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A bust of the Master of the men who know.
"All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer sight to almost everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things."
Aristotle, Metaphysics

Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης, Aristotélēs, circa 384/3322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatetic school of philosophy (so-called because Aristotle was said to walk around while lecturing) and of the wider Aristotelian tradition. His writings covered many topics, including physics, biology, metaphysics, logic, rhetoric, politics, aesthetics, and even literary criticism, making him an Omnidisciplinary Scientist of the time.

He was born in the town of Stagira on the eastern coast of the peninsula of Calcidice in Thrace. His father was Nicomachmus, a court physician said to be the friend of Amyntas II, king of Macedon. Nicomachus died while Aristotle was a child, and he was brought up by a Proxenus of Atarneus, whose son Nicanor was later adopted, in turn, by Aristotle and was married to Aristotle's daughter.

In 368-7, at the age of seventeen or eighteen, Aristotle went to Athens, where he remained in close association with the Academy of Plato for twenty years until the death of Plato in 348/7. After Plato's death, Aristotle left Athens and, with Xenocrates, visited the court of Hermias, a former member of the Academy who had become tyrant of Assos and Atarneus in Mysia in Asia Minor. Aristotle married Pythias, Hermias' niece, and probably taught in an Academic center in Assos. Later, he went to Mitylene in Lesbos, and got engaged in biological research. In 343/2, on the invitation of Philip of Macedon, he became the tutor of Alexander the Great, and his tutelage probably extended up to 340, when Alexander was appointed regent for his father. Aristotle did not return to Athens until 335/4, a year after the death of Philip.

For the next twelve years, Aristotle established a school, the Lyceum, to the institution and pursuit of a program of investigation, speculation, and teaching in almost every branch of knowledge, and to the composition of all, or most, or at least the most scientific portions, of those of his writings which are now extant. When Alexander died in 323, Aristotle's Macedonian connections brought him under suspicion; he was charged with impiety, not unlike that on which Socrates had been condemned, and accused of instituting a private cult in memory of Hermias, since he erected a statue at Delphi and composed a poem, in what was alleged to be the manner of a paean, in his honor.

Aristotle was forced to flee Athens lest, as he is said to have remarked, the Athenians sin twice against philosophy. He took refuge under the protection of Antipater, viceroy to Alexander, in Chalcis in Euboea, where he died in 322, a short time before the death of Demosthenes.

Aristotle's views profoundly impacted medieval thought, in the realms of the physical sciences and philosophy, especially in the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church (St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential of scholastic philosophers, referred to Aristotle as "the Philosopher"). His scientific ideas came to be considered dated by the time of the Enlightenment, but his influence on logic, metaphysics, and ethics continues to this day.

In terms of literature, Aristotle wrote the Poetics, one of the earliest works of literary theory and criticism.

Major Works

  • Organon
  • Physics
  • On the Heavens
  • On Generation and Corruption
  • On the Soul
  • The History of Animals
  • On the Parts of Animals
  • On the Generation of Animals
  • Metaphysics
  • Nicomachean Ethics
  • Politics (Aristotle)
  • Rhetoric
  • Poetics


Tropes featured in his other works:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: He was one of the first writers to cover this concept, if not the first, in his Poetics: it doesn't matter if story elements are accurate or possible, only that the audience can accept them.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: In 'Nichomachean Ethics'', he says that anything wrong that you do due to drunkenness is still your fault. While you may not have chosen to do that thing due to drunkenness, you chose to get drunk.
  • Beige Prose: Unlike Plato, Aristotle's works are very dry and difficult to read. This is partially because most of his finished works were lost after the Fall of Rome, and what we have available today is essentially his lecture notes. However, many people find that the simplicity of Aristotle's words makes his works delightful reads. Cicero described Aristotle's literary style as being "a river of gold."
  • Chicken-and-Egg Paradox: The Trope Namer was one of his observations: the chicken lays the egg but also hatches from it. Aristotle considered this an ontological mystery that was key to understanding the nature of the universe.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Aristotle encouraged his readers to devote as much time to this as possible, considering philosophical contemplation the highest aspiration of humankind.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Just like his teacher, he used "democracy" as a term of art for what happens when a popular government goes bad.note  He maintained, however, that a government where the multitude has power is just as valid as one where a select few or a single person has power, as long as it is done correctly. His ideal government combines traits of all three—meaning he was actually in favor of what we in modern times commonly refer to as "representative democracy".
  • For Happiness: According to Nichomachean Ethics, this is the end for which justice and virtue are the means.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: Later Aristoteleans originated this fallacy through incomplete or overly simplistic readings of his definition of virtue as a mean between excess and deficit. Aristotle himself explicitly defied this in his Nichomachean Ethics: he admonishes that virtue is proportionate to the context, not a midpoint between two arbitrary extremes. For example, what would be courageous for one person in one situation would be cowardly for another in the same situation or the same person in a different situation. Additionally, some vices — such as envy, murder, and adultery — don't have counterparts for which a mean can be judged, and therefore are always bad.
  • Good Feels Good: He takes this position in his Nichomachean Ethics: virtue and happiness are inseparable, and the greatest happiness is in the greatest virtue.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: He considered women to be naturally inferior to men, was opposed to women's education (in contrast with Plato), did not believe women should be afforded the same nourishment as men, and believed that they should be ruled over as only slightly better than slaves and children. Aristotle was also opposed to how Sparta treated women (Spartan women enjoyed far more rights than Athenian women did) and believed this would cause the downfall of Spartan society. However, in his Rhetoric and Oikonomios, he advocates treating women kindly and valuing their happiness.
  • I Have Your Wife: In Nichomachean Ethics, even he is not sure of what this trope means ethically. If it is a voluntary action, that means any evil committed because of this is immoral. But if it is an involuntary action, the person is not at fault for any evil.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: In his Nichomachean Ethics, he discusses this, suggesting that it is impossible to live a fully happy and virtuous life without having close friends.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: For centuries, Aristotle's major claim to fame was his scientific theories, which are nowadays mostly debunked by scientists in the centuries after him actually putting them to the test. Today, he is more famous as a philosopher, and his ideas are still taught in universities.
  • Measuring the Marigolds: In his Metaphysics, Aristotle cautions against this attitude, stating that there are some questions that natural science simply can't answer.
  • Plato Is a Moron: Done in a roundabout way in Nichomachean Ethics when he explains that he will not use his teacher's Theory of Forms because his own philosophy is more practical. Aristotle's scientific works also fell victim to this during the Renaissance, with a new generation of scientists dethroning him from his dominant role in the Western intellectual tradition.
  • Science Marches On: By the time of the Renaissance, a new generation of scientists actually tested out Aristotle's scientific theories and found that they did not hold up. To name one example, Galileo Galilei wrote in his work Two New Sciences that one of Aristotle's arguments against those who hold that a void is necessary for motion is that bodies move through a medium at a speed proportional to their weight. That means a boulder that is ten times as heavy as a stone would fall ten times as rapidly. Galileo shows that, in reality, both would actually fall at roughly the same speed.
  • Take a Third Option: In his Rhetoric. His teacher Plato despised sophistry, considering it a distortion of truth; the Sophists disdained philosophy because they thought it was meaningless navel-gazing. Aristotle considered philosophy and rhetoric parts of the same whole and synthesized them. He still has some pretty harsh words for the Sophists, though.

Aristotle in popular culture:


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