Aristotle was the son of Nicomachus, the court physician for the royal Macedonian household of King Amyntas II. He originally studied medicine, but at the age of seventeen, he went to Athens and entered Plato’s Academy. At the time, Plato’s Academy was a place for extensive study of all knowledge. This broad education is reflected in the eclectic nature of Aristotle’s writing. Aristotle remained at the Academy until Plato’s death in 347 b.c.e. He then went to Asia Minor to the court of King Hermias of Assos. There Aristotle most likely gave lectures to former disciples of Plato.
In 338 b.c.e., he returned to Macedonia and tutored the son of King Philip II, Alexander the Great. After leaving Macedonia, Aristotle returned to his native town of Stagirus and pursued scientific research. In 334 b.c.e., Aristotle returned to Athens and founded his own school, the Lyceum. For the next eleven years Aristotle taught two distinct groups of people. In the mornings, he conducted technical and advanced discourse on logic, philosophy, and science with his students. In the afternoons, he held sessions for the general public on rhetoric, politics, and ethics and discussed popular issues. Aristotle also created a library with an extensive collection of manuscripts, maps, and museum objects, which he used in his teaching. This library became the model for later state libraries at Alexandria and Pergamum.
Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 b.c.e., Athens became the center of anti-Macedonian feelings, and Aristotle’s connections to Macedonia made him suspect. Aristotle was charged with impiety, the same charge that had been brought against Socrates. This charge was based on a hymn Aristotle had written on Hermias. Unlike Socrates, however, Aristotle left Athens, saying he would not let the Athenians sin twice against philosophy. He went to Chalcis (Khalkís), on Euboea, a stronghold of Macedonian influence, where he died in 322 b.c.e.
Aristotle’s writings covered almost every field of knowledge. He wrote six treatises on logic. He also wrote on natural science, zoology, psychology, basic philosophy, ethics, political science, oratory, and poetry. Aristotle developed a systematic and pluralistic concept about the nature of science. He believed that there was not a single unified science; rather, the totality of knowledge was divided into independent disciplines. He identified theology, mathematics, and the natural sciences as theoretical, ethics and politics as practical, and poetics and rhetoric as productive. In addition, he felt that there was no single set of concepts capable of giving structure to all these disciplines, no single method that the disciplines must follow, and no single standard of scientific rigor. The breadth of Aristotle’s influence is unmatched in the history of human thought, and many of his works remain relevant to issues in the contemporary era.
Ackrill, J. L. Essays on Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. This work contains important and insightful reflections on two of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy.
Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy. New York: Scribner’s, 1997. A reliable interpreter provides an account that introduces Aristotle’s thought in accessible fashion.
Bar On, Bat-Ami, ed. Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Feminist perspectives are brought to bear on Aristotle’s philosophy in significant ways.
Barnes, Jonathan. Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. A reliable study designed for readers who want an introduction to Aristotle’s thought.
Barnes, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle . New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. An excellent guide to Aristotle’s thought, which features significant essays on...
(The entire section is 1,077 words.)