- NAME: Aristotle
- OCCUPATION: Philosopher
- BIRTH DATE: c. 384 BCE
- DEATH DATE: c. 322 BCE
- EDUCATION: Plato's Academy, Lyceum
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Stagira, Chalcidice, Greece
- PLACE OF DEATH: Chalcis, Euboea, Greece
- Full Name: Aristotle
Best Known For
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, together with Socrates and Plato, laid much of the groundwork for western philosophy.
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One of the main focuses of Aristotle’s philosophy was his systematic concept of logic. Aristotle’s objective was to come up with a universal process of reasoning that would allow man to learn every conceivable thing about reality. The initial process involved describing objects based on their characteristics, states of being and actions. In his philosophical treatises, Aristotle also discussed how man might next obtain information about objects through deduction and inference. To Aristotle,
a deduction was a reasonable argument in which “when certain things are laid down, something else follows out of necessity in virtue of their being so.” His theory of deduction is the basis of what philosophers now call a syllogism, a logical argument where the conclusion is inferred from two or more other premises of a certain form.
In his book Prior Analytics, Aristotle explains the syllogism as “a discourse in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from the things supposed results of necessity because these things are so.” Aristotle defined the main components of reasoning in terms of inclusive and exclusive relationships. These sorts of relationships were visually grafted in the future through the use of Venn diagrams.
Aristotle’s philosophy not only provided man with a system of reasoning, but also touched upon ethics. In Nichomachean Ethics, he prescribed a moral code of conduct for what he called “good living.” He asserted that good living to some degree defied the more restrictive laws of logic, since the real world poses circumstances that can present a conflict of personal values. That said, it was up to the individual to reason cautiously while developing his or her own judgment.
Aristotle wrote an estimated 200 works, most in the form of notes and manuscript drafts. They consist of dialogues, records of scientific observations and systematic works. His student Theophrastus reportedly looked after Aristotle’s writings and later passed them to his own student Neleus, who stored them in a vault to protect them from moisture until they were taken to Rome and used by scholars there. Of Aristotle’s estimated 200 works, only 31 are still in circulation. Most date to Aristotle’s time at the Lyceum.
Aristotle’s major writings on logic include Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics and Posterior Analytics. In them, he discusses his system for reasoning and for developing sound arguments.
Aristotle’s written work also discussed the topics of matter and form. In his book Metaphysics, he clarified the distinction between the two. To Aristotle, matter was the physical substance of things, while form was the unique nature of a thing that gave it its identity.
Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics are Aristotle’s major treatises on the behavior and judgment that constitute “good living.” In Politics, Aristotle examined human behavior in the context of society and government.
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