Aristotle of Estagira (384 BC-322 BC) was a Macedonian philosopher of the ancient Greek civilization, considered among the main thinkers of the West and whose ideas, collected in around 200 treatises of which only 31 are still preserved, have been valid and influence on our intellectual history for more than two thousand years. For example: he postulated the principle of non-contradiction, he proposed an ethic of virtues.
His writings covered a large number of interests, from logic, politics, ethics , physics, and rhetoric, to poetics, astronomy, and biology; areas of knowledge in which he played a transformative role, in some cases even foundational: his were the first systematic studies of logic and biology in history.
He was a disciple of other important philosophers such as Plato and Eudoxus, during the twenty years in which he was trained at the Academy of Athens, the same city where he would later found the Lyceum, a place where he would teach until the fall of his disciple, Alexander of Macedonia, also known as Alexander the Great. Then he would go to the city of Chalcis, where he would die the following year.
The trajectory of Aristotle is the cornerstone of science and contemporary philosophies, and often pays homage in conferences, treaties and international publications.
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Works of Aristotle
The works written by Aristotle that have survived to us are 31, although the authorship of some of them is currently in dispute. The so-called Corpus aristotelicum (Aristotelian body), however, is studied in its Prussian edition by Inmanuel Bekker, drawn up between 1831-1836, and many of its titles still remain in Latin.
- Treatises of Logic . Categories ( Categoriae ), Of interpretation ( De interpretatione ), First analytical ( Analytica priora ), Second analytic ( Analytica posterior ), Topics ( Topica ), Sophistic refutations ( De sophisticis elenchis ).
- Physics treatises . Physics ( Physica ), On the sky ( De caelo ), On generation and corruption ( De generatione et corruptione ), Meteorology ( Meteorologica ), Of the universe ( Of world ), Of the soul ( Of anima ), Small treatises on the nature ( Parva naturalia ), Of respiration ( De spiritu ), History of animals ( Historia animalium ), Parts of animals ( De partibus animalium ), Movement of animals ( De motu animalium ), Progression of animals ( By incessu animalium), Generation of animals ( De generatione animalium ), Of colors ( De coloribus ), Of things of hearing ( De audibilibus ), Physiognomonic ( Physiognomonica ), Of plants ( De plantis ), Of heard wonders ( De mirabilibus auscultationibus ), Mechanics ( Mechanica ), Problems ( Problemata ), Of the imperceptible lines ( De lineis insecabilibus ), The places of the winds ( Ventorum situs ), Melisos, Xenophanes and Gorgias (abbreviated MXG ).
- Treatise on metaphysics . Metaphysics ( Metaphysica ).
- Ethics and politics treaties . Ética nicomaquea ( Ethica Nicomachea ), Gran moral ( Magna moralia ), Ética eudemia ( Ethica Eudemia ), Booklet on the virtues and vices ( De virtutibus et vitiis libellus ), Politics ( Politics ), Economics ( Oeconomica ) and Constitution of the Athenians ( Athenaion politea ).
- Treatises of rhetoric and poetics . Rhetoric art ( Ars rhetorica ), Rhetoric to Alexander ( Rhetorica ad Alexandrum ) and Poetics ( Ars poetic ).
Examples of Aristotle’s contributions
- He built his own philosophical system . Opposed to the ideas of his teacher Plato, for whom the world was made up of two planes: the sensible and the intelligible, Aristotle proposed that the world had no compartments. Thus, he criticized the “Theory of forms” of his teacher, who postulated that the world of ideas was the true world and that the perceptible world was only a reflection of it. For Aristotle, things are made up of a matter and a form, irremediably together in the essence of reality, and their truth can only be reached empirically, that is, through experience.
- He is the founding father of logic . The first research systems on the principles of validity or invalidity of reasoning are attributed to this Greek philosopher, through the construction of the category of the syllogism (deduction). According to his own words, this is “a discourse ( logos ) in which, once certain things are established, it necessarily results from them, because they are what they are, something else different”; that is, a mechanism for inference of conclusions from a set of premises. This system made it possible to study the reasoning mechanism itself from the validity or invalidity of the premises. A model that remains in force until today.
- He postulated the principle of non-contradiction . Another great contribution to logic was the principle of non-contradiction, which stipulates that a proposition and its negation cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. Hence, any reasoning that implies a contradiction may be considered false. Aristotle also devoted his efforts to the study of fallacies (invalid reasoning), of which he identified and classified thirteen main types.
- He proposed a division of philosophy . In those times, philosophy was understood as the “study of truth”, so its object of interest was quite broad. Aristotle instead proposed a series of disciplines based on it: logic, which he considered a preparatory discipline; theoretical philosophy, made up of physics, mathematics and metaphysics; and practical philosophy, which consisted of ethics and politics.
- He proposed an ethic of virtues . Aristotle defended as essential the virtues of the spirit, that is, those that had to do with human reason, which for him was divided into two: the intellect and the will. Through them, man could control his irrational part. These precepts would serve a whole stream of philosophical schools to come, whose division of man between a rational and irrational aspect would incarnate in other forms, such as the Christian division between the imperishable soul and the mortal body.
- He exposed the classical theory of the forms of government . This theory was taken up practically unchanged in much later centuries and underpins much of our current system of political classifications. Aristotle proposed six forms of government, classified according to whether or not they sought the common good and the number of existing rulers, namely:
- Regimes that seek the common good:
- If a single person governs: Monarchy
- If few rule: Aristocracy
- If many rule: Democracy
- Regimes degraded from them:
- If one person rules: Tyranny
- If few rule: Oligarchy
- If many rule: Demagoguery
- Regimes that seek the common good:
This Aristotelian text and its abundant examples have served historians to reconstruct much of the Greek society of the time.
- He proposed a geocentric astronomical model . This model thought of the earth as a fixed entity (although round) around which the stars revolved in a spherical vault. This model remained in force throughout the centuries, until Nicolás Copernicus in the 16th century introduced a model that posed the Sun as the center of the universe.
- He developed a physical theory of the four elements . His physical theory was based on the existence of four elemental substances: water, earth, air, fire and ether. To each one he assigned a natural movement, namely: the first two moved towards the center of the universe, the next two moved away from it, and the ether revolved around said center. This theory remained in force until the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.
- He postulated the theory of spontaneous generation . Perfected by Jan Van Helmont in the 17th century and finally refuted by the studies of Louis Pasteur, this theory of the spontaneous appearance of life proposed the creation of life from humidity, dew or sweat, thanks to a life-generating force from the matter, which he baptized as entelechy .
- It laid the foundations for literary theory . Between his Rhetoric and his Poetics , Aristotle studied the forms of language and imitative poetry , overcoming Plato’s suspicion of poets (whom he had expelled from his Republic as liars), and thus laying the foundations for a philosophical study of aesthetics and literary arts, which he divided into three major forms:
- Epics . Precursor of the narrative, it has a mediator (narrator) who recalls or recounts the events and therefore is very far from the truth of them.
- Tragedy . By reproducing the events and making them happen in front of the public, this form of representation is the highest for Aristotle and the one that serves the best ends for the polis, since it represents man better than he is, and also his fall.
- Comedy . Similar to tragedy, but representing men worse than they are. The comedy study fragments in Aristotle’s Poetics have been lost, sadly.