Slides in this set
Aristotle: Basic Background
· When he was 18, Aristotle came down to Athens from
Macedonia, in Northern Greece, to study at Plato's academy.
· He stayed there for 20 years.
· When Plato died, Aristotle left Athens, got married and returned
· He eventually returned to Athens and founded his own university
called the Lyceum.
· He had to leave Athens when Alexander the Great (who he had
tutored in Macedonia from the age of 13) died, because
Macedonian imperialists had become increasingly unpopular.
· He finally died in exile in Euboea in 322 B.C.
· In his will, he asked that his slaves be made free men, even
though he had earlier suggested that captive people were slaves
by "nature."…read more
Deductive or Syllogistic Logic
Aristotle wrote some 400 books on nearly everything from molluscs to
He believed that there is something wonderful about the whole of the natural
Philosophers are extremely grateful to him because he invented deductive logic,
· All frogs can swim (premise)
· This is a frog (premise)
· Therefore it can swim (conclusion)
Similar logical structures or syllogisms can be produced with "No frogs" and
"Some frogs." And if your argument follows some simple rules (like not allowing
more in the conclusion than the premises), then it will be valid.
And if the premises are true, and your argument is valid, then the conclusion is
The frog will be able to swim, and you wont have to throw it in the water to find
Logic is a powerful tool, but Aristotle was never very clear about what exactly
logic is telling you about the world itself, human mind or how language works.…read more
Souls and Substances
Aristotle also had a go at the One Big Question. He didn't accept that material
objects were just inferior copies of eternal "Forms."
For Aristotle, everything is made of unique "substances" which have "essential"
or "accidental" properties. Essential properties define something.
· Socrates has to be a man and a philosopher to be Socrates
· Whereas an accidental property like his haircut, isn't definitive.
This philosophical problem of "substance" continued to trouble philosophers for
the next 2,500 years.
Aristotle had also said that souls are the principle of all biological life. Plants
have a vegetative soul which makes them grow, animals have another than
gives them sensations and humans have both, with the added bonus of reason.
Unlike Pythagorean and Platonic souls though, the Aristotelian one offers no
guarantee of immorality.…read more
The Ethics of Moderation
Plato thought that morality should be left to infallible experts. Aristotle thought
that morality was more like a practical everyday sort of skill that most adults
acquire from experience.
· Parents train their offspring to be moral in their behaviour towards other
children and adults then learn how to be sensible and moderate their
dealings with others.
Human beings are social animals, programmed to live together harmoniously,
even if their moral "software" needs to be exercise regularly by choosing the
"Mean" between extremes (The Golden Mean)
By acting moderately, people can become "happy" as accomplished human
beings and good citizens.
So Aristotelian ethics is more about self-fulfilment than morality as such.…read more
Taking the Blame
Aristotle thought that Socrates was wrong to believe that "Virtue is knowledge."
Being a moral person involves not just knowing what is right, but choosing it as
Individuals must accept responsibility for their voluntary actions which involve
Aristotle's ethics may seem dull and obvious but his "virtue theory" could be
Perhaps ethics should be about producing people who are morally experiences,
rather than about inventing "pure" moral systems or rules.
But do humans have these moral "virtues" or functions? Our function might be
to act as ruthless individualists.…read more