Rafael. The School of Athens.

Aristotle stands center right, next to Plato.
Born:384 BC
Died:322 BC (aged 62)

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist. He lived during the Classical Period in Ancient Greece. Much of his adulthood was spent studying at Plato's Academy just outside of Athens.


1   Life

Aristotle was born in 384 BC in the city of Stagira to Nicomachus and Phaestis, Nichomachus then being court physician to King Amyntas III of Macedon. [1] His father, Nicomachus, died when Aristotle was a child, whereafter Proxenus of Atarneus became his guardian.

Aristotle was born in Stagirus, or Stagira, or Stageirus, on the Chalcidic peninsula of northern Greece. His father was Nicomachus, a medical doctor, while his mother was named Phaestis. Nicomachus was certainly living in Chalcidice when Aristotle was born and he had probably been born in that region. Aristotle's mother, Phaestis, came from Chalcis in Euboea and her family owned property there. [4]

There is little doubt that Nicomachus would have intended Aristotle to become a doctor, for the tradition was that medical skills were kept secret and handed down from father to son. It was not a society where people visited a doctor but rather it was the doctors who travelled round the country tending to the sick. Although we know nothing of Aristotle's early years it is highly likely that he would have accompanied his father in his travels. We do know that Nicomachus found the conditions in Chalcidice less satisfactory than in the neighbouring state of Macedonia and he began to work there with so much success that he was soon appointed as the personal physician to Amyntas III, king of Macedonia. [4]

There is no record to indicate whether Aristotle lived with his father in Pella, the capital of Macedonia, while Nicomachus attended to king Amyntas at the court there. However, Aristotle was certainly friendly with Philip, king Amyntas's son, some years later and it seems reasonable to assume that the two, who were almost exactly the same age, had become friendly in Pella as young children. [4]

When Aristotle was about ten years old his father died. This certainly meant that Aristotle could not now follow in his father's profession of doctor and, since his mother seems also to have died young, Aristotle was brought up by a guardian, Proxenus of Atarneus, who was his uncle (or possibly a family friend as is suggested by some authors). Proxenus taught Aristotle Greek, rhetoric, and poetry which complemented the biological teachings that Nicomachus had given Aristotle as part of training his son in medicine. Since in latter life Aristotle wrote fine Greek prose, this too must have been part of his early education. [4]

In 367 BC Aristotle, at the age of seventeen, became a student at Plato's Academy in Athens. At the time that Aristotle joined the Academy it had been operating for twenty years. Plato was not in Athens, but rather he was on his first visit to Syracuse. We should not think of Plato's Academy as a non-political organisation only interested in abstract ideas. The Academy was highly involved in the politics of the time, in fact Plato's visit to Sicily was for political reasons, and the politics of the Academy and of the whole region would play a major role in influencing the course of Aristotle's life. [4]

When Aristotle arrived in Athens, the Academy was being run by Eudoxus of Cnidos in Plato's absence. Speusippus, Plato's nephew, was also teaching at the Academy as was Xenocrates of Chalcedon. After being a student, Aristotle soon became a teacher at the Academy and he was to remain there for twenty years. We know little regarding what Aristotle taught at the Academy. Diogenes Laertius, writing in the second century AD, says that Aristotle taught rhetoric and dialectic. Certainly Aristotle wrote on rhetoric at this time, issuing Gryllus which attacked the views on rhetoric of Isocrates, who ran another major educational establishment in Athens. All Aristotle's writings of this time strongly support Plato's views and those of the Academy. [4]

Towards the end of Aristotle's twenty years at the Academy his position became difficult due to the political events of the time. Amyntas, the king of Macedonia, died around 369 BC, a couple of years before Aristotle went to Athens to join the Academy. Two of Amyntas's sons, Alexander II and Perdiccas III, each reigned Macedonia for a time but the kingdom suffered from both internal disputes and external wars. In 359 BC Amyntas's third son, Philip II came to the throne when Perdiccas was killed fighting off an Illyrian invasion. Philip used skilful tactics, both military and political, to allow Macedonia a period of internal peace in which they expanded by victories over the surrounding areas. [4]

Philip captured Olynthus and annexed Chalcidice in 348 BC. Stagirus, the town of Aristotle's birth, held out for a while but was also defeated by Philip. Athens worried about the powerful threatening forces of Macedonia, and yet Aristotle had been brought up at the Court of Macedonia and had probably retained his friendship with Philip. The actual order of events is now a little uncertain. Plato died in 347 BC and Speusippus assumed the leadership of the Academy. Aristotle was certainly opposed to the views of Speusippus and he may have left the Academy following Plato's death for academic reasons or because he failed to be named head of the Academy himself. Some sources, however, suggest that he may have left for political reasons before Plato died because of his unpopularity due to his Macedonian links. [4]

