Aristotle - History
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was the notable philosopher whose writings greatly influenced the entire course of ancient and medieval philosophy. Indeed, his words are avidly discussed and studied by students of philosophy today.
He was born in Stagira of Macedonia in 384 BC. He was taught by the great philosopher, Plato, and studied with him in Athens for 20 years. For some years Aristotle served in Macedonia as tutor for a youngster who would come to be known as Alexander the Great. When Alexander succeeded to the throne, Aristotle returned to Athens and established his own school, the Lyceum, which survived for 500 years.
Aristotle taught the range of human knowledge; it is believed that he had received his love of the scientific from his father, Nichomachus, who served in the court of Philip of Macedon as a physician. The range of subjects offered at the Lyceum included logic, metaphysics, theology, history, politics, ethics, aesthetics, astronomy, meteorology, and an ancient equivalent of physics and chemistry.
Aristotle – His Works
Aristotle’s teachings and writings continue to influence philosophy and thought to this day even though only a fraction of his works remain. Most of the surviving works were compiled from his lecture notes which accounts for the inconsistencies and crudeness readers may find in them. Three of his well known works include The Nicomachean Ethics, The Eudemian Ethics, and Magna Moralia.
Aristotle – Virtue
One of Aristotle’s oft discussed ideas is The Doctrine of the Mean. In it is found a lot of philosophical jargon which does not impart wisdom and instruction or rules of morality; philosophical fellows may argue its merits but one is none better for the discussion. This thinking emphasizes avoiding too much or too little and is applied to everything from appetite to charitable giving to punishment. Arguments arise because no specifics or measurements can be accurately given. From this doctrine arise questions about man, what is a “good” man; what is the difference between technical goodness and moral goodness?
“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim” (Nicomachean Ethics 1.1).
“Human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete. But we must add ‘in complete life.’ For one swallow does not make a summer, not does one day, and so too one day, a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy” (Nicomachean Ethics 1.7).
“The virtue of man also will be the state of character which makes a man good and which makes him do his own work well” (Nicomachean Ethics 2.3)
“It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference” (Nicomachean Ethics 2.1).
“If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us” (Nicomachean Ethics 10.7).