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Aristotle (384 - 322 BC)

Updated Wednesday, 30th August 2006

Introducing the Greek philosopher, Aristotle

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The son of a Macedonian court physician, Aristotle was born in Stagira, Macedonia, in Northern Greece. At the age of 17 he joined Plato’s Academy, near Athens, where he remained until Plato’s death in 347 BC.

Moving to the newly formed Academy at Assos in Asia Minor, Aristotle started working on both biology and philosophy. In the following years Aristotle spent time in Assos, Lesbos, and in Macedonia where he was the tutor to the son of Philip of Macedonia - later known as Alexander the Great.

In 335 BC he set up his own school, the Lyceum, in Athens where he taught for twelve years. With the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC a strong anti-Macedonian feeling in the city became apparent.

Aristotle, with his strong Macedonian connections, became a target and withdrew to Chalcis. It is said that he did this to prevent the people of Athens sinning a second time against philosophy (Socrates being the first victim). Aristotle died, from a stomach complaint, in Chalcis one year later at the age of 62.

Aristotle’s ethics survives in the thought that we should cultivate certain traits of character, so that we become better people, or ‘flourish’, by cultivating certain virtues; which could include trust.

Indeed one of Aristotle's concerns was with the nature of friendship; which he considered as an ideal that covers our relationships with everyone other than the most casual acquaintance.

He understood friendship as a relationship of love between those who are equally virtuous, and so in friendship it seems to be love and virtue, rather than rewards and punishments, which ensures trustworthiness and trust.

Together with Plato, Aristotle is considered to be the most influential philosopher in Western society. The breadth of his work is considerable: from the weather to the planets, morals to mathematics, politics to biology.

Although much of his work in the physical sciences gradually came to be seen as inaccurate, his metaphysical work in logic, ethics and politics remains a strong foundation for western philosophy.


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