Aristotle travelled from Athens to Assos which faces the island of Lesbos. He was not alone in leaving the Academy for Xenocrates of Chalcedon left with him. In Assos Aristotle was received by the ruler Hermias of Atarneus with much acclaim. It is likely that Aristotle was acting as an ambassador for Philip and he certainly was treated as such by Hermias. Aristotle married Pythias, the niece and adopted daughter of Hermias, and they had one child, a daughter also called Pythias. However, Aristotle's wife died about 10 years after their marriage. It is thought that she was much younger than Aristotle, being probably of age of about 18 when they married. [4]

On Assos, Aristotle became the leader of the group of philosophers which Hermias had gathered there. It is possible that Xenocrates was also a member of the group for a time. Aristotle had a strong interest in anatomy and the structure of living things in general, an interest which his father had fostered in him in his early years, that helped him to develop a remarkable talent for observation. Aristotle and the members of his group began to collect observations while in Assos, in particular in zoology and biology. [4]

Aristotle probably begun his work Politics on Assos as well as On Kingship which is now lost. He began to develop a philosophy distinct from that of Plato who had said the kings should be philosophers and philosophers kings. [4]

However, Aristotle's time in Assos was ended by political events. The Persians attacked the town and Hermias was captured and executed. Aristotle escaped and stopped on the island of Lesbos on his way to Macedonia. It was more than a passing visit for he remained there for about a year and must have had the group of scientists from Assos with him for they continued their biological researches there. [4]

Macedonia was now at peace with Athens, for Philip had made a treaty in 346 BC. In 343 BC Aristotle reached the Court of Macedonia and he was to remain there for seven years. The often quoted story that he became tutor to the young Alexander the Great, the son of Philip, is almost certainly a later invention as was pointed out by Jaeger, see [16]. Philip saw in Aristotle a future head of the Academy in Athens. Certainly this would have suited Philip well for Speusippus, the then head of the Academy, was strongly opposed to Philip and strongly encouraging Athens to oppose the rise of Macedonia. [4]

The treaty between Athens and Macedonia began to fall apart in 340 BC and preparations for war began. The following year Speusippus died but Aristotle, although proposed as head of the Academy, was not elected. The position went to Xenocrates and Philip lost interest in his support for Aristotle. He moved back to his home in Stagirus and took with him to Stagirus his circle of philosophers and scientists. [4]

Aristotle did not marry again after the death of his wife but he did form a relationship with Herpyllis, who came from his home town of Stagirus. It is not clear when they first met but together they had a son, Nicomachus, named after Aristotle's father. [4]

Philip was now at the height of his power but, as so often happens, that proved the time for internal disputes. Aristotle supported Alexander, Philip's son who soon became king. Alexander decided on a policy similar to his father in regard to Athens and sought to assert his power by peaceful means. Alexander protected the Academy and encouraged it to continue with its work. At the same time, however, he sent Aristotle to Athens to found a rival establishment. [4]

In 335 BC Aristotle founded his own school the Lyceum in Athens. He arrived in the city with assistants to staff the school and a large range of teaching materials he had gathered while in Macedonia; books, maps, and other teaching material which may well have been intended at one stage to support Aristotle in his bid to become head of the Academy. The Academy had always been narrow in its interests but the Lyceum under Aristotle pursued a broader range of subjects. Prominence was given by Aristotle to the detailed study of nature. [4]

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, anti-Macedonian feeling in Athens made Aristotle retire to Chalcis where he lived in the house which had once belonged to his mother and was still retained by the family. He died the following year from a stomach complaint at the age of 62. [4]

We have commented above on the disputes among modern scholars as to whether Aristotle wrote the treatises now assigned to him. We do know that his work falls into two distinct parts, namely works which he published during his lifetime and are now lost (although some fragments survive in quotations in works by others), and the collection of writings which have come down to us and were not published by Aristotle in his lifetime. We can say with certainty that Aristotle never intended these 30 works which fill over 2000 printed pages to be published. They are certainly lecture notes from the courses given at the Lyceum either being, as most scholars believe, the work of Aristotle, or of later lecturers. Of course it is distinctly possible that they are notes of courses originally given by Aristotle but later added to by other lecturers after Aristotle's death. [4]

The works were first published in about 60 BC by Andronicus of Rhodes, the last head of the Lyceum. [4]

Aristotle believed that logic was not a science but rather had to be treated before the study of every branch of knowledge. Aristotle's name for logic was "analytics", the term logic being introduced by Xenocrates working at the Academy. [4]

In fact in Prior Analytics Aristotle proposed the now famous Aristotelian syllogistic, a form of argument consisting of two premises and a conclusion. His example is [4]:

  1. Every Greek is a person.
  2. Every person is mortal.
  3. Every Greek is mortal.

Aristotle was not the first to suggest axiom systems. Plato had made the bold suggestion that there might be a single axiom system to embrace all knowledge. Aristotle went for the somewhat more possible suggestion of an axiom system for each science. Notice that Euclid and his axiom system for geometry came after Aristotle. [4]

At the age of 18, Aristotle traveled to Athens and became a pupil of Plato at the Platonic Academy. He remained there until the age of 37, around 347 BC, either by rising anti-Macdeonian sentiment in Athens or perhaps by Plato's death. [1]


Aristotle tutoring Alexander, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.

