Aristotle was a classical Greek philosopher taught by Plato. He continued the same project of philosophy that Plato was doing, but believed that he was correcting many of Plato’s errors. He wrote on many subjects including science, logic, philosophy, politics and ethics.
Aristotle’s life began in 384BC in Stageira, Chalcidice. This is a region inside Macedonia. His father was the physician to King Amyntas of Macedon, the grandfather of Alexander the Great. When he was 18 years old he traveled to Plato’s Academy to learn. He stayed there until Plato died. He was 37 years old at the time, and had spent 19 years at the Academy. After that he traveled with Xenocrates and Theophrastus. He went with Xenocrates to his friend Hermias of Atarneus. Hermias was a friend of his that he had met at the Academy. He also took a short trip with Theophrastus to the island of Lesbos. Theophrastus had grown up there and wanted to study the local plants. During this time he married Hermias daughter and had a daughter of his own. After Hermias died, he was asked by Philip II to teach his son Alexander. He had spent four years with Hermias. He taught Alexander, established an academy at Macedon and returned to Athens after 8 years. He was now 49 years old. He established another academy at Athens, married again after his wife died and had a son named Nicomachus. It was also during this period that he likely wrote most of his writings. Near the end of his life, Eurymedon the hierophant claimed that he was not holding the gods in honor. Rather than suffer like Socrates, he left Athens and went to his mother’s house in Chalcis. He died in 323BC of natural causes.
Aristotle’s philosophical writings can be divided into five categories: logic, science, metaphysics, ethics and rhetoric. We must also keep in mind that anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of his writings are now lost. His logical works teach about deductive and inductive arguments, how to use those arguments and the place of those arguments in dialectic and disciplinary studies. His scientific works discuss biology, taxonomy, physics, astronomy and the soul. He has only one work in metaphysics. His work on ethics includes the subjects of politics and economics. His work on rhetoric includes his study of Greek tragedy. Aristotle’s work can also be divided by translation. Many commentators in the past have had to rely on poor translations of Aristotle in Latin rather than the original Greek that he wrote his works in.
Aristotle’s beliefs are interdependent and it is hard to pick out key points. However, we can safely say that he rejected Plato’s theory of the Forms. He also promoted the idea that all of our knowledge starts with our senses. This is unlike Plato who thought that the senses did not give us true knowledge. The key points in his philosophy are the four causes, matter and form, substance theory, virtue theory and his logic. By applying his understanding of these key points to previous philosophers, he was able to include many of their insights while justifying his rejection of other parts of their philosophies. Later on, he would influence his own time period before gaining major influence during the rise of Christianity in Europe. Today his influence survives as one of the standards that all philosophers measure themselves against and through the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas.