ARISTOTLE (Gk.) (384-322 B.C.). A Greek philosopher, born at Stagira, a Greek town of the Chalcidice on the Strymonic Gulf, the present Stavro. He came of a family in which the practice of medicine was hereditary, and his father Nicomachus was physician-in-ordinary to the Macedonian King, Amyntas II. From his father Aristotle undoubtedly inherited his love for natural science and through him came into relation with the royal house of Macedonia. Nicomachus died while Aristotle was still young; the son was brought up in Stagira by a family friend, Proxenus, of Atarneus in Mysia, whose memory he held so dear that in after life he erected a statue to him at Delphi and after his death educated and adopted his son Nicanor. Aristotle doubtless received the usual education enjoyed by the son of a well-to-do family and probably was trained also for his ancestral profession. When 17 years old, he went to Athens and associated himself with the Academy. But its head, Plato, was then absent on his second journey to Syracuse, where he acted as adviser to two despots in succession, Dionysius the elder and Dionysius the younger. Aristotle for a time devoted himself to rhetoric, under Isocrates, but, on Plato's return from Sicily, be forsook rhetoric and devoted himself to philosophy. For nearly 20 years he enjoyed the teaching of Plato and association with him; in spite of the different natures of master and pupil, the relation between the two was close. Plato is said to have called him the leader and the intellect of his school, and, because of his zeal, to have likened him to a colt that needs the bit more than the spur. During this period of discipleship Aristotle seems to have begun to lecture to small circles of listeners, chiefly on the subject of rhetoric; at the same time he trained himself to a high degree of perfection in the practice of oratory. His superior genius was so well recognized by his contemporaries that his elders, like Heraclides Ponticus, who was Plato's representative in 361 B.C., were ready to yield to him, and younger men like Theophrastus were glad to be his followers. At Plato's death in 348-347 B.C., Speusippus became head of the Academy, and Aristotle had no longer any bonds to bind him to the school. He was now in his thirty-eighth year, had enjoyed long intimacy with the best thinkers in Greece, and had undoubtedly already developed to a considerable degree an independent philosophical position. With Xenocrates of Chalcedon, who likewise withdrew from his old associates, Aristotle went to Mysia, and presently accepted an invitation from a former fellow-pupil in the Academy Hermeas, headman of Atarneus, to take up his residence with him. Here he remained three years, until Hermeas was, through treachery, captured by the Persians, and put to death by Artaxerxes III. Aristotle sought refuge in Mytilene, taking with him the niece and sister of Hermeas; he afterward married the latter, who died somewhat more than ten years later in Macedonia. On the basis of certain allusions in the opening of Isocrates' Panathenaïcus it has been conjectured that the following two years Aristotle spent again in Athens, teaching in company with others in the Lyceum; this conjecture, however, has a very uncertain basis.
During the many years spent at Athens and in Asia Minor Aristotle's hereditary relation with the Macedonian court seems to have been unbroken; for in 343-342 B.C., in response to a call from Philip to educate his son Alexander, then 14 years old, he removed with his family and Theophrastus to Pella, the Macedonian capital. He acted as tutor to Alexander for three years. The plan of the education attempted by him is unknown to us; but it is most probable that the philosopher added to the ordinary education of the day in rhetoric and philosophy some instruction in at least history, geography, and politics suited to a future ruler. How far his pupil absorbed teaching is also uncertain, although we know that his later plans for conquest were in opposition to Aristotle's views. Yet Aristotle was held in high esteem by both Philip and Alexander; during his residence at court he was able to obtain the restoration, at the public expense, of his native city, which had suffered severely in 348 B.C. when Philip conquered the district about the Strymon; later he was able to secure from Alexander protection for Eresus, in Lesbos, the home of his friend Theophrastus. The greatest favors he received, however, were in the way of support and material for his scientific investigations; and his years of residence at the Macedonian court, where he could observe at close range the rule of an aggressive monarch, must have been of the greatest importance in developing his political ideas.
After Alexander mounted the throne and undertook his Eastern conquests, Aristotle returned to Athens in his fiftieth year, to carry out a plan, no doubt long cherished, of opening a school of his own. This he established in the Lyceum, in a building called "The Walk" where he lectured. We have a tradition, doubted by some, that he gave two kinds of instruction: in the morning to a narrow circle of advanced pupils (his esoteric doctrine), and, in the evening, more popular lectures (exoteric teaching) to a larger body of listeners. The name "Peripatetic," applied to the school and its philosophy, cannot be traced back of 200 B.C. Of the equipment of the school, in books and material, we know nothing. Aristotle continued to teach for 12 years, until Alexander's death, in 323 B.C., which led to a reaction at Athens against Macedonia, made his position in Athens dangerous. He was charged with impiety, but fled to Chalcis, as he said, to save the Athenians from a second sin against philosophy. Here he died. Theophrastus and Eudemus were his immediate successors in the leadership of the school.