Upon leaving Athens, Aristotle made his way to the court of Phillip II of Macdeon where he became the principal tutor of a young Alexander the Great. Shortly after the death of Phillip and the accession of Alexander, Aristotle (aged 50) returned to Athens, enabled to do so because he had persuaded Alexander to treats Athens mildly in the aftermath of the Macedonian conquest of Greece. Therefore, Aristotle founded his own school at the Lyceum. He students came to be known as "Periapatetics", related to the Greek verb peripatein "to walk or stroll about" which may allude to Aristotle's reported habit of offering instruction while walking with his students. [1] Or it may refer to the covered courtyard or colonnade (peripatos) found among the buildings making up the school. [1]

When Alexander was 13, Philip began to search for a tutor, and considered such academics as Isocrates and Speusippus, the latter offering to resign to take up the post. In the end, Philip chose Aristotle and provided the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as a classroom. In return for teaching Alexander, Philip agreed to rebuild Aristotle's hometown of Stageira, which Philip had razed, and to repopulate it by buying and freeing the ex-citizens who were slaves, or pardoning those who were in exile.

Mieza was like a boarding school for Alexander and the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy, Hephaistion, and Cassander. Many of these students would become his friends and future generals, and are often known as the 'Companions'. Aristotle taught Alexander and his companions about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. Under Aristotle's tutelage, Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad; Aristotle gave him an annotated copy, which Alexander later carried on his campaigns.


Aristotle taught and wrote in Athens for about a dozen year until 323 when he was brought up on charges of impiety (like Socrates). Aristotle chose to flee Athens and so to prevent it from "erring against philosophy a second time" as he is said to have said. [1] He did in Chalcis, on the island of Euboea, in 322.

Aristotle achieved merit through teaching Alexander the great.

Aristotle's view on the physical sciences profoundly shaped medieval scholarship, and their influence extended well into the Renaissance until they were replaced by Newtonian physics.

1.1   The Peripatetic school

The peripatetic school was an informal institution whose members conducted philosophical and scientific inquiries, so called because Aristotle had the habit of teaching while walking.

2   List of works

There are four extant writings attached to Aristotle's name that deal with right action and matters of character ("ethics"): Eudemian Ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, Magna Moralia, and Virtues and Vices. [1] Almost all scholars regard the "Virutes and Vices" as spurious, and a good many doubt the authenticity of the "Magna Moralia". "Eudemian Ethics" seems to be a less polished, perhaps earlier, version of the "Nicomachean Ethics". Its title (which Aristotle himself never uses) is derived from the name that both Aristotle's son and father bore, Nicomachus. [1]

Logic: Organon


Ethics, politics:



Ethics, Book I Politics, Book I Poetics Ethics, Book II, III (Ch. 5-12), VI (Ch. 8-13) On Interpretation Politics, Books III, IV, V Physics, Book IV (Ch. 1-5, 10-14) Metaphysics, Book I (Ch. 1-2), IV, VI (Ch. 1), XI (Ch. 1-4) Categories On The Soul, Book II (Ch. 1-3), III Metaphysics, Book XII Ethics, Book VIII, IX, X Ethics, Book V Rhetoric Politics, Book VII, VIII On The Parts Of Animals, Book I (Ch. 1), II (Ch. 1) On The Generation Of Animals, Book I (Ch.1, 17-18, 20-23)

3   Works

3.1   Logic

Aristotle was apparently the first person to develop a formal logic in a systematic way. His treatment of propositional logic does not differ greatly from the modern approach to the subject, and the study of logic based on truth conditions ii still called "Aristotelian logic". [2]

3.2   Physics

Aristotle asserted that heavy objects fall faster than light ones, a belief that was not refuted until the sixteen century, by Galileo_. [2]

4   Further reading

5   References

[1](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) x
[2](1, 2) Wolf. 2008. Proof, logic, and conjecture.
[3]Joe Sachs. 1995. Aristotle's Physics.
[4](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23)

Happiness signifies more than mere sentiment or feeling, more than the pleasure of the moment or even of a series of a satisfied desires. Eudmaimonia encompasses the excellence specifc to human beings as human beings -- what Aristototle famously calls virtue (arete).

