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Aristotle

Aristotle

 

 

AristotleAristotle systematized Greek thought and learning, and thereby directed the whole subsequent course of the world's thought. In the Middle Ages, when his works were buried in al1uuknown tongue, his system, modified by passing through Arabian translations into Latin, became the philosophy of the Schoolmen, and thus the mould of Christian theology. Bacon and others attacked his philosopby, when applied to natural science, as cramping to the human mind, because based on theory instead of experiment. But Aristotle's own writings show that he p0ssessed the true scientific spirit, and they have regained their place in the estimation of the world.

 

Aristotle was born at Stagira, a Greek colony in 'Macedonia, in 384 B.C. His father was the physician of Amyntas, King of Macedonia and grandfather of Alexander the Great. Though early left an orphan, he was trained for his father's profession; but he aspired to attain universal knowledge, and for that purpose went to Athens, the intellectual center of Greece. When Plato returned thither from Syracuse, Aristotle gladly became his disciple, and was pronounced by his master the intellect of the school" On the death of Plato, in 347 B.C., Aristotle hoped to succeed him; but, being disappointed, went to Atameus, a town in Asia Minor, where he lived with its ruler, Hermeias, who had been his pupil and whose sister he married. Three years later, upon the death of Hermeias, he went to Mitylene. Hence, at the age of forty. two, he was called by Philip of Macedon, to educate his son Alexander. This tuition lasted three years; but the friend· ship formed between the renowned teacher and the ambitions boy remained unbroken when Alexander set out on bis career of conquest. It may seem, however, that the philosopher's instruction had little practical effect an the king's actions. They moved in entirely different orbits, yet both were destined to diffuse Greek culture through the world.

 

Aristotle recommended to the young king, as his companion in his campaigns in Asia, Callisthenes, who had been his fellow-pupil; and there is later mention of this tutor's attempts to restrain the excesses of the Macedonian. Aristotle, at the age of fifty, returned to Athens and opened a school which was called the Lyceum. From his practice of giving instruction while walking in the shady avenues of the garden, both the lecturer and his scholars were called Peripatetics. This crowning period of his life lasted twelve years. His royal pupil still testified his regard by magnificent gifts, and took delight in transmitting to his former teacher strange animals and other curiosities which he encountered in bis wanderings through Asia. But the philosopher pursued his own course, lecturing on the highest themes of life and com· posing his immortal works. After the death of Alexander, the opponents of Macedonian rule obtained the ascendancy in Athens, and Aristotle was threatened with trial for impiety. Warned by the fate of Socrates, escape to Chalcis, but died there in the autumn of 322 B.C.

 

Aristotle bequeathed his library and writings to Theophrastus, his chief disciple. Owing to a variety of causes nearly two centuries elapsed before his principal works were edited and published. Some youthful productions, in which he had used the dialogue form, were circulated and occupied the attention of his professed followers. But after the more important treatises, in which he used the simplest and most direct statements of the views he inculcated, were brought to light, the former were neglected and have perished.

 

The extant writings of Aristotle are unequal in style and irregular in arrangement, seeming rather the drafts of lee tures than finished works. He classified all philosophy in three divisions, corresponding to three kinds of thought: Investigation, Practice, and Production. Investigation, or Theoretic Philosophy, has three branches: (1) First Philosophy, or Theology, including the system of the universe (2) Mathematics; (3) Physics, or natural philosophy. Practical Philosophy has, like wise, three branches ; (I) Ethics, or rules of conduct for one's self j (2) Economics, or rules of management of property; (3) Politics, or rules of management of communities. Under Productive Philosophy, or that which relates to man's original or imaginative work, Aristotle treats only of Poetry. Although he laid much stress on Logic, he did not consider it as a part of philosophy, but rather as its instrument (organon), the method by which truth is ascertained and fallacies detected. He was the first to frame the syllogism, which is the method of deductive reasoning. To Aristotle's discussions of First Philosophy the name Metaphysics Which means simply "After the Physics" was given, because bis first editors placed them after his treatises on Physics. He called it First Philosophy because it treats of the fundamental problems of being. In trying to understand any object, we must consider it in four ways : (I) What are the material conditions of its being? (2) What is its essential character as formed? (3) Through what agency docs it come into being? (4) What is the end attained by it? Thus we have for everything four causes-material, formal, efficient, final.

 

Aristotle adopted many of the views of Plato, but endeavored to strip them of their poetic form and coloring, and to reduce them to strictly scientific expression. But he dissented from some of his master's teachings and criticized them severely. Thus in treating of the ideal State, he rejected Plato's communistic Republic, and combated the nation that the individual and the family should be absorbed in the State.

 

Aristotle's Ethics gave the conception of virtues and vices, which has been adopted by Christian writers and pervades all European literature. His Politics kept alive the ideas of political liberty during ages of despotism, and gave rise to the modern ideas of government. In this treatise are found the germs of what is now called political economy. In all his teachings Aristotle was practical, and this view has been pithily expressed by Sir Alexander Grant, one of the latest editors of his works: .. Aristotle thought that the highest aim for a state was to tum out philosophers, and that the highest aim for an individual was to be a philosopher."

 

THE IDEAL STATE.

 

It is evident that it is not a mere community of place; nor is it established that men may be safe from injury and maintain an interchange of good offices. All these things, indeed, must take place where there is a state, and yet they may all exist and there be no state. A state, then, may be defined to be a society of people joining together by their families and children to live happily, enjoying a life of thorough independence.

 

When a democracy is controlled by fixed laws, a demagogue has no power, but the best citizens fill the offices of state. When the laws are not supreme, there demagogues are found; for the people act like a king, being one body, for the many are supreme, not as individuals, but as a whole. The supreme power must necessarily be in the hand of one person, or of a few, or of the many. Then one, the few, or the many, direct their whole efforts for the common good, such states must be well governed; but when the advantage of the one, the few, or the many is alone regarded, a change for the worse must be expected.

 

A pretension to offices of state ought to be founded on those qualifications that are a part of itself. And for this reason, men of birth, independence and fortune are right in contending with each other for office; for those who hold offices of state ought to be persons of independence and property. The multitude, when they are collected together, have sufficient understanding for the purpose of electing magistrates; and, mingling with those of higher rank, are serviceable to the state, though separately each individual is unfit to form a judgment for himself; as some kinds of food, which would be poisonous by itself, by being mixed with the wholesome, makes the whole good. The free-born and men of high birth will dispute the point with each other, as being nearly on an equality for citizens that are well-born have a right to more respect than the ignoble. Honorable descent is in all nations greatly esteemed; besides, it is to be expected that the children of men of worth will be like their fathers; for nobility is the virtue of a family.

 

Education and good morals will be found to be almost the whole that goes to make a good man; and the same things will make a good statesman and good king. The truest definition of a complete citizen that can be given is probably this: that he shares in the judicial and executive part of the government. But it is a matter of high commendation to know how to command as well as to obey; to do both these things well is the peculiar quality of a good citizen. A state, consisting of a multitude of human beings, as we have before said, ought to be brought to unity and community by education and he who is about to introduce education, and expects thereby to make the state excellent, will act absurdly if he thinks to fashion it by any other means than by manners, philosophy and laws. The corruption of the best and most divine form of government must be the worst. There is no f.tee state where the laws do not rule supreme; for the law ought to be above all. A government in a constant state of turmoil is weak. The only stable slate is that where every one possesses an equality ill the eye of the law, according to his merit, and enjoys his own unmolested. -ARISTOTLE, Translated by C, T. RAMAGE.

 

Aristotle

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