Aristotle (right) with Plato (left), a detail from the Athenian school a fresco by Raphael
Aristotle ( Greek : Ἀριστοτέλης, Aristotélēs ) ( Stageira , 384 BC – Chalcis , 322 BC ) was a Greek philosopher and scientist who is regarded with Socrates and Plato as one of the most influential classical philosophers in Western tradition. He was a member of Plato’s philosophical Akademeia and his influence is therefore present in Aristotle’s work, although Aristotle represents a philosophical movement distinct from Plato.
Aristotle was a son of the famous physician Nicomachus, personal physician of King Amyntas III of Macedonia (the grandfather of Alexander the Great ). Aristotle has become orphaned early. He was raised by his uncle Proxenus. At the age of seventeen he left for Athens and was admitted to Plato’s Academy as a student , which he left after twenty years later, after Plato’s death in 347 BC.
Aristotle may be seen as the first homo universalis , because he was competent in the totality of the then known sciences (philosophy, psychology, political and social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences, language and literature, theater …), which he systematically and methodically worked out into a closed system. Aristotle can thus be regarded as a system philosopher . He also introduced logic and methodology as a way to practice science and philosophy .
After working as a lecturer in a few places, he became in about 342 BC. King Philip II called to Macedonia to teach as a private teacher the upbringing of his thirteen-year-old son Alexander , later called ‘Alexander the Great’ (until about 340 BC). 
He returned in 335 BC. back to Athens, where he taught for thirteen years in the Peripatos (walkway) of the Lyceum (Greek Lykeion). That is why he is called the founder of the ” Peripatetic School “.
As a result of an anti-Macedonian reaction following the sudden death of Alexander the Great (in 323 BC) he was considered a collaborator and accused of wickedness. Unlike Socrates, he left the city, stating “that he wanted to save the Athenians a second offense against philosophy,” referring to Socrates . He moved to Chalkis , to the estate of his mother. There he died one year later from the consequences of a stomach illness at the age of sixty-one. His testament shows that Aristotle was a caring family man and a human master for his slaves. Some of his friends have faithfully followed him throughout his life.
12th century copy of Historia animalium ( Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana , pluteo 87.4)
Much of the original work of Aristotle has already been lost in the first centuries after his death. Among the lost works are also his dialogues, the only texts published by Aristotle himself. Presumably only about a fifth of the total work has been preserved and known. The – still very numerous – preserved works by Aristotle are mostly course notes and lesson plans for personal use, and were originally not intended for publication. This is an explanation for the unsystematic or sketchy structure for some readers of some of the texts known to us. Books like Ethics and Politicshowever, there are examples to the contrary: seldom have books been published that contain such a clear structure and a clearly logical red line. What is striking about the philosophy of Aristotle in a book like the Ethics is the constant urge to describe the truth instead of complicated or contrived theories. With a book like the Ethicashows Aristotle flawlessly that his philosophy possessed the most advanced insights several hundred years before Christ. Insights that apply not only to the present time, but, just like its character, are universal (and timeless). Aristotle’s works are traditionally written in Latin: during the Middle Ages they were only known in the West in a Latin translation of an Arabic translation from Greek. Many of his works have been translated by the Arab scholar Averroes .
Other works of Aristotle
·Ethics: the Nicomachea Ethics
·Logic: the Categoriae , Analytica priora , Interpretatione , Analytica posteriora , Sofistic refutations and Topica
·Natural philosophy: the Physica , The Caelo , The Generation and Corruption , Meteorologica , Historia animalium , Partibus animalium, Generatione animalium , De Anima and Parva naturalia
·Practical philosophy: Politics , Rhetorica and Poetica
The collected works of the preserved texts of Aristotle are bundled in the Corpus Aristotelicum . (This does not include the text with the description of the Athenian political order, known as Athenaion Politeia .)
Key philosophical propositions
Aristotle honors “eudaemonism”: life aims to find bliss (joy) (Greek eudaimonia ) by:
·the study of philosophy (= consideration of ‘ Being ‘) and science
·the Phronèsis , according to Aristotle, the most important virtue, which implies moral sensibility, which lies in practice. The phronesis is the insight that makes it possible to choose the ‘good’ action and determine the ‘middle’, between reason and feeling. Aristotle is the founder of virtue ethics .
·pleasure (Greek hèdonè > ” hedonism “)
Cosmology / ontology
·Each individually experienced thing is a combination of:
·a substance, matter ( hyle )
·a form ( morphè ); it did not exist separately, as an outer world reality (as Plato saw in his Idea-doctrine ), but is only real insofar as it is realized in the concrete thing. In Aristotle’s vision, all things can be understood with the mind. With this he joins Socrates’ idea of knowing the generally valid truth concerning goodness and virtue.
