, most importantly, by their parts.

Though Aristotle’s work in zoology was not without faults, it was the grandest biological synthesis of the time, and remained the vital authority for many centuries after his death. His observations on the anatomy of octopus, cuttlefish, crustaceans, and many other marine invertebrates are extremely correct, with amazing results. He described the embryological development of a chick, and distinguished whales and dolphins from fish, plus he also noticed that some sharks give birth to live young. Aristotle’s books also discuss his detailed observations that he has been doing throughout his life.

We all have come across the classification of animals into different types and the readers will be amazed to know that Aristotle’s classification of animals grouped together is used in a much broader sense than present-day biologists use. He divided the animals into two types, those with blood, and those without blood (or at least without red blood). These distinctions correspond closely to our distinction between vertebrates and invertebrates. The blooded animals, corresponding to the vertebrates, whereas the bloodless animals were classified as cephalopods (such as the octopus), crustaceans, insects, shelled animals and zoophytes also known as plant-animals.

Aristotle’s thoughts on earth sciences can be found in his thesis Meteorology, the word today means the study of weather, but Aristotle used the word in a much broader sense, covering, as he put it, “all the affections we may call common to air and water, and the kinds and parts of the earth and the affections of its parts.” In it he discussed the nature of the earth and the oceans and explained the entire hydrologic cycle. The sun moving as it does sets up processes of change, and by its agency the finest and sweetest water is every day carried up and is dissolved into vapor and rises to the upper region, where it is condensed again by the cold and so returns to the earth.

He has also discussed winds, earthquakes, thunder, lightning, rainbows, meteors, comets, and the Milky Way. Aristotle was of the view that the whole vital process of the earth takes place so gradually and in periods of time which are so immense compared with the length of our life that these changes are not observed, and before their course can be recorded from beginning to end whole nations die and are ruined.

In metaphysics, Aristotelianism had a deep influence on philosophical and theological thinking in the Islamic and Jewish traditions in the Middle Ages, and it continues to influence Christian theology and the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church. His followers called him Ille Philosophus (The Philosopher), or “the master of them that know,” and many accepted every word of his writings, or at least every word that did not contradict the Bible as eternal truth. All aspects of Aristotle’s philosophy continue to be the object of active academic study today.

Despite the far-reaching appeal that Aristotle’s works have traditionally enjoyed, today modern scholarship questions a considerable portion of the Aristotelian quantity as genuinely Aristotle’s own. Aristotle is said to have written 150 philosophical treatises. The 30 that survive touch on a huge range of philosophical problems, from biology and physics to morals to aesthetics to politics. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues, it is thought that the majority of his writings are now lost and only about one-third of the original works have endure but whatever has lasted is still a source of inspiration for the learners and will continue to be.