Top 10 Facts about Aristotle


Top 10 Facts about Aristotle

Aristotle was born in 384 BC in Stagira, Chalcidice, about 34 miles east of modern-day Thessaloniki. He is debatably one of the most renowned figures in the history of ancient Greece. He was an admired pupil of famed olden Greek philosopher Plato. But, unlike Plato and Socrates, Aristotle exhibited the characteristic of using scientific and factual reasoning in his study of nature, a peculiarity his forerunners regularly discarded in favour of their philosophical opinions. Perhaps it was because of his firm fascination with nature, logic and reason that he went on to make some pivotal contributions. These contributions are still reflected in modern-day mathematics, metaphysics, physics, biology, botany, politics, medicine, and many more. He earned the honour of being called the First Teacher. To delve further into the details of his achievements, here is a list of the top 10 facts about Aristotle.

1. Aristotle was an orphaned at a young age

Both of Aristotle’s parents died when he was about thirteen, and Proxenus of Atarneus became his guardian. Proxenus educated Aristotle for a couple of years before sending him to Athens to Plato’s Academy. He lived on Atarneus, a city in Asia Minor. Aristotle remained in Athens for nearly twenty years before leaving in 348/47 BC. It is possible that he feared the anti-Macedonian sentiments in Athens at that time and left before Plato died.

2. He is the founder of zoology

Upon Plato’s death, Aristotle travelled on to the court of his friend Hermias of Atarneus in Asia Minor, accompanied by Xenocrates. After the death of Hermias, Aristotle travelled with his pupil Theophrastus to the island of Lesbos, where together they researched the botany and zoology of the island and its sheltered lagoon. Aristotle was a man ahead of his time. He had new ideas on how to study the world. He used to make detailed observations of the world and recorded what he saw. In his quest to learn more about the anatomy of animals he started dissecting them, which was a new practice. Greek philosophers and educators of those times used to do all their work in their mind, thinking about the world without observing it.

3. He was a tutor to royalty

In 343 BC, Aristotle was invited by Philip II of Macedon to become the tutor to his son Alexander the Great. He took much advice from his teacher. Aristotle also taught Ptolemy and Cassander, who were both eventually crowned kings.

3. Aristotle’s life of romance

Aristotle married Pythias and had a daughter whom he also named Pythias, after her mother. After the unfortunate passing of his first wife, Aristotle fell in love with Herpyllis. Herpyllis was the former slave of Pythias.  His new wife went on to bear him a son who he named Nicomachus.

4. Aristotle contributed to the classification of animals

Aristotle was the first person to venture into the classification of different animals. He used characteristics that are common among certain animals to categorize them into comparable groups. For example, based on the presence of blood, he created two different groups such as animals with blood and animals without blood. Similarly, based on their habitat, he classified animals as ones that live in water and ones that live on land. In his view, life had a hierarchical make-up and all living beings could be grouped in this hierarchy based on their position from lowest to highest. He placed the human species highest in this pecking order.

5. His contributions to Physics

It is true that while Aristotle was the founder of new frontiers in the field of life sciences, his ventures into physics fell short by comparison. His studies in physics seem to have been highly influenced by pre-established ideas of modern and earlier Greek thinkers. For example, in his dissertations on Generation and Corruption and On the Heavens, the world set-up he described had many similarities with proposals made by some pre-Socratic era theorists. He embraced Empedocles’ view on the make-up of the universe that everything was created from different compositions of the four fundamental elements: earth, water, air, and fire.

In the same way, Aristotle supposed that any kind of change meant something was in motion. In a rather self-contradicting way (at least the initial interpreters found it to be so), he defined the motion of anything as the actuality of a potentiality. In its entirety, Aristotle understood physics as a part of theoretical science that was in sync with natural philosophy. Perhaps a more identical term to attach to Aristotle’s interpretation would be simply the study of nature.

6. His thoughts on Psychology

Aristotle was the first to write a book that was concerned with the specifics of psychology: De Anima or On the Soul. In this book, he suggests the idea of abstraction that reigns over the body and mind of a human being. The body and mind exist within the same being and are entwined in such a way that the mind is one of the many basic functions of the body.

In a more detailed psychological analysis, he divided the human intellect into two essential categories: the passive intellect and the active intellect. According to Aristotle, it is human nature to imitate something that, even if on a merely superficial level, provides us with a sense of happiness and satisfaction. His contributions were a giant leap forward from the pre-scientific era psychology that went before him and led us into an age of far more precise qualitative and quantitative analysis.

7. Aristotle’s views on ethics

It would be an injustice to Aristotle’s work if one were to attempt to summarize the rich details of Aristotelian ethics within the bounds of a couple of paragraphs. However, we cannot shy away from sharing his magnificent contributions. The Nicomachean Ethics stands out as a major highlight of Aristotle’s interpretations. It represents the best-known work on ethics by Aristotle: a collection of ten books based on notes taken from his various lectures at the Lyceum. The Nicomachean Ethics lays out Aristotle’s thoughts on various moral virtues and their respective details.

Aristotelian ethics outline the different social and behavioural virtues of an ideal man. For example, the confidence one bears in the face of fear and defeat stacks up as courage, the ability to resist the temptations of physical pleasures stand out as a person’s temperance, liberality and magnificence speak of the volumes of wealth one can give away for the welfare of others, and any ambition can never be truly magnanimous unless it attains an impeccable balance between the honour it promises and the dues it pays. These, along with other pivotal excerpts, build the groundwork for Aristotle’s endeavours in ethics. In this ethical essence, Aristotle believed that “regardless of the various influences of our parents, society and nature, we are the sole narrators of our souls and their active states.”

8. Aristotle on Politics

“Politics” is a word derived from the Greek word polis which in ancient Greece represented any city-state. Aristotle believed that the ‘polis’ reflected the topmost strata of political association. Being a citizen of a polis was essential for a person to lead a good-quality life. Attaining this status meant that a citizen needed to make necessary political connections to secure permanent residence. In Aristotle’s view, this very pursuit pointed to the fact that “man is a political animal.”

Without a doubt, the various ventures of Aristotle’s life helped shape his political acumen in ways his predecessors and contemporaries could not. His progressive adventures in the biology of natural flora and fauna are quite visible in the naturalism of his politics. He divides the polis and its respective constitutions into six categories, of which three he judges to be good and the remaining three bad. In his view, the good ones are constitutional government, aristocracy, and kingship, and the bad ones include democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny. He believes that the political valuation of an individual directly depends on their contributions in making the life of their polis better.

9. Aristotle has many nicknames

Aristotle’s name roughly translated means “the best purpose“. However, as Aristotle became famous he gathered several monikers. While he was still alive he was known as “the man who knew everything“. Later Tomas Aquinas named him simply “The Philosopher“, as he thought Aristotle was the only philosopher one would ever need. In the late medieval era, Dante Alighieri named him “The Master” in his masterpiece Divine Comedy.

10. Aristotle started a school

Aristotle started a school in Lyceum known as Peripatetic school. Many attribute this name to Aristotle’s alleged habit of walking while lecturing, coming from the word peripatêtikos (Greek meaning “of walking”), it’s more likely the name came from peripatoi, colonnades that surrounded the Lyceum.

Now you know the top 10 facts about Aristotle. I hope you enjoyed reading this article.