·The most common feature of all things is being , but that can take on very different meanings:
·are according to one of these ten categories :
1.substance: eg. Pieter Janssen is a human being
2.quantity: eg. PJ is 76 kg heavy
3.quality: eg. PJ is a mathematics teacher
4.relationship: eg. PJ is younger than his brother Wim
5.place: eg. PJ is in Brussels
6.time: eg. PJ lives in the 21st century (he is … alive)
7.position: eg. PJ is right (he is … standing)
8.condition: eg. PJ is ill
9.action: eg. PJ writes
10.experience: eg. PJ is / has been inspired
·are as current or potential (eg a boy of twelve is currently a student , and potentially a professional footballer , or a lawyer , or a gangster …; an oak is currently a tree , and potentially a table or a chair …)
·be as true or false (eg: it is beautiful … = not ugly )
·are as substantial / essential (eg: people are mortal …) or incidental (eg: I am dead …)
·Change and movement ( becoming ) is a transition from potency (Greek dynamis , ie the ability to change) to act (Greek entelecheia , ie a certain degree of perfection), by an (internal or external) cause
·with every change / movement you can ask four questions:
1.What has changed ?
2.How did the form come about ?
3.Who / what has caused the change ?
4.With what purpose ?
·to answer these four questions, Aristotle responds. four “causes”:
1.a material cause (causa materialis)
2.a formal cause (causa formalis)
3.a moving cause (causa efficiens)
4.a final cause (causa finalis)
·on the basis of a practical example: a sculptor makes a bronze statue of Queen Juliana :
1.material cause = the bronze
2.formal cause = the idea in the mind of the sculptor about the finished image, also found in the image itself
3.moving cause = the sculptor
4.final cause = the image, as a lasting memory of the deceased queen
Of the four causes, Aristotle considered the causa finalis or ‘goal-cause’ as the main cause, which later in the Middle Ages was called the ‘causa causarum’ or cause of the causes.
·“God” = pure act, without dust or potency, “the first unmoving mover” , the ultimate cause of all being and becoming of all.
·Man is part of the cosmos, which is constantly evolving towards greater perfection (ie “directed towards God” / teleology ).
Psychology / epistemology (or knowledge theory)
·Categorical rejection of Plato’s dualism : the soul is inseparable part of the physicality, but it does possess an immaterial cognition. (This is how Aristotle’s ideas live now.)
·The intellect forms, by abstraction, the concepts and categories, by the sensory knowledge. Aristotle assumed that the eye sees things as they are, that the audience hears the actual sounds, etc., and that a theory must be based on the sensibly perceptible and demonstrable ( empirical ) reality. Our perceptions of the specific, separate are true in themselves, and they give us an image of reality; errors only arise because those observations are wrongly connected.
·There are three types of “souls”:
1.vegetative soul: focused on nutrition, growth and reproduction (all life forms)
2.sensitive soul: senses, desires (“making sense “), movement (animals and man)
3.cognitive soul: possesses potential the ability to know the good, but does what he does topical.
Aristotle came to the conclusion that the nature of our soul is spiritual / spiritual by philosophizing; all material beings consist of matter + form. In living beings the form is called soul. The soul must be spiritual because we take knowledge in us as relationships between forms. And we do not take a concrete table in us, but the essence of the term table. Here, Aristotle introduces the term “tabula rasa” (plain / empty shelf). The shapes are printed in the laundry from the flat plank. Because the cognitive soul of man is spiritual, the soul continues to exist after death. Death is then also defined as the separation of body and soul.
Properties of the souls are;
·single – without sharing,
·immaterial – a living being is completely alive, the soul has no specific place in the being, and does not identify with matter,
·a soul is one and also keeps the body together.
Like Plato, Aristotle also fought the sophists , but he did so by giving a systematic overview of the causes of their false reasoning. In this way he designed the formal logic (the regularity of the thought process: syllogism / cause and effect …). An example of a syllogism: Major: All people are mortal minor: Greeks are people. Conclusion: Greeks are mortal. The well-known ‘Socrates is a human’ syllogism, according to Aristotle, is not a syllogism, because according to him a term can never relate to an individual. You can say that all are XY, or that some are XY, but never one particular X is Y.
·Man is by nature a social being (Greek sun politikon ), and can only find his perfection in a policy community
·There is no “ideal” state: the “best form of government” differs according to the concrete, local conditions, if only he seeks the welfare of all his subjects.
