Key words: ancient Greek philosopher scientist
Aristotle (384-322 bc), Greek philosopher and scientist, who shares with Plato and Socrates the distinction of being the most famous of ancient philosophers. He was born at Stagira, in Macedonia, the son of a physician to the royal court. At the age of 17, he went to Athens to study at Plato's Academy. He remained there for about 20 years, as a student and then as a teacher.
When Plato died in 347 bc, Aristotle moved to Assos, a city in Asia Minor, where a friend of his, Hermias, was ruler. There he counseled Hermias and married his niece and adopted daughter, Pythias. After Hermias was captured and executed by the Persians in 345 bc, Aristotle went to Pella, the Macedonian capital, where he became the tutor of the king's young son Alexander, later known as Alexander the Great. In 335, when Alexander became king, Aristotle returned to Athens and established his own school, the Lyceum. Because much of the discussion in his school took place while teachers and students were walking about the Lyceum grounds, Aristotle's school came to be known as the Peripatetic (“walking” or “strolling”) school. Upon the death of Alexander in 323 bc, strong anti-Macedonian feeling developed in Athens, and Aristotle retired to a family estate in Euboea (Évvoia). He died there the following year.
Perhaps because of the influence of his father's medical profession, Aristotle's philosophy laid its principal stress on biology, in contrast to Plato's emphasis on mathematics. Aristotle regarded the world as made up of individuals (substances) occurring in fixed natural kinds (species). Each individual has its built-in specific pattern of development and grows toward proper self-realization as a specimen of its type. Growth, purpose, and direction are thus built into nature. Although science studies general kinds, according to Aristotle, these kinds find their existence in particular individuals.
Science and philosophy must therefore balance, not simply choose between, the claims of empiricism (observation and sense experience) and formalism (rational deduction).
One of the most distinctive of Aristotle's philosophic contributions was a new notion of causality. Each thing or event, he thought, has more than one “reason” that helps to explain what, why, and where it is. Earlier Greek thinkers had tended to assume that only one sort of cause can be really explanatory; Aristotle proposed four. (The word Aristotle uses, aition,”a responsible, explanatory factor” is not synonymous with the word cause in its modern sense.)