Philosopher Aristotle

Aristotle is widely recognized as one of the most influential philosophers in history. He made numerous contributions in almost all areas of knowledge. According to claims from many philosophers, Aristotle is to be praised for classifying human knowledge into distinct disciplines such as ethics, logic, metaphysics, and mathematics among many others (Ackrill, 1981). He was the first to give a logical description of the four basic human virtues Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Unity (Ackrill, 1981). Aristotle was a student of Plato from whose philosophical views he based most of his initial ideologies. However, it is commonly appreciated that most of Aristotle philosophies contradicted those of Plato. This essay is a discussion of Aristotles life and his contributions to the modern philosophical and theological thinking.

Aristotle was born in 384 BC in Stageira, Chalcidice. He was the son of Nicomachus, a personal physician to King Amyntas of Macedon. According to available information, Aristotle trained as a member of the aristocracy during his early age before joining Platos academy in Athens at the age of eighteen (Ackrill, 1981). He stayed in the academy for twenty years until after the death of Plato in 347 BC. Aristotle started his philosophical adventure during 347 BC when, together with Theophrastus, they conducted a research on the botany and zoology of the island of Lesbos, Asia. In 343 BC, Aristotle became the personal tutor of Alexander the Great and the head of the royal academy of Macedon.
It is claimed that Aristotles teachings were a major influence not only to the leadership of Alexander the great, but also to King Ptolemy and Cassander. According to his political teachings, Aristotle believed that the virtue of the king and his family should be greater than those of his citizens to justify a monarchy form of government (Kraut, 2002). Available historical information indicates that Aristotle returned to Athens in 335 BC were he established the Lyceum academy. It is during this time until 323 BC when Aristotle is believed to have written most of his philosophical works. Just to be appreciated, Aristotle was married to Pythias, with whom they had a daughter. He later befriended Herpyllis of Stageira and had one son, Nicomachus (Ackrill, 1981).

Aristotle is claimed to had written numerous dialogues, most of which are not existing. The most commonly available works of Aristotle are the treatise. Such include Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, and Poetics (Hines, 1999). However, most of this works are not widely published due to the conviction that they were only meant to give lecture guidance to his students. Despite the philosophical influence Aristotle gained from Plato, he is widely acknowledged as a major critic of Platos philosophical perceptions. He believed that knowledge was fundamentally empirical, a factor that led to his conclusion that the world cannot be view in an abstract way as Plato claimed (Pangle, 2002). Through his philosophical approach to problem solving, Aristotle founded the concept of inductive reasoning, which form the foundation of the modern western scientific method.

Among the most outstanding works of Aristotle, the schematization of knowledge, the four causes, and the ethical doctrine of the mean characterize his unique thinking (Ackrill, 1981). Aristotle resolved the problem on the nature of human knowledge by defining the different types of knowledge based on their core objects and the certainty of knowing such objects. According to him, some types of human knowledge objects such as mathematics and logic dictate for having absolute knowledge of their certainty (Hines, 1999). Therefore, such objects of knowledge are categorized based of certain and precise explanation. However, Aristotle asserted that some other forms of knowledge such as human behavior did not require certainty (Hines, 1999). This claim brought the modern concept of probability. According to him human knowledge such as ethics, psychology, and politics did not confirm to Platos concept of precise explanation.

Another influential concept by Aristotle is the four causes of occurrences in the world. According to Plato, the fact that the world is nothing less than change compromised the human ability to know anything (Ackrill, 1981). Based on this reasoning, Plato developed an unchanging empirical world marked with intelligible forms which claimed the world to be an imperfect copy of reality. However, Aristotle contradicted this by engaging all his life in qualifying the underlying reason behind change and motion of things. Indeed, he is claimed to be the first philosopher ever to base his thought and scientific explanations on the principle that everything that is in motion is caused to move by something else (Ackrill, 1981). According to many, this acclamation by Aristotle is the foundation of the western rationality and science.

The four causes concept by Aristotle asserted that changes in the universe are due to four reasons. There is the material cause to change in the universe (Ackrill, 1981). Based on this reason, Aristotle acknowledged that everything in the universe is made of some form of matter. Due to this, its appearance or change should be defined by the material used in modeling it. As an example, bowl as a change is made out of clay. Another possible cause of change is the formal cause. This is defined as the pattern or structure based on which something is made. Such meant that the shape something is what defines it. For example, a human being is defined by the human shape just like a bowl is defined by its bowl shape.

The other causes of change in the universe are efficient cause and final cause. According to Aristotle, there is a means or an agency through which things in the universe come into existence (Ackrill, 1981). These are the driving force to change. Without the presence of force, things cannot change or move. Such could be explained by the fact that without a potter the existence of a bowl could be impossible. On the final cause of change, Aristotle declared that all changes have a purpose or function in the society. Just to be appreciated is the fact that without a goal, human beings cannot engage in developing products.

Although the final cause has received critics as being quite unscientific, the concept is widely appreciated in the ethical and scientific fronts of the modern community. Therefore, Aristotles teaching on the cause of change was fundamentally teleological (Ackrill, 1981). This is because it asserts the fact that everything in the world is constantly changing and moving for some goal or purpose. Such propositions were later supported by the Newtonian physic which asserted that everything in the universe has a potential of being actualized.