Aristotle left behind him an enormous number of writings. Diogenes Laërtius, of uncertain date, gives us a list of 46 works. This probably represents the works bearing Aristotle's name in the Alexandrian Library. A list dating from the time of Cicero makes the total much larger. An ancient tradition, given by Strabo (xiii, 1), says that Theophrastus, at his death, bequeathed his library, including of course the works of Aristotle, to a certain Neleus of Scepsis. His descendants buried the books to save them from the rapacity of the Attalids, who were eager to enrich the Pergamene Library by every possible means. About 100 B.C. the buried collection, naturally much injured by damp and worms, was discovered by Apellicon of Teos, a learned bibliophile, who brought it to Athens. When Sulla captured the city, 86 B.C., he took the books to Rome, where their value was recognized by the grammarian Tyrannion, who had a catalogue prepared by the Peripatetic Andronicus-the longer list mentioned above-and about 50 B.C. published the works thus recovered. Our present recension undoubtedly goes back to this edition, although it is more immediately related to a recension prepared toward the end of antiquity which embraced a number of spurious writings. The later Peripatetics divided the complete works of their master into two classes; exoteric dialogues intended for the public, and acroamatic pieces meant for the small circle of pupils. To these may be added as a third class certain writings not intended for publication, the hypomnematic works consisting of memoranda and collections on various topics. The exoteric dialogues were well known and much admired in antiquity, but only bare fragments have come down to us. These dialogues did not possess the dramatic character of Plato's works; in place of question and answer they had long discourses, such as we find in the philosophical writings of Cicero, who chose Aristotle as his model. Among the titles of the exoteric dialogues known to us are On the Immortality of the Soul, On Philosophy, On the Good, On Justice, On Friendship. Certain titles, e.g., Menexenus, Gryllus, Nerinthus, The Sophist, remind us of Plato's dialogues. Aristotle carefully prepared these for publication and must have exhibited in them that perfection of style which caused Cicero to speak of the philosopher's language as a golden stream. The extant works show but little of this quality. These were never completely prepared and in many cases probably were never intended for publication by Aristotle, but were edited by Theophrastus, Eudemus, and the philosopher's son, Nicomachus. Many have the character of lecture notes, possibly those taken by pupils, and most have suffered from interpolations. A considerable number of the works to which his name is now attached are spurious. The extant writings may be classed, according to their contents, under Logic, Metaphysics, Natural Science, Ethics and Politics, Rhetoric and Poetics.
The works on Logic were called by the later Peripatetics the Organon, ‘The Instrument,’ as they deal with the instrument and the method of investigation and discussion. They include the Categories, on the ten classes of predicates substance; quantity, quality, etc.; On Interpretation, dealing with the proposition and its parts; Analytica Priors, in two books, on the syllogism; Analytica Posteriora, in two books, on the theory of knowledge and the scientific method; Topica, in eight books, on dialectics and reasoning from probabilities; and Sophisms, on the fallacies of the Sophists and their correction. Aristotle's claim that he was the first to work out a method of reasoning is sound, and formal logic has made little advance since his day; it has only added to his categorical syllogism (discussed in the Analytica Priora) the hypothetical and disjunctive forms, and has supplemented his three figures by a fourth.
The Metaphysics, in 13 books, was so called by later students, because in the ancient editions of Aristotle it followed the works on physics. The philosopher himself called it "First Philosophy" It is in an unsatisfactory condition, consisting of one finished treatise and a number of shorter sketches hardly connected or fully worked out. It begins with a criticism of previous philosophical systems-the earliest history of philosophy-and then, after stating the philosophical questions preliminary to the examination, discusses the doctrine and the ultimate grounds of Being.
The works on Natural Science comprise the Physics, in eight books, treating of the general principles and relations of nature; four books On the Heavens, and two On Beginning and Perishing. The last treatise is important for a knowledge of Aristotelian philosophy. The Meteorology discusses the phenomena of the heavens. Natural History is handled in 10 books; with it are associated the following treatises: Parts of Animals, in four books; Generation, in five, and Mode of Progression, in one. To these must be added certain works of doubtful authenticity: On Plants, in two books, a retranslation from the Latin and probably the work of Nicolaüs of Damascus, who composed, under Augustus, a compendium of Aristotle's philosophy; On the Cosmos, certainly belonging to the Roman period; On the Motion of Animals, On Breathing, On Colors of Plants and Animals, all later than Aristotle. The treatise on Physiognomy, which was composed certainly as late as Hadrian's time, is based apparently on two lost works named in the ancient catalogues of the Aristotelian writings. The Problems, discussions chiefly of physical questions, is also drawn in part from the philosopher's work. The Mechanics, Mirabiles Auscultationes, and some other minor monographs falling within the same field are certainly spurious.
