Aristotle 384 B. C.-322 B. C.

Greek philosopher and scientist.


Aristotle wrote on a multitude of topics including metaphysics, biology, psychology, logic, and physics. While earlier and contemporary philosophers are believed to have influenced Aristotle's views, he is credited with systematizing entire fields of ideas and with providing the methodology for future philosophic and scientific studies.

Biographical Information

Born in the Ionian colony of Stagira in Macedonia, Aristotle lost his parents at an early age. Little is known about them, but scholars have recorded that his father, Nicomachus, served as the court physician to the King of Macedon. When Aristotle was seventeen, his guardian sent him to study in Athens, under Plato. Aristotle spent twenty years at the Academy and left after Plato's death in 347 B.C. After a period of travel, Aristotle married Pythias, with whom he had a daughter and probably a son, Nicomachus. In 342, Aristotle was appointed tutor to Philip II's thirteen-year-old son, Alexander (later known as Alexander the Great). After remaining in the Macedonian court at Pella for some time, Aristotle probably retired to Stagira in 340, when Alexander became his father's regent. Not long after, in 335, Aristotle returned to Athens and founded a school, the Lyceum. Here, Aristotle lectured, conducted research, and established a library. Upon Alexander's death in 323, the anti-Macedonian party grew strong in Athens. Some of its officials charged him with impiety and prosecuted him. Following this incident, Aristotle left the directorship of his school to Theophrastus and departed Athens for the last time. He retired to Chalcis and died in the next year, 322.

Major Works

Aristotle's major works are typically grouped into the following categories: primary philosophy, practical science, logic, natural philosophy, rhetoric, and poetics. (The works on rhetoric and poetics are sometimes classified as practical science.) Such rubrics may seem a bit confusing to modern students of Aristotle; what Aristotle referred to as "practical science" includes his writings on ethics and politics (works we might think of as simply "philosophy"); what he classified as "natural philosophy" includes his works in the areas of physics, psychology, and biology (topics we would refer to as "science"). This volume attempts to group Aristotle's works in a manner reflective of critical consensus, as well as to provide entry headings which would both guide users according to modern conceptions of the terms "science" and "philosophy" and honor traditional classifications. The entry Philosophy includes coverage of Metaphysics, Ethics, and Politics; the entry Rhetoric covers Rhetoric; the entry Science covers the works on logic (including, for example, Categories and Posterior Analytics), biological works (such as On the Generation of Animals), and psychological works (such as De Anima [On the Soul]). This entry also includes coverage of Physics. Finally, the entry Poetics focuses on Aristotle's Poetics. Each entry's introduction provides a more detailed account of the primary works in that field of study; a brief overview of the textual history of those works; and a survey of the critical reception and interpretation of those works.