Aristotle (AR uh stot l) lived many years ago. He was born in a Greek colony about 350 years before the birth of Christ (B.C.) His father, Nichomachus (ni koh MAH kuhss), was the physician for the king of Macedonia. Unfortunately Nichomachus died when Aristotle was quite young and he was put in the care of a guardian. When he was 17 years old he was sent to Athens to study. Athens was a center of learning and he joined the Academy and studied for twenty years under Plato (PLAY toe) who was the foremost philosopher* and teacher of that time.
When Plato died Aristotle expected to be appointed as his successor, but his ideas differed from those of his teacher, and Plato's nephew was chosen to teach at the Academy. He left Athens and went to Mysia where he taught for three years in the king's court and married the king's daughter Pythias. They had a daughter and Pythias died when she was a young woman. Some writers claim that Philip, king of Macedonia, invited him to come and teach his son Alexander who was 13 years old at the time. He tutored him for five years. This same Alexander would later go on to conquer the then-known world.
by Gustav Adolph Spangenberg
He returned to Athens. Plato's school was now under a new teacher, Xenocrates(zih NOK ruh teez). Aristotle set up his own school, the Lyceum* (li SEE um). He would teach there for 13 years until he had to flee the country. The school he started continued for more than two hundred years.
Aristotle walked around as he taught and his students would follow him and listen to his lectures. They became known as the peripatetics (per uh puh TET iks) a word which means to "walk about". When Alexander the Great suddenly died Aristotle left Athens because the government had been overthrown and his life was in danger due to his background as a Macedonian.
Aristotle was a genius. He studied many different subjects; science, plants, animals, the human body, weather, the earth, the heavens, politics, government, ethics* and philosophy. He created a system for organizing and catagorizing things which formed the basis for modern day thinking.
He taught moderation, urging his students to follow the middle road between extremes. He defined virtue* as the disposition of the soul that promotes human flourishing. He said it was cultivated through training, and through virtue people could find the meaning of life and develop character. The central question of ethics according to Aristotle was, "What kind of person ought I to be?"
"To enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on excellence of character."
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics
Aristotle said you need virtues not because you are going to be punished for wrongdoing, but you need them in order to be happy. He set the standard in regard to virtues and vices*. Aristotle and Plato were in agreement about virtue. They both taught that man should live a virtuous life, but they differed on many other things.
The School of Athens
fresco by Raphael
Plato envisioned an ideal form of government; a utopia* ruled by philosophers. Aristotle thought common men of virtue were capable of governing themselves.
"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."
"The basis of a democratic state is liberty."
( Aristotle quotes from Politics)
ARISTOTLE'S FOUR CAUSES
The first was the material cause or the material out of which something is composed.
We will use the example of a spoon. The spoon is made of metal.
The second was the formal cause or the plan that caused it to exist.
The spoon was designed by a craftsman who planned its shape and size.
The third was the efficient cause or that which brings something about or causes it to be.
We know it is a spoon because it has a bowl shape on one end and it has a handle for holding it.
And the fourth was the final cause or the purpose of something.
The purpose of the spoon is that it is to be used for eating.
Aristotle defined syllogism* (SIL uh jiz um) as a kind of logical argument where you draw a conclusion based on two other premises or facts. For example:
Major premise: all children are human beings.
Minor premise: Chris is a child.
Conclusion: Chris is a human being.
Later in life Aristotle had a son whom he named Nichomachus, giving him the name of his father who had died when Aristotle was young.
When he left Athens after the death of Alexander, he went to the island of Euboea. He died soon afterward in 322 B.C. at the age of 62.
This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2007.
A frequent question:
"Who wrote this biography and when was it written?"
Look on this Reference Citations Chart.
History for Kids
(See topics in the right-hand column)
School for Champions
listen online to a discussion about Aristotle
About Alchemists (audio)
Ceredi's Pump (audio)
Engines of Our Ingenuity.
