Aristotle Background

Aristotle: Revolutionary life & legacy of the influential Greek philosopher

The early life of Aristotle

He was born at Stagira, Macedonia, on the Thracian coast around 384 BCE, and grew up in the city’s harbour. He was the son of a Macedonian king’s personal physician, Nichomacus. In the wake of Nichomacus’ death, Aristotle was placed in the care of Proxenus. Aristotle was sent to Athens by Proxenus at the age of 17 to continue his schooling.

Aristotle enrolled at Plato’s Academy of philosophical study, the Academy, upon arriving in Athens and continued there until Plato’s death in 347. An exceptional student, Aristotle quickly began lecturing on rhetoric. Despite Aristotle’s enviable reputation, he was overlooked in favour of Plato’s nephew Speusippus when a successor to Plato was chosen, despite their frequent disagreements.

Aristotle was not a free man for long after he was kicked out of the Academy. Mysia monarch Hermeas offered an invitation to Aristotle to visit his court in Mycenae. Aristotle spent three years in Mysia when he married Pythias, a niece of the monarch. Aristotle was forced to flee Hermeas by the Persians at the end of the three-year period, and he ended up on the island of Lesbos.

The Lyceum and Aristotle

Aristotle made his way back to Athens in 335 B.C. A former wrestling school, the Lyceum, was available for rent to him as an illegal immigrant because he couldn’t own property. The Lyceum, like Plato’s Academy, drew students from all around Greece and built a curriculum based on the principles of its founder. The Lyceum built one of the world’s first big libraries, following Aristotle’s advice to learn from other people’s writings as a necessary element of the philosophical process.

The works of Aristotle

Most of Aristotle’s nearly 200 writings, of which only 31 have survived, were likely written at the Lyceum. According to the way in which they were written, his publications appear to be lecture notes for his school. There are four distinct types of Aristotle’s works that have been preserved.

As a compilation of publications, the “Organon” is an essential toolbox for any philosophical or scientific research. His theoretical writings, which include his famous animal treatises (“Parts of Animals,” “Movement of Animals,” and so on), cosmology, and the “Physics” (a fundamental study into the nature of matter and change), are next (a quasi-theological investigation of existence itself).

“Nicomachean Ethics” and “Politics,” Aristotle’s so-called practical writings, are both thorough inquiries into the nature of human flourishing on an individual, familial, and social level.” “Rhetoric” and “Poetics,” on the other hand, study the final results of human creativity, such as how a well-crafted tragedy may elicit catharsis, terror, and sorrow through a well-crafted argument.



The “Metaphysics” of Aristotle, which he wrote immediately after his “Physics,” is an investigation into the nature of reality. “Wisdom” or “first philosophy” was what he referred to as metaphysics. What can be said about “being qua being”? That’s what he was interested in, and it’s something he delved into extensively. An argument for the presence of God based on logic is also discussed in Aristotle’s “Metaphysics.”


He defined rhetoric as ” the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion,” Aristotle He distinguished ethos (morality), pathos (emotion), and logos (ideas) as the three primary types of rhetoric (logic). Rhetoric was further divided by him into three categories: ceremonial, forensic, and deliberative (where the audience is required to reach a verdict). He has been dubbed “the father of rhetoric” for his pioneering work in this discipline.

The Organon

At roughly 40 B.C., Andronicus of Rhodes and his disciples put together “The Organon” (Latin for “instrument”), a collection of Aristotle’s works on logic. There are six books in this collection, and they are as follows:

1) Categories

2) On Interpretation

3) Prior Analytics

4) Posterior Analytics

5) Topics, and

6) On Sophistical Refutations



The first existing book on theatrical philosophy is “Poetics” by Aristotle, written around 330 B.C. In response to Plato’s claim that poetry is ethically questionable and, as a result, should be banned from a perfect society. Many see it as a reply to Plato. Aristotle, on the other hand, focuses on the function of poetry. Catharsis, he believes, is provided by artistic undertakings like poetry and theatre, which allow people to release their emotions in a healthy way.

Alexander the Great and Aristotle

King Phillip II of Macedonia asked Aristotle to educate his son Alexander in 343 BCE. In response to the young man’s plea, Aristotle agreed to spend seven years working closely with him. Aristotle’s study was finished after seven years when Alexander was anointed, king. Aristotle, despite his departure from Macedonia, had regular contact with Alexander and is believed to have had a long-lasting effect on the young king’s love of literature and the arts.

Terrestrial and celestial regions according to Aristotle

Aristotle separated the cosmos into terrestrial and celestial. The variable terrestrial area comprises the Earth, its seas, and its atmosphere up to the moon’s far side. The celestial area contains stars, sky, and the moon’s dark side. This worldview didn’t alter until the 15th century. Medieval Europeans contested Aristotle’s idea that celestial and terrestrial motion are separate and complementary.

Terrestrial motion

Aristotle separated “natural” and “violent” motion. In terrestrial regions, natural motion is toward the Earth’s centre. A rock falls directly to its natural position, the lowest point imaginable. Any motion in the terrestrial region that is not in a straight line, or in a straight line but not toward the centre of the Earth, is violent motion and can only be caused by an outside agent. Aristotle says violent motion gives way to natural motion. Soldiers shoot arrows from their bows in a straight path, but horizontally or upward, not vertically. It starts with fast motion but arcs downward as it travels until it falls vertically unless it meets a solid target first.

Celestial motion

In the sky or celestial area, the situation is different. Circular motion is normal there. Since people can’t reach the celestial zone, no straight-line motion there is violent. All celestial motion is circular in Aristotle’s viewpoint. Comets and meteors that move in a straight line must be below the moon and on Earth. This notion is reinforced by the Aristotelian view that the natural state of motion in the terrestrial realm is rest, whereas, in the celestial region, the natural state of motion is eternal, perfect circular motion.

Humour, qualities, and elements

The concepts of the four elements, the four characteristics, and the four senses of humour provided by Aristotle in the Middle Ages were the second most significant explanation of the natural world that Aristotle delivered to his audience.

A large number of ancient thinkers, including Aristotle, believed that the material universe was composed of various combinations of the following four elements: Earth, water, air, and fire. There is also a fifth element that can only be found in the celestial area and is known as the ether or the quintessence (the Latin term for “fifth essence”).

Both of these names refer to the same thing. The terms “hot,” “cold,” “wet,” and “dry” refer to four distinct entities that are inextricably linked to the aforementioned four components. Each quality is opposed to one of the others, with hot being opposed to cold and moist being opposed to dry.

Each element is characterized by a combination of two qualities that are not opposed to one another. Fire is hot and dry, while air is hot and moist, water is cold and moist, and Earth is cold and dry. Blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile are the four humors, and they are the components that make up the human body.

They are also tied to the four elements, and as a result, to pairs of characteristics that are not in opposition to one another. A person whose predominant humor is blood, also known as sanguine, tends to have an upbeat and self-assured demeanor. Blood, also known as sanguine, shares these characteristics with air.

Pure elements as compared to Earthly elements

There is no guarantee that the four pure elements are identical to the terrestrial substances that share the same names. Real Earth, often known as dirt, undoubtedly has a predominant amount of the element earth, just as true water (H2O) is predominantly composed of the element water.

When it comes to everything else on Earth, two, three, or even all four of the terrestrial elements come together to form the substances. In the same way that mud is a mixture of Earth and water, granite rock is a mixture of Earth, fire (due to the fact that granite is found in hilly and volcanic regions), and maybe air or water as well.

Sandstone, in comparison to granite, contains a higher percentage of either water or air within it due to sandstone’s lower density and greater pliability. The proportions of Earth, air, fire, and water in particular substances were never specified in any of Aristotle’s writings or those of his contemporaries, but both groups held the belief that it was possible, at least in principle, to ascertain those quantities.

The influence of Aristotle throughout the Middle Ages and beyond

The work of Albertus Magnus and notably Thomas Aquinas reintroduced Aristotle to the Western world in the 13th century. Aquinas’s great synthesis of Aristotelian and Christian ideas provided a bedrock for late medieval Catholic philosophy, theology, and science.

During the Renaissance and Reformation, religious and scientific reformers questioned the way in which the Catholic Church had assimilated Aristotle’s doctrines. As a result, Aristotle’s worldwide influence began to decline slightly during these periods.

His geocentric model of the solar system was invalidated by scientists like as Galileo and Copernicus, and many of his biological beliefs were demolished by anatomists such as William Harvey. However, despite the passage of time, Aristotle’s writings continue to serve as an important jumping-off point for debates pertaining to logic, aesthetics, political theory, and ethics.

Legacy of Aristotle

After Alexander the Great passed away in 323 B.C., anti-Macedonian prejudice once again prompted Aristotle to depart Athens and seek refuge elsewhere. In the year 322, he passed away a little distance north of the city from a stomach illness. He made the request to be laid to rest close to his wife, who had passed away some years earlier. In his later years, he had an affair with his slave Herpyllis.

Aristotle’s favourite pupils eventually assumed control of the Lyceum, but after a few decades, the Lyceum’s influence began to wane in contrast to that of the Academy, which was Aristotle’s other institution. The works of Aristotle were almost completely lost to history for a number of generations. Although the historian Strabo claims that they were hidden away for generations in a musty cellar in Asia Minor before being unearthed in the first century B.C., it is highly doubtful that they were the only copies that ever existed of the documents.

Table of Contents

Aristotle: The life and legacy of influential Greek philosopher 1

The early life of Aristotle. 1

The Lyceum and Aristotle. 1

The works of Aristotle. 1

Metaphysics 2

Rhetoric. 2

The Organon. 2

Poetics 2

Alexander the Great and Aristotle. 2

Terrestrial and celestial regions according to Aristotle. 3

Terrestrial motion. 3

Celestial motion. 3

Humour, qualities, and elements 3

Pure elements as compared to Earthly elements 4

The influence of Aristotle throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. 4

Legacy of Aristotle. 4

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