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(384–322 BC). 1. Aristotle was born in the Gk. colony of Stagira on the Macedonian peninsula Chalcidice, the son of Nicomachus, court physician to Amyntas II, king of Macedon and father of Philip II of Macedon. In his 18th year he was sent to Athens, where he remained in close assoc. with the Academy for 20 years, until the death of Plato.* He then left Athens and lived with friends of the Academy first at Atarneus, in the Troad, and then at Mitylene, on the island of Lesbos, where he engaged in biological research. Invited by Philip to take charge of his son's educ., Aristotle became tutor to Alexander the Great, probably for the yrs. just before Alexander's appointment as regent for his father. In 335/4 Aristotle returned to Athens, where he labored 12 yrs. in the Lyceum, instituting and pursuing a program of investigation in almost every branch of human knowledge, and composing at least the more scientific portions of his now extant writings. An outburst of anti-Macedonian feeling at Athens in 323 precipitated Aristotle's flight—lest the Athenians should “sin twice against philosophy”—to Chalcis in Euboea, where he died in 322, within a little more than a yr. of the deaths of Alexander and Demosthenes.

2. The Aristotelian corpus, excluding doubtful and spurious works, includes (1) the logical treatises of the Organon: Categories, De interpretatione, Prior analytics, Posterior analytics, Topics, and Sophistici elenchi; (2) the treatises on natural science now distinguished as (a) physical science: Physics, De coelo, De generatione et corruptione, and Meteorologica; (b) psychology: De anima and a collection of shorter works known as Parva naturalia; (c) biology: Historia animalium, De partibus animalium, De motu and De incessu animalium, and De generatione animalium; and (d) Problemata; (3) first philosophy, or Metaphysics; (4) the treatises on practical science distinguished as (a) ethics: Nicomachean Ethics (named after his son Nicomachus) and Eudemian Ethics (named after Eudemus, one of his pupils); and (b) politics: Politics, and Constitution of Athens; (5) the treatises on productive science: Rhetoric and Poetics, both dealing with literary arts. The standard ed. of the Gk. text is that of Bekker (Berlin Academy, 1831–70). A complete Eng. tr. of the works included in the Berlin ed. was prepared under the editorship of W. D. Ross (Oxford, 1908–31).

3. The logic of Aristotle, by him called “analytic,” is a discipline prior to all others, setting forth the requirements of scientific inquiry and proof. Science, in the strict sense, is demonstrated knowledge of the causes of things. Such demonstrated knowledge is obtained by syllogistic deduction from premises in themselves certain—thus science differs from dialectic, which uses probable premises, and from eristic, which aims not at truth, but at forensic victory. The Aristotelian logic of terms, propositions, and syllogisms depends not merely on formal relations exemplified in statement of proof, but on the possibility of discovering principles, i. e., universals and causes, which are true of nature. Aristotle is fond of tracing the transition in knowledge from the particulars of sense experience (the things more knowable to us) to the universals present in an inchoate way in sensation but grasped by intuitive reason or nous (the things more knowable in themselves). He claims to have accounted for human science without reducing knowledge to the motion of atoms, as had Democritus,* or transforming things into ideas, as he thought Plato did.

4. The causes, which can be stated as connectives among terms because they are links among the phenomena of nature, are of 4 sorts: material (the stuff of which a thing is made), formal (its essence or nature, what it is), efficient (the agency that brings it into being), and final (its end, or that for the sake of which it exists). Thus for Aristotle every sensible object is a union of 2 principles, matter and form—the matter in every case regarded as potentiality for the form that actualizes it. The fact of motion or change is then accounted for as a process by which potential being passes over, through form, into actual being. This analysis Aristotle regards as a triumph over Platonism, which, appealing only to form, left motion unintelligible as a passage from nonbeing to being, and over Democritean atomism, which, reducing scientific explanation to the discovery of material parts, simply assumed motion as a principle.

5. Aristotle proceeds, on the basis of the causes, to divide the sciences into the theoretic, the practical, and the productive. The theoretic sciences have as their end simply to know; as their subject matter “substances,” things possessing an internal principle of motion or rest; as their form strict demonstration or necessity; as their agency the “intellectual” virtues of “intuitive reason” and “science” (combined in “philosophic wisdom”), the capacities of grasping first principles and demonstrating from them. The special theoretic sciences are differentiated according to differences found in their subject matters. Physics deals with “common sensible matter,” with kinds of sensible natural objects—its subject matter is never purely formal, but always includes matter and motion. Mathematics treats of “intelligent matter,” of numbers, points, lines, surfaces, volumes, which cannot exist apart from bodies, yet are abstracted in thought and treated separately in this science. Metaphysics investigates the first principles and causes that are assumed in the separate sciences, and therefore it treats of a substance that not only can be known apart, but that also exists apart from matter and motion, whose existence is established in the famous proof of the necessity of an unmoved mover as the cause of existence and motion. For if there were no separated substance, all sciences would be reduced to physics; and if forms and numbers existed separately, all philos. would be reduced to mathematics.

6. The practical and productive sciences have as their end action (i. e., doing and making, respectively) rather than knowledge; as their subject matter things done and things made, whose principle of motion is in an external agent and that have no natural definitions; their principles are established dialectically, hence their conclusions are only probable; and the virtues required to pursue these sciences are “practical wisdom” and “art.” The practical sciences are differentiated as ethics, which treats of individual action, and politics, which treats of forms of community. In his ethics, Aristotle dialectically determines the good for man as the actualization or exercise of his distinctive faculty, reason, in the habitual subordination of appetite to rational principle—it is here that particular moral virtues are defined as means between extremes—and in the search for and contemplation of truth. In Politics, concerned with constitutions and forms of human associations that again have no natural definitions, a basis for proportional rules is found in the needs and interdependences of man for the ends of living and of living well—it is in this sense that man is by nature a “political animal.” The productive sciences, finally, are differentiated according to their products, and the kinds of art according to the object, means, and manner of their imitation of nature. Thus in Poetics tragedy is distinguished by isolating its means of imitation, and the liberal arts are distinguished by their educative influence in preparing men for freedom.

7. The influence of Aristotle on philos. and science is incalculably extensive. This influence is made intricate by the fact that he has been read in widely different ways and adapted to modes of thought to which he explicitly opposed his own. During the Hellenistic period, when nearly all the philosophies reflected the impress of his thought, Aristotle was regarded as merely the most eminent of Plato's disciples, and “peripatetic” signified a specialist in science rather than a philos. In the early Middle Ages there was slight direct contact with his writings, and infiltrations of Gk. thought into Christian philos. was rather Neoplatonic than Aristotelian. In the 12th and 13th c., however, all the works of Aristotle were tr. into Lat. and were made the object of intense study and large commentaries. The revolt of Renaissance philosophers against Aristotle was probably as much against this scholastic mode of discussion as against Aristotle's doctrine. A renaissance of Aristotelian studies in the 20th c. is a result of the modern ed. of his works by the Berlin Academy and of the papal blessing of the work of Thomas* Aquinas. Aristotle lives on in neo-scholasticism, in behaviorist psychology, in the vitalism and dynamism of such thinkers as H. Bergson,* and in much of the technical vocabulary, if not in the spirit, of modern science and philos. RL

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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