·The smartest person is the one with the knowledge of discrimination, but who nevertheless does the “normal” thing, since that is more accepted.
Aristotle distinguished three forms of government in Politika (350 BC). These three each had a good and a bad form, which again had subdivisions. They did not occur in this extreme form, they were ideal types :
A ( monarchy )
monarchy ( basileus )
Tyranny is therefore the bad counterpart of the monarchy with Aristotle. This makes it difficult to make a clear definition of the two and this depends more on the support from the population. He sees tannannicide as an act of those who are out for personal gain, while those who act from the public interest are rare.
Aristotle as a scientist
Aristotle pondering at a bust of Homer (1653 ) by Rembrandt van Rijn
Aristotle used an analytical , inductive way of thinking: distilling a generally valid truth from the actions of the individual and the perceptible reality. Based on this, he also studied a large number of issues in, among other things, movements (becoming) in nature and biology, and was impressed by the organization and efficiency. This led him to the statement ” Nature does nothing in vain. ” In his view, the world consists of the four elements of earth, water, air and fire, surrounded by the ether , the so-called ‘fifth body’, and outside of it layers of atmosphere, the outermost of which would be the fixed stars. The extreme atmosphere is in his visionGod , the Unmoved Mover . His ethical views have been elaborated in the Nicomachean Ethics .
His work De Interpretatione deals with the meaning of language utterances (fits word (s) and subject matter of that utterance entirely, partially or not at all, in other words: is the expression true, partly true or false) and the logic ensuing therefrom ( the syllogism ). He used both induction and deduction. See also Classical semiotics .
He looked for generally applicable principles, based on real and perceptible facts or assumptions, which he then tested for individual cases.
Fourteen of his works are bundled in his Metaphysics , aimed at investigations of ‘being’, or ontology . According to him, the Platonic ” idea ” exists only in the separate things, and not as transcendent reality, as Plato saw. He therefore disagreed with Plato about the existence of universals for which no private example could be found in the world.
In Aristotle’s vision, all things can be understood with the mind. With this he joins Socrates’ idea of knowing the generally valid truth concerning goodness and virtue. With his study of heredity , in which he already distinguished between dominant and recessive factors, Aristotle anticipated the work of Gregor Mendel .
Aristotle set up a philosophical school, the Peripatetic School , based on his own method of philosophy companies, also known as Aristotelianism . In later generations the school focused mainly on the natural sciences and allowed philosophy to be what it was. However, the Greek philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias wrote around 200 AD. an interesting commentary on the Organon and Metaphysics .
The last class of classical Greek philosophers, the Neo-Platonists , knew and studied Aristotle’s work well. Through them his work was translated into Syriac and Arabic, which influenced the Arab world long before it influenced the thinkers of the West – this happened only in the 12th century in Andalusia thanks to the works of Ibn Rushd or Averroës and the translations by Jewish intellectuals there. Before that, only his work Logica was about 500 by the Roman Boethiustranslated into Latin. All his other writings became obligatory subject matter in the Western academic world some 800 years later, and of course they only broadened from the invention of the printing press. After the Golden Age in the Netherlands, his ideas fell out of favor, but from about 1800 Aristotle’s popularity returned. The Polish philosopher Jan Łukasiewicz (1878-1956) carried out research into his formal logic.
Aristotle and Fyllis (Phyllis)
A representation that occurs frequently in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance is derived from a story whose origin can not be determined with certainty. One sees Aristotle creeping on hands and on feet, in his mouth a bridle, on his back sits a woman Fyllis who leads him. The motif is very common to church portals and has been popular in printmaking .
·A companion to Aristotle (2009) / ed. By Georgios Anagnostopoulos. Wiley-Blackwell, Malden (MA). XVIII, 648 p. Blackwell companions to philosophy; 42. ISBN 978-1-405-12223-8 . Also went out. as e-book
·Barnes, Jonathan (2000). Aristotle / vert. from English by Willemien de Leeuw … et al. Lemniscaat, Rotterdam. 160 p. ISBN 90-5637-277-7 . English issue: Oxford University Press, 1982
·Strathern, Paul (2000) Aristotle in 90 minutes / vert. from English by Thijs Goverde. Holland, Haarlem. 64 p. ISBN 90-251-0842-3 . English issue: Constable and Company, London. 1996
·Bos, Abraham P. (1999). The soul and its vehicle: reinterpreted Aristotle’s psychology and demonstrated the unity of his oeuvre . Damon, Leende. 144 p. ISBN 90-5573-060-2