Aristotle of Stagira (384 BC-322 BC) was a Macedonian philosopher of the ancient Greek civilization, considered among the main thinkers of the West and whose ideas, collected in around 200 treatises of which only 31 are still preserved, have had validity and influence in our intellectual history for more than two thousand years. For example: postulated the principle of non-contradiction, proposed an ethics of virtues.
Their writings they covered a host of interests, from logic, politics, ethics, physics, and rhetoric, to poetics, astronomy, and biology; areas of knowledge in which he played a transforming role, in some cases even foundational: his were the first systematic studies of logic and biology in history.
It was disciple of other important philosophers such as Plato and Eudoxus, during the twenty years in which he studied at the Academy of Athens, the same city where he would later found the Lyceum, where he would teach until the fall of his disciple, Alexander of Macedon, also known as like Alexander the Great. Then he would go to the city of Chalcis, where he would die the following year.
The trajectory Aristotle’s work is the cornerstone of contemporary science and philosophy, and is often honored at international conferences, treatises, and publications.
The works written by Aristotle that have survived until us are 31, although the authorship of some of them is currently in dispute. The call Corpus aristotelicum (Aristotelian body), however, it is studied in its Prussian edition by Immanuel Bekker, produced between 1831-1836 and many of its titles are still in Latin.
- Treatises on Logic. Categories (Category), of the interpretation (of interpretatione), First analytics (Prior Analytica), analytical seconds (Back Analytics), topics (topical), sophistical refutations (By sophisticis elenchis).
- physics treatises. Physical (physical), Above the sky (by fall), about generation and corruption (De generatione et corruptione), Meteorology (Meteorological), Of the universe (Of World), Of the soul (of anima), Little Treatises on Nature (parva naturalia), of the breath (of spirit), history of animals (history animalium), The parts of animals (De partibus animalium), The movement of animals (From motu animalium), Progression of animals (Of incessus animalium), Generation of animals (De generatione animalium), of the colors (By coloribus), Of the audition things (By audibilibus), Physiognomonic (Physiognomonica), Of the plants (of plants), Of the wonders heard (De mirabilibus auscultationibus), Mechanics (mechanical), Problems (problem), Of the imperceptible lines (De lineis insecabilibus), the places of the winds (Ventorum situs), Melisos, Xenophanes, and Gorgias (abbreviated MXG).
- metaphysical treatise. Metaphysics (Metaphysics).
- Treatises on ethics and politics. Nicomachean Ethics (Nicomachean Ethics), High morale (great morality), Eudemian Ethics (Ethics Eudemia), Booklet on virtues and vices (De virtutibus et vitiis libellus), Politics (Politics), Economic (Oeconomic) and Constitution of the Athenians (Athenaion politea).
- Rhetorical and poetic treatises. rhetorical art (Ars rhetoric), Rhetoric to Alexander (Rhetorica ad Alexandrum) and Poetics (poetic art).
Examples of Aristotle’s contributions
- He built his own philosophical system. Opposed to the ideas of his teacher Plato, for whom the world was made up of two planes: the sensible and the intelligible, Aristotle proposed that the world had no compartments. Thus, he criticized the “Theory of Forms” of his teacher, which postulated that the world of ideas was the true world and that the perceptible world was just a reflection of it. For Aristotle, things are made up of matter and form, irremediably together in the essence of reality, and their truth can only be reached empirically, that is, through experience.
- He is the founding father of logic. This Greek philosopher is credited with the first research systems on the principles of validity or invalidity of reasoning, through the construction of the category of syllogism (deduction). In his own words, this is “a speech (logo) in which, established certain things, necessarily results from them, for being what they are, something else different”; that is, a mechanism for inferring conclusions from a set of premises. This system made it possible to study the reasoning mechanism itself based on the validity or invalidity of the premises. A model that remains in force until today.
- He postulated the principle of non-contradiction. Another great contribution to logic was the principle of non-contradiction, which stipulates that a proposition and its negation cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. From there, any reasoning that implies a contradiction can be considered false. Aristotle also devoted his efforts to the study of fallacies (invalid reasoning), of which he identified and classified thirteen main types.
- He proposed a division of philosophy. In those times, philosophy was understood as the “study of truth”, so its object of interest was quite broad. Aristotle instead proposed a series of disciplines from it: logic, which he considered a preparatory discipline; theoretical philosophy, integrated by physics, mathematics and metaphysics; and practical philosophy, which was composed of ethics and politics.
- He proposed an ethics of virtues. Aristotle defended the virtues of the spirit as primordial, that is, those that had to do with human reason, which for him was divided into two: the intellect and the will. Through them, man could dominate his irrational part. These precepts would serve a whole branch of philosophical schools to come, whose division of man between a rational and irrational aspect would incarnate in other forms, such as the Christian division between the imperishable soul and the mortal body.
- Expounded the classical theory of forms of government. This theory was taken up virtually unchanged in much later centuries and underpins much of our current system of political classifications. Aristotle proposed six forms of government, classified according to whether or not they sought the common good and the number of existing rulers, namely:
- Regimes that seek the common good:
- If one person rules: Monarchy
- If few rule: Aristocracy
- If many govern: Democracy
- Regimes that degrades from them:
- If one person rules: Tyranny
- If few govern: Oligarchy
- If many govern: Demagoguery
- Regimes that seek the common good:
This Aristotelian text and its abundant examples have served historians to reconstruct much of the Greek society of the time.
- He proposed a geocentric astronomical model. This model thought of the earth as a fixed entity (although round) around which the stars revolved in a spherical dome. This model remained in force throughout the centuries, until Nicholas Copernicus in the 16th century introduced a model that posited the Sun as the center of the universe.
- Developed a physical theory of the four elements. His physical theory was based on the existence of four elemental substances: water, earth, air, fire and ether. To each one he assigned a natural movement, namely: the first two moved towards the center of the universe, the next two moved away from it, and the ether revolved around said center. This theory remained in force until the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.
- Postulated the theory of spontaneous generation. Perfected by Jan Van Helmont in the 17th century and finally refuted by the studies of Louis Pasteur, this theory of the spontaneous appearance of life proposed its creation from humidity, dew or sweat, thanks to a life-generating force from matter, which he named entelechy.
- laid the foundations for literary theory. Enter your Rhetoric and his Poetics, Aristotle studied the forms of language and imitative poetry, overcoming Plato’s suspicion of poets (whom he had expelled from his Republic cataloging them as liars), and thus laying the foundations for a philosophical study of aesthetics and literary arts, which he divided into three main forms:
- epic. Precursor of the narrative, it has a mediator (narrator) who recalls or recounts the facts and therefore is very far from the truth of them.
- Tragedy. By reproducing the facts and making them happen in front of the public, this form of representation is the highest for Aristotle and the one that serves the best ends for the polis, since it represents man better than he is, and also his fall.
- Comedy. Similar to tragedy, but representing men worse than they are. The study fragments of comedy in the Poetics of Aristotle have unfortunately been lost.