Works by Aristotle
Internet Classics archive
Quotations by Aristotle
Aristotle - A Treatise on Government
online translation at The Literature Page
The School of Athens
painting by Raphael
Ethics of Virtue and Character
presentation by Lawrence M. Hinman
Lectures on Ethical Theory
video lecture by Lawrence M. Hinman,Professor of Philosophy, University of San Diego
From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster
(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)
a: a person who seeks wisdom or enlightenment : a scholar or thinker
b : a student of philosophy
1 : a hall for public lectures or discussions
2 : an association providing public lectures, concerts, and entertainments
Etymology: Middle English vertu, virtu "behavior that fits with what is right or moral,"
from early French virtu (same meaning), from Latin virtus "strength, virtue, manly quality,"
1 : conduct that agrees with what is morally right
2 : a particular moral quality: justice and charity are virtues
3 : a desirable quality
1 a : evil conduct or habits, wickedness
b: a moral fault or weakness "dishonesty was his vice"
2 : an unimportant fault "eating too much candy is my vice"
1 often capitalized : a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions
2 : an impractical scheme for social improvement
a brief form for stating an argument that consists of two statements
and a conclusion that must be true if these two statements are true
1 : the study of the rules and tests of sound reasoning
2 : connection (as of facts or events) in a way that seems reasonable
Function: noun singular or plural
1 : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is good and bad
and with moral duty and obligation
2 : the rules of moral conduct governing an individual or a group
Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle
By Martin Cothran / Memoria Press
Aristotle's Rhetoric is known as one of the finest works on the classical concept of rhetoric--a subject's own style or forms of expression. This course is an accompanied 'tour' during this book, conveying in simpler terms what Artistotle's arguments are. Focusing on the content rather than the technique of rhetoric, this course will follow Aristotle's concern with the 'what' of communication. Following the chapters of Rhetoric, open-ended questions focus on questions that may be answered from the book and critical thinking questions. Quotes, selected readings, weekly writing assignments (research and evaluative) and Latin translations are all included, helping students to gain a thorough and unique understanding of this classical tradition. 175 non-reproducible pages, softcover. Answer key sold separately (stock # 636452).
Please leave a comment for this page.
View all Comments
Biographies in this Series
Reference citations information for these biographies
the United States
George Washington John Adams Thomas Jefferson James Madison James Monroe Andrew Jackson Martin Van Buren Abraham Lincoln Theodore Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt Harry S. Truman Dwight D. Eisenhower John F. Kennedy Lyndon B. Johnson Jimmy Carter Ronald Reagan Barack Obama Calvin Coolidge American Patriots Benjamin Franklin Francis Scott Key Deborah Sampson Molly Pitcher World Leaders Constantine Alexander the Great Winston Churchill Margaret Thatcher Inventors Alexander Graham Bell Johann Gutenberg Cyrus McCormick The Wright Brothers Henry Ford Thomas A. Edison Sequoyah Nikola Tesla Michael Faraday Dean Kamen Jack Kilby Leonardo Da Vinci Donald O'Neal Explorers Christopher Columbus Meriwether Lewis Robert Peary John Muir Matthew Henson Sir Edmund Hillary Kit Carson Johnny Appleseed Daniel Boone Women who made
Clara Barton Helen Keller Florence Nightingale Joan of Arc Amelia Earhart Annie Oakley Susan B. Anthony Elizabeth Keckly Harriet Tubman Anne Frank Eleanor Roosevelt Madam C.J. Walker Sadako Sasaki Henrietta Lacks Malala Yousafzai Scientists George Washington Carver Sir Isaac Newton Marie Curie Louis Pasteur Albert Einstein Galileo Lise Meitner Norman Borlaug Benjamin Banneker Educators Noah Webster Booker T. Washington Aristotle Mary McLeod Bethune Physicians Hippocrates Walter Reed Albert Schweitzer Religious Leaders George Muller Increase Mather Athletes Lou Gehrig Wilma Rudolph Tiger Woods Michael Phelps Civil Rights
Martin Luther King Rosa Parks Sojourner Truth Frederick Douglass Mary Ann Shadd Cary James Forten Gandhi César Chávez William Wilberforce Nelson Mandela Composers Beethoven Mozart Authors Laura Ingalls Wilder Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Ernest Hemingway Greg Mortenson Phillis Wheatley Artists John James Audubon Gutzon Borglum Ansel Adams Dale Chihuly Van Gogh Michelangelo Rembrandt Grandma Moses Cassatt Renoir Cezanne Rockwell
Back to Famous Leaders
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Puzzles on these pages courtesy of
Songs of Praise and Armored Penguin
*Word Match Solution
Photos courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries,