Phil 1000-022 Alexander Izrailevsky

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Alex Condie

PHIL 1000-022

Alexander Izrailevsky


Great Philosopher: Aristotle

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and considered the first methodic scientist, who shares with Plato and Socrates as being considered some of the most prestigious of ancient philosophers. He was born at Stagira, in Macedonia, the son of a physician to the royal court. When he was still a teen, he went to Athens to study at Plato's Academy. He stayed for about 20 years, as a student and then as a teacher. 

When Plato died in 347 BC, Aristotle moved to Assos, a city in Asia Minor, where a friend of his named Hernias was the ruler. He counseled Hernias and married his niece and adopted daughter, Pythias. After Hernias was captured and executed by the Persians, Aristotle went to Pella, Macedonia's capital, and became the tutor of the king's young son Alexander, later known as Alexander the Great. In 335, when Alexander became king, Aristotle went back to Athens and established his own school, the Lyceum. Since a lot of the lessons happened when teachers and students were walking, it was nicknamed the Peripatetic school (Peripatetic means walking). When Alexander died in 323 BC, strong anti-Macedonian feeling was felt in Athens, and Aristotle went to a family estate in Euboea. He died there the following year. 

Aristotle, like Plato, used his dialogue in his beginning years at the Academy. Apart from a few fragments in the works of later writers, his dialogues have been wholly lost. Aristotle also wrote some short technical writings, including a dictionary of philosophic terms and a summary of the "doctrines of Pythagoras" (the guy from the Pythagorean Theorem). Of these, only a few short pieces have survived. Still in good shape, though, are Aristotle's lecture notes for carefully outlined courses treating almost every type of knowledge and art. The writings that made him famous are mostly these, which were collected by other editors. . 

Among the writings are short informative lectures on logic, called Organon (which means "instrument"), because "they provide the means by which positive knowledge is to be attained". His writing on natural science includes Physics, which gives a huge amount of information on astronomy, meteorology, plants, and animals. His writings on the nature, scope, and properties of being, which Aristotle called First Philosophy (to him it was "Prote philosophia"), were given the title Metaphysics in the first published version of his works (around 60 BC), because in that edition they followed Physics. His belief of the "Prime Mover", or first cause, was pure intellect, perfect in unity, immutable, and, as he said, "the thought of thought," is given in the Metaphysics. Other famous works include his Rhetoric, his Poetics (which we only have incomplete pieces of), and his Politics (also incomplete). 

Because of the influence of his father's medical profession, Aristotle's philosophy was mainly stressed on biology, the opposite of Plato's emphasis on mathematics. Aristotle regarded the world as "made up of individuals (substances) occurring in fixed natural kinds (species)". He said "each individual has its built-in specific pattern of development and grows toward proper self-realization as a specimen of its type. Growth, purpose, and direction are thus built into nature." 

Although science studies many things, according to Aristotle, "these things find their existence in particular individuals. Science and philosophy must therefore balance, not simply choose between, the claims of empiricism (observation and sense experience) and formalism (rational deduction)." 

One of the most famous of Aristotle's contributions was a new notion of causality. "Each thing or event," he thought, "has more than one 'reason' that helps to explain what, why, and where it is." Earlier Greek thinkers thought that only one sort of cause can explain itself; Aristotle said four. (The word Aristotle uses, aition, "a responsible, explanatory factor" is not the same as the word cause now.) 

These four causes are the "material cause", (the matter out of which a thing is made); the "efficient cause", (the source of motion, generation, or change); the "formal cause", (the species, kind, or type); and "the final cause", (the goal, or full development, of an individual, or the intended function of a construction or invention.) Although I don't know what these mean, they sound example he gave is "a young lion is made up of tissues and organs, its material cause; the efficient cause is its parents, who generated it; the formal cause is its species, lion; and its final cause is its built- in drive toward maturity." Another example he gave is "the material cause of a statue is the marble from which it was carved; the efficient cause is the sculptor; the formal cause is the shape the sculptor realized Hermes, perhaps; and the final cause is its function, to be a work of fine art." 

In each way, Aristotle says that something can be better understood when its causes can be said in specific terms rather than in general terms. So it is more informative to know that a "sculptor" made the statue than to know that an "artist" made it; and even more informative to know that "Polycleitus" chiseled it rather than simply that a "sculptor" did so. 

In astronomy, Aristotle proposed a finite, spherical universe, with the earth at its center. The center is made up of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. In Aristotle's physics, all of these four elements has a right place, determined by its relative heaviness, its "specific gravity." Each moves naturally in a straight line. Earth goes down, fire up toward its proper place, where it will be at rest. 

So Earth's motion is always in a line and always comes to a halt. The heavens, though, move "naturally and endlessly in a complex circular motion". The heavens, according to, must be made of a fifth, and different element, which he called "aither." The strongest element, aither can't change other than change of place in a circle movement. Aristotle's theory that linear motion always takes place through a resisting medium is actually true for all planets that we can see motions. 

In his views of democracy, Aristotle believed that democracy was the best political system. It played into his theory of keeping the mean and his support of the middle class as the ruling class for a healthy strong society. It is in the middle class that stability is found and exponential growth in the economy and development of the nation.

He also had a different view on relationships, mainly that the most honorable to achieve above all else is friendship. His main point is that a genuine friendship is grounded in constructive criticism, which allows you as an individual to grow rather than a relationship with a woman who deals with deceit, lies, and inflating your ego. But on the other shoe it should be up to the woman to lead a marriage, due to their natural ability for habitation.

My personal views on Aristotle are mainly positive, although most of his beliefs are rough around the edges due to the era of thought he lived in. It would be unfair to denounce this man’s philosophies because of some general sexism, considering he lived more than 2000 years ago. But the real reason I picked him to write this paper is because of how he was the first scientifically grounded philosopher to have a basic understanding of the natural world and the act of observation and exprimation to support facts and support theories.


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