Aristotle was an Ancient Greek, who worked with Socrates and Plato, and essentially created the basis of modern philosophy that we know today.
He was born in 384 BC in Stagira. When he turned 17 he enrolled in Plato's academy. His parents both died when he was young. His uncle took him in and sent him away to the academy
There he learned about philosophy and logical thinking from Plato, one of his key influences. The academy however was not like a normal school, it was where people would challenge each other with questions and debate, changing all the time. He stayed there for 20 years, first being taught then teaching.
In 347BC, after Plato’s death, he travelled through Greece and Turkey, getting married, and writing his first books, mainly about animals e.g. The Natural History of Animals. He was very interested in biology and spent lots of time observing the world, taking notes, and recording what he saw. He then tutored Alexander the Great, teaching him philosophy, maths and logic. After he returned to Athens and started his own school.
His greatest achievement is generally considered to be the syllogism, which helped to launch the field of logic. The fundamental tool that made all understanding and learning possible, it helped to recognize when proof was necessary and how to evaluate such proof. Aristotle also wrote a lot about Ethics, Politics, Poetics, and Rhetoric, still studied today, they provide the starting points for moral and political philosophy. He also created the definition of Tragedy, as well as discovering 495 different types of animals.
Aristotle died in 322 B.C.
Aristotle's Book VII (actually composed of ten books) praised the traits of virtue, continence (as in self-control) and superhuman virtue. Let's examine each of these in detail.
Virtue was a Greek measure of success in life, as in being good at athletics was having virtue as an athlete. This was one of the most important values in Ancient Greece. This is not to be confused with Aristotle’s definition of
This was Aristotle encouraging people to not lean towards any excesses in morality (which he called vices).
This was being able to control your desires (usually sexual desires). Aristotle said that lacking continence (incontinence) would have dire consequences, like when one spends too much.
This is quite different to Aristotle’s types of virtue. It relates to temperament, no unnecessary violence and kindliness. The opposite he called brutishness, as in wreaking wanton destruction and violence.
This book is about friendship, and how it effects your life.
Section one is how they affect your life. Section two is how they are formed, and how such different people can be friends, by considering what makes someone likeable. Aristotle believed the three possibilities were goodness, pleasure, and usefulness. Section three is the reason for friends. Aristotle believed in friendship based on usefulness or pleasure, the person is not liked in himself but because of the good or pleasure he can provide. Such friendships are easily dissolved. Section four is about the perfect friends, which existed ‘between good men who are alike in virtuousness’, and how strong friendships are formed.
The whole book goes on along these lines, and is considered to be one of his major works, where he was very blunt, expressing his true opinions.
Ancient Athens is often associated heralded as one of the first democracies, and it was a precursor to the governments we practise today. However, many famous Greek thinkers including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were proudly and unapologetically elitist. They all strongly criticized democracy, and even claimed that it was an inherently corrupt and inefficient form of government.
Aristotle even suggested that democracy was a deviant form of polity, in line with tyranny. He categorised democracy as a government that aims only to advantage the rulers.
In his book Politics, Aristotle divided government into 6 kinds; 3 good and 3 bad. The good forms are monarchy, aristocracy, and polity, while the bad forms are tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. Each of the good forms has the possibility of turning into its corresponding bad form - i.e., monarchy into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy.
Most people instantly assume that Aristotle was against democracy, but it is not as simple as that. What Aristotle was actually against was mob rule. Polity corresponds more to what we'd think of as modern democracy - a stable, orderly institution that represents and protects the people. For instance, polity is what existed in Athens during its Golden Age. Aristotle didn't oppose this by any means.
Unlike his teacher Plato, who believed that the ideal state was one ruled by philosopher-kings, Aristotle believed that the best form of government was determined by the situation.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.
The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.
Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.