Aristotle’s father was a court physician to the Macedonian king Amyntas II. The connection with the Macedonian government held Great relevance in Aristotle’s life. His parents died when he was young. He was sent to Athens by his guardian for further studies. He met Plato there and started to study in his academy for the next 20 years. He was Plato’s student and colleague. When Plato died, everyone thought Aristotle will be the next director of the Academy. But due to his disagreements with some of Plato’s work, He was not offered the position.
Around 338 BC, he returned to Macedonia and started to tutor the son of king Philip II, Alexander(who was later given the tag of “The Great”). When Alexander became the king and conquered Athens, Aristotle moved back to Athens. Plato’s academy headed by Xenocrates was still the top academy there. Aristotle decided to open his school. Aristotle’s school of thought is called peripatetic.
After the death of Alexander the Great, Anti-Macedonian sentiments were high and Aristotle was charged with impiety. He fled to Athens to save his life and spent the rest of his days on the island of Eubea. One of the significant contributions of Aristotle was his creation of logic. He divided the process of learning into three parts. Theoretical, Practical and productive. Logic did not belong to any of the categories. Logic was the first step applied to learning anything. It is used to attain knowledge about anything. Logic helps in establishing truths and errors about reality.
In his book, prior analytics, He talks about the notion of syllogism. It is one of his most important contributions in the area of reasoning. A set of assumptions and affirmations are taken to come to a logical conclusion. For example- All Indians are human, every human is not religious. Therefore, not every Indian is religious. I want to let you all know that it took me 10 minutes to think of that example. The syllogism consists of two premises and that gives us one conclusion. Aristotle created some rules which would allow him to come to a valid conclusion. One example is –
: At least one premise must be universal
: At least one premise has to be affirmative
: If one of the premises is negative, the conclusion should be negative.
Aristotle believed three rules should be applied to every valid thought. Law of Identity, Law of Noncontradiction, Law of Excluded Middle. The Law of identity determines the characteristics of any particular thing. For example – A Human Being has 2 Hands, 2 legs, a stomach etc. These are all characteristics. The Law of noncontradiction means that a single statement cannot be both true and false at the same time. If you’re ugly, you’re ugly. You’re not beautiful. The Law of excluded middle claims that there is no middle ground between truth and false, something has to be either true or false. Although I and many philosophers disagree with this. Every living being is grey and nothing can be so black and white.
Aristotle believed in metaphysics and this is where he had a different thought from Plato. He did not use the word “Metaphysics”. He rather called it first philosophy. Aristotle rejected the theory of forms. To read more about theory of forms, go to the link attacked below.Plato believed the Intelligible world(made up of ideas and thoughts) and the visible world are different and the intelligible world is the true form of reality. Aristotle disagreed. He believed that if you separate those two things then there will be no meaning. Anything can be form or matter or both. He believed that intelligibility is present in everything. He believed that knowledge is gained through specific truths which are gained through experience and also art and philosophy. Wisdom, on the opposing hand, is when a person understands all the fundamental principles of all things and uses that knowledge in real life. He breaks down how things come to be through 4 causes:-
1. The material cause- This explains what something is made of
2. The formal cause- This explains what form something takes.
3. The efficient cause- This explains how something comes into being.
4. The final cause- The final purpose of anything.
Aristotle believed that the ultimate purpose of any human being is happiness. And to attain happiness, one must act with virtue. It is only through virtue that a human being can attain happiness. A person must make decisions with true virtues which he sets for himself according to his past experiences. The ultimate form of happiness, according to Aristotle, was a life of intellectual contemplation and living life with reasoning. The reasoning is what separates humans from animals and is the highest form of living. That’s all about his school of thought.