Aristotle proceeds in fulle value awareness of a version of relativism more radical and perhaps more impressive than our own. The relativism known to Aristotle can be traced at least as far back as the pre-Socratic thinker Heralitus and is crystalized in a pithy saying of the great Sophist Protagoras "human being is the measure of all things". This was interpreted to mean that our preception of the world is wholly dependent on the perceiving individual; such perception is in no way a reliable access to the objective world. And what applies to being applies equally to the what we hold to be just or unjust, good or bad.

At the beginning of the Ethics, Aristotle states a troubling consequence of this view: if there is no knowable good or end in accord with which human beings can order their lives, then all human longing is finally empty and pointless. But even in the shadow of this unsettling though, which he does not here refute or reject, Aristotle presses on.

The most celebrated part of the Ethics is its investigation of the moral and intellectual virtues that make the most powerful claims to constituting human perfection. Yet the manner of this investigation, as well as much of its substance, will probably strike some readers as perplexing, especially at first. Why, for example, does a treatise on happiness devote five of its ten books to an examination of moral virtue, in the course of which the very term happiness all but disappears? Why in the world are there eleven—not ten and not twelve—moral virtues, and how did Aristotle arrive at these particular ones?


The writing of Aristotle that we possess as whole are school texts that with the possible exception of the Nicomachean Ethics, seem never to have meant for publication.

The likeliest conjecture is that these works originated as oral discourse by Aristotle, written down by students, corrected by Aristotle, and eventually assembled into longer connected arguments. They presuppose acquaintance with arguments that referred to without being made and with examples that are never spelled out (such as the incommensurability of the diagonal). They are demanding texts to follow, and they are less interested in beauty of composition than in exactness of statement.

Unlike Plato, it appears that Aristotle gives his thought the closure of answers and doctrine, turning philosophy into "science", but this is a distortion produced by transmission through a long tradition and by bad translations. The tradition speaks of physics, metaphysics, ethics, and so on as sciences in the sense of conclusions deduced from first principles, but the books written by Aristotle that bear those names contain no such "sciences". What they all contain is dialectical reasoning, argument that does not start with the highest knowledge in hand, but goes in quest of it, beginning with whatever opinions seem worth examining. Exactly like Plato's dialogs, Aristotle's writing lead the reader on from untested opinions toward more reliable ones. Unlike Plato, Aristotle records his best efforts to get beyond trial and error to trustworthy conclusions. What keep those conclusions from becoming items of dogma? The available translations hide the fact, but Aristotle devises a philosophic vocabulary that is incapable of dogmatic use.

Aristotle's genius consists in putting together the most ordinary words in unaccustomed combinations. Since the combinations are jarring, our thinking always has to be at work, but since the words combined are so readily understood by everyone, our thinking always has something to work with.

Consider the word essence. It is an English word and we all more or less know how to use it. It seems to have connection with necessity, since we occasionally dismiss something as not essential.

What did Aristotle wrire where the translators put the word "essence"? In some places, he wrote "the what" something is, or "the being" of it. In most places he wrote "what something keeps on being in order to be at all" or "what it is for something to be".

Virtually all the conventional technical words that have been routinely used are poor translations of the Greek they mean to stand for. The word "privation" for instance should not be used because its meaning cannot be expected to be known to all educated readers of English. The Greek word is better translated as "deprivation" or sometimes as "lack". What matter not is whether Latin or Anglo-Saxon derivatives are used, but whether an understandable English word translates an understandable Greek one. "Accident" is a perfectly good English word, but not in the sense in which it appears in commentaries on Aristotle. The Greek word it replaces has a broad sense that corresponds to our word "attribute" and a narrower one that can be conveyed by the phrase "incidental attribute". There is some pedantic pleasure in pointing out those connections, but to use the word "accident" in that sense is to write a forced Latin masquerading as English, guaranteed to confuse the non-specialist reader, where Aristotle used the simplest possible language in a way that keeps the focus off the words and on the things meant by them.

To undo the mischief caused by "substance" is harder. The way this word was established is a comedy of errors in which Christian scruples were imposed upon a non-Biblical theology, and a disagreement with Aristotle was read back into his words a ss a translation of them. It is better to translate it as the barbarous "thinghood" since the word "substance" does nothing but obscure its meaning.

Zat Rana. Dec 5, 2017. Aristotle’s Timeless Advice on What Real Friendship Is and Why It Matters.

At age 17, Aristotle enrolled in the Platonic Academy. He would stay there for 20 years.

The exact time of his departure from The Academy is disputed, but it’s said that he left soon after Plato died due to his dislike of the direction that it subsequently took. In the years following, he would even go on to argue against many of his late teacher’s core ideas.

It’s impossible to say how much Aristotle wrote, but even from the fraction of his work that we have left today, there is a stunning amount of breadth in the subjects he covered.