Another commonly cited philosophical contribution by Aristotle is found in his doctrine of the mean. According to philosophers, the science of ethics is marked with high degrees of uncertainty (Hines, 1999). Such are closely attributed to the diversity of human reasoning, actions, and motivations. This seems to contradict the fact that ethics dictate for absolute principles to be effective. Such can be found in the laws that govern our behavior in the community. However, the concept of ethics as an institution by man makes human actions to be limited to the individuals situation which determine whether an action is right or wrong. This is what Aristotle claimed to the changing forces of revolution in the community.

In his doctrine of the mean, Aristotle defines ethics based mean as a roadmap for guiding human behavior. He rightly asserted the fact that there can never be a correct definition to moral virtue simply because moral virtues are subject to two opposing vices (Pangle, 2002). According to him, occurrences questioning human behavior should be judged based the relevant underlying circumstances and situation. As an example, the question of having courage can be found to lie between two opposing vices cowardice and foolhardiness (Ackrill, 1981). Therefore what can be termed as the mean between this opposing vices brought by courage is a variant phenomenon dependent on the situation of the time.

This doctrine of the mean as defined by Aristotle has found its much appreciation in the modern human community. Indeed, this is guideline for judging human behavior is called equity. This has been the underlying principle in the development of our modern law and execution of justice in the community. According to philosophers and theologians, the doctrine of the mean by Aristotle is crucial in understanding the development of initial Christianity in the world as well as its later divisions such as the protestant reformation movement (Hines, 1999). Such contributions are also thought to have influenced the philosophical thinking of the historical Islamic and Jewish traditions.

In politics, Aristotle conceived the concept of man as a political animal by nature (Kraut, 2002). He conceptualized the city as a natural community that preceded the family and the individual despites its being last in the making process. According to him, politics was to be understood as an organism whose efficient functioning sole depended on its individual parts (Kraut, 2002). This had the implication that there can never be politics without the people. This concept of the city ass a political community by Aristotle is found in the concept of the state in the modern community. Aristotle perceived politics as an establishment whose aim is not to mitigate injustices or promote economic development, but rather as a mechanism for enabling individuals to live a good life. Therefore, the city as a political community was to be founded to serve for a noble purpose rather than just promoting communal living.

Aristotle also impacted on the philosophical understanding of rhetoric and poetry (Pangle, 2002). According to him poetry, music, tragedy, and comedy are the works of human imitations. Such imitations varied from the medium employed, to the objects of the work, to the method used to convey the message. Based on this reasoning, Aristotle claimed that music is for example an imitation of rhythm and harmony while dancing is only guiding by rhythm (Ackrill, 1981). For him, the practice of imitation is the underlying reason why human beings are different from other animals. Aristotle asserted that tragedy should consist of six basic elements. Such included plot-structure, character, style, spectacle, and lyric. For him the plot is the core issue in a tragedy and characters only serve as a media for conveying the message (Ackrill, 1981). It is claimed that Aristotle found a strong interest in rhetoric based on the fact that his school had a big collection of riddles, folklore, and proverbs.

According to available information, Aristotle brought numerous contributions in metaphysics. Through is observations, he asserted that every substance was made of both matter and form (Ackrill, 1981). From his explanation in his Metaphysics, Book VII, matter is the stuff, which creates a substance while form is the actual casing covering the substance. This led him to distinguishing change and its causes into three parts. Change in quantity is caused by growth or diminution while change in space is due to motion or locomotion (Ackrill, 1981). The other cause of change is alteration. This is mainly found in terms of the quality of the substance. Such were the basis of his philosophical proposition on potentiality and actuality of matter. Unlike Plato, Aristotle believed that the reason why man is unity is because both the potential (matter) and actual (form) aspects of man are the same.

The influence of Aristotle has gone down history. Many centuries after his death, Aristotle is praised for pioneering numerous ethical and scientific schools. He was the driving force behind the development of the modern formal logic (Ackrill, 1981). Another contribution is that he was the pioneer of zoology studies. Just to be appreciated is the fact that Aristotle formed many influential contributions in defining scientific methods. Indeed, it is asserted that almost every future philosopher and scientist found remarkable aid from the teachings of Aristotle. He was the driving force behind the successful political power enjoyed by Alexander the great as well as other kings like Ptolemy and Cassander.
Other much influence by Aristotle is the philosophical and theological thinking of Christianity. Aristotle was greatly praised by great Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas for his scientific and artistic principles which formed the basis of understanding and formulating modern ethical laws and justice systems (Ackrill, 1981). However, the works of philosopher have received a number of critics. The most profound is his perception of women as being inferior to men in the community. He consistently claimed that women can never be full humans. For him, the concept of procreation meant women acting like a passive medium.

Nevertheless, he believed that women and men deserve the same rights to happiness (Ackrill, 1981). He claimed that the human community cannot realize sustainable happiness unlike by ensuring that its women population is happy. Other critics of Aristotles philosophical works are in the accuracy of his claims. According to him, animals were to be grouped into two groups those with blood and those without blood. By this, he failed to acknowledge the fact that even insects do have hemoglobin for respiratory purposes. Still, Alexander the great came to appreciate later that Aristotle gave him wrong geographical information.

In conclusion, Aristotle remains one of the most influential ancient philosophers. Through his logical philosophical arguments, Aristotle pioneered the formal logic school found in the modern society. Another notable contribution is the influence he brought to the character and rise to power of Alexander the great (Ackrill, 1981). Aristotle believed that the strength of a king and his family is sustainable by insuring that the strength of the citizens is lower. It is also claimed that his philosophies brought much influence in the philosophical and theological thinking of the middle age Islamic, Christian, and Jewish religious traditions. Therefore, Aristotle the great philosopher deserves honor for his numerous contributions to the schools of science and arts in the human community.


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