According to Aristotle's own view, psychology was inseparably connected with natural science. Under this head we possess his work On the Soul, in three books, and a large number of smaller treatises which are known as the Parva Naturalia. Next must be named the works on Ethics and Politics, which Aristotle regarded as parts of the same subject. Under the former division there are extant three works: The Nicomachean Ethics in 10 books, which takes its name from the philosopher's son, Nicomachus, to whom the work is dedicated and by whom it probably was edited. This is Aristotle's work. The Eudemean Ethics, in seven books, was prepared by Aristotle's pupil Eudemus on the basis of his master's lectures and the Nicomachean Ethics, with which it coincides in parts (in books iv-vi). The Magna Moralia, in two books, is a late work of the Peripatetic school, and nothing more than an abstract of the other works. In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle held that every action, every art and science, has some good as its aim; the chief aim of human action is happiness. The happy man is he whose activity is in harmony with virtue and who is adequately provided with external goods through all his life. Virtue is in all cases a mean between extremes. An essay On Virtues and Vices is also spurious. The Politics, in eight books, is closely connected with the Ethics. The work is incomplete but masterly, discussing the elements and the aims of the state, the forms of government, and the ideal state. The loss of the Constitutions which treated of 158 states, is greatly to be regretted; but fortunately the greater part of the Constitution of Athens, which belonged to the larger work, was recovered, almost in its entirety, in 1885 from four papyrus rolls of the first century A.D., first published by Kenyon in 1891. This document is one of the most valuable for the history of Athens, and has at many points corrected and enlarged our previous knowledge. Aristotle's ideal was the small, autonomous, aristocratic city-state. The Economics, in three books, is the work of the later school.
In the field of Rhetoric and Poetics, Aristotle also made contributions of the highest value and permanence. His Rhetoric, in three books, treats of the relations of rhetoric to dialectic, the nature of the proof the orator may employ, the use of examples, and language and style. In this work also appear beginnings of formal grammar and its technical terms. The Rhetoric addressed to Alexander, which is catalogued with Aristotle's works, was written by Anaximenes. Of the Poetics, only the first book on tragedy and epic poetry is preserved, but this is of inestimable value for its analyses of the various kinds of poetry and its full treatment of tragedy.
From this enumeration of the most important extant writings of Aristotle, the universality of his studies is evident; and in every field enumerated his influence has been enormous. By him Logic, Grammar Rhetoric, Literary Criticism, Politics, Psychology, Ethics, Natural History, Physiology, were raised to independent disciplines; he was the first to attempt a history of Philosophy and Government. This many-sided literary activity was the natural result of his method of working, proceeding from the individual to the general; and this method, which collects facts, compares, sifts, and groups them according to their relations, and thus obtains systematic knowledge of the subject in hand, has been most fruitful in the history of investigation of every sort, especially in the nineteenth century.
Aristotle's service lies in his analysis and clear distinction of ideas and in his studies in particular fields, rather than in the full development of a philosophy. Yet here he made important advances that have been influential down to the present day. According to him, Being has four universal elements: Matter, form or essence, the efficient cause, and the final cause. These principles enter into the constitution of everything. Matter is mere potentiality, which through the supervention of Form becomes the Actual. By Form, Aristotle wished to replace the Platonic idea, which, he pointed out, cannot exist apart from the individual. Every change from potentiality to actuality is accomplished by an efficient cause which is working toward an end, the Final Cause. In the field of Ethics this final cause is man's summum bonum, happiness, which is defined to be the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, but under favorable conditions. The problem of free-will Aristotle met by the statement that man has potentiality in two opposite directions-for good or evil-which can be freely chosen; by consistently choosing one a man forms the habit of virtue or vice, and thus becomes either virtuous. or vicious, as his choice determines. Virtue itself lies between the extremes of self-indulgence and asceticism.
The influence of Aristotle on human though has continued unbroken to the present day. In the early centuries of our era his writing; stimulated scientific inquiry; during the Middle Ages Latin translations from the Arabic versions guided the philosophy of the Western church, although the real nature of Aristotelianism was little understood. Arabian philosophy in the West during the eleventh and twelfth centuries was a combination of Aristotelianism with certain Neo-Platonic elements. With the revival of learning the originals of Aristotle's works became gradually known, and from then were drawn the means to combat the errors of scholasticism.
Learned comment on Aristotle began with the first century B.C. and during antiquity and the early medieval period the amount of comment grew to be enormous. The standard edition of the works is still that by Bekker (5 vols. 1831-40).
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. II (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 109-112.