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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Aristotle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Aristotle was the first genuine scientist in history. ...
Every scientist is in his debt."

Aristotle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Aristotle (/ˈærɪˌstɒtəl/; Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης [aristotélɛːs], Aristotélēs; 384 – 322 BCE) was a Greek philosopher and scientist born in Stagirus, northern Greece, in 384 BCE. His father, Nicomachus, died when Aristotle was a child, whereafter Proxenus of Atarneus became his guardian. At eighteen, he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BCE). His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government – and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Shortly after Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip of Macedonia, tutored Alexander the Great between 356 and 323 BCE. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "Aristotle was the first genuine scientist in history. ... Every scientist is in his debt."

He believed all peoples' concepts and all of their knowledge was ultimately based on perception.

Aristotle's views on natural sciences represent the groundwork underlying many of his works.

Aristotle's views on physical science profoundly shaped medieval scholarship. Their influence extended into the Renaissance and were not replaced systematically until the Enlightenment and theories such as classical mechanics. Some of Aristotle's zoological observations were not confirmed or refuted until the 19th century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, which was incorporated in the late 19th century into modern formal logic.

In metaphysics, Aristotelianism profoundly influenced Judeo-Islamic philosophical and theological thought during the Middle Ages and continues to influence Christian theology, especially the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church. Aristotle was well known among medieval Muslim intellectuals and revered as "The First Teacher" (Arabic: المعلم الأول‎).

His ethics, though always influential, gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics. All aspects of Aristotle's philosophy continue to be the object of active academic study today. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues – Cicero described his literary style as "a river of gold"_ it is thought that only around a third of his original output has survived.

This period in Athens, between 335 and 323 BCE, is when Aristotle is believed to have composed many of his works. He wrote many dialogues of which only fragments have survived. Those works that have survived are in treatise form and were not, for the most part, intended for widespread publication; they are generally thought to be lecture aids for his students. His most important treatises include Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, De Anima (On the Soul) and Poetics.

Aristotle not only studied almost every subject possible at the time, but made significant contributions to most of them. In physical science, Aristotle studied anatomy, astronomy, embryology, geography, geology, meteorology, physics and zoology. In philosophy, he wrote on aesthetics, ethics, government, metaphysics, politics, economics, psychology, rhetoric and theology. He also studied education, foreign customs, literature and poetry. His combined works constitute a virtual encyclopedia of Greek knowledge.

Near the end of his life, Alexander became paranoid and wrote threatening letters to Aristotle. Aristotle had made no secret of his contempt for Alexander's pretense of divinity.

Following Alexander's death, anti-Macedonian sentiment in Athens was rekindled. In 322 BCE, Eurymedon the Hierophant denounced Aristotle for not holding the gods in honor, prompting him to flee to his mother's family estate in Chalcis, explaining: "I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy" – a reference to Athens's prior trial and execution of Socrates. He died in Euboea of natural causes later that same year, having named his student Antipater as his chief executor and leaving a will in which he asked to be buried next to his wife.

In Aristotle's terminology, "natural philosophy" is a branch of philosophy examining the phenomena of the natural world, and includes fields that would be regarded today as physics, biology and other natural sciences. In modern times, the scope of philosophy has become limited to more generic or abstract inquiries, such as ethics and metaphysics, in which logic plays a major role. Today's philosophy tends to exclude empirical study of the natural world by means of the scientific method. In contrast, Aristotle's philosophical endeavors encompassed virtually all facets of intellectual inquiry.

In the larger sense of the word, Aristotle makes philosophy coextensive with reasoning, which he also would describe as "science". Note, however, that his use of the term science carries a different meaning than that covered by the term "scientific method". For Aristotle, "all science (dianoia) is either practical, poetical or theoretical" (Metaphysics 1025b25). By practical science, he means ethics and politics; by poetical science, he means the study of poetry and the other fine arts; by theoretical science, he means physics, mathematics and metaphysics.

If logic (or "analytics") is regarded as a study preliminary to philosophy, the divisions of Aristotelian philosophy would consist of: (1) Logic; (2) Theoretical Philosophy, including Metaphysics, Physics and Mathematics; (3) Practical Philosophy and (4) Poetical Philosophy

Aristotle proposed a fifth element, aether, in addition to the four proposed earlier by Empedocles.

  • Earth, which is cold and dry; this corresponds to the modern idea of a solid.
  • Water, which is cold and wet; this corresponds to the modern idea of a liquid.
  • Air, which is hot and wet; this corresponds to the modern idea of a gas.
  • Fire, which is hot and dry; this corresponds to the modern ideas of plasma and heat.
  • Aether, which is the divine substance that makes up the heavenly spheres and heavenly bodies (stars and planets).
Each of the four earthly elements has its natural place. All that is earthly tends toward the center of the universe, i.e., the center of the Earth. Water tends toward a sphere surrounding the center. Air tends toward a sphere surrounding the water sphere. Fire tends toward the lunar sphere (in which the Moon orbits). When elements are moved out of their natural place, they naturally move back towards it. This is "natural motion"—motion requiring no extrinsic cause. So, for example, in water, earthy bodies sink while air bubbles rise up; in air, rain falls and flame rises. Outside all the other spheres, the heavenly, fifth element, manifested in the stars and planets, moves in the perfection of circles.

Aristotle suggested that the reason for anything coming about can be attributed to four different types of simultaneously active causal factors:

  • Material cause describes the material out of which something is composed. Thus the material cause of a table is wood, and the material cause of a car is rubber and steel. It is not about action. It does not mean one domino knocks over another domino.
  • The formal cause is its form, i.e., the arrangement of that matter. It tells us what a thing is, that any thing is determined by the definition, form, pattern, essence, whole, synthesis or archetype. It embraces the account of causes in terms of fundamental principles or general laws, as the whole (i.e., macrostructure) is the cause of its parts, a relationship known as the whole-part causation. Plainly put, the formal cause is the idea existing in the first place as exemplar in the mind of the sculptor, and in the second place as intrinsic, determining cause, embodied in the matter. Formal cause could only refer to the essential quality of causation. A simple example of the formal cause is the mental image or idea that allows an artist, architect, or engineer to create his drawings.
  • The efficient cause is "the primary source", or that from which the change under consideration proceeds. It identifies 'what makes of what is made and what causes change of what is changed' and so suggests all sorts of agents, nonliving or living, acting as the sources of change or movement or rest. Representing the current understanding of causality as the relation of cause and effect, this covers the modern definitions of "cause" as either the agent or agency or particular events or states of affairs. So, take the two dominoes, this time of equal weighting, the first is knocked over causing the second also to fall over.
  • The final cause is its purpose, or that for the sake of which a thing exists or is done, including both purposeful and instrumental actions and activities. The final cause or teleos is the purpose or function that something is supposed to serve. This covers modern ideas of motivating causes, such as volition, need, desire, ethics, or spiritual beliefs.
Additionally, things can be causes of one another, causing each other reciprocally, as hard work causes fitness and vice versa, although not in the same way or function, the one is as the beginning of change, the other as the goal. (Thus Aristotle first suggested a reciprocal or circular causality as a relation of mutual dependence or influence of cause upon effect). Moreover, Aristotle indicated that the same thing can be the cause of contrary effects; its presence and absence may result in different outcomes. Simply it is the goal or purpose that brings about an event. Our two dominoes require someone or something to intentionally knock over the first domino, because it cannot fall of its own accord.

Plato argued that there are some universal forms that are not a part of particular things. For example, it is possible that there is no particular good in existence, but "good" is still a proper universal form. Bertrand Russell is a 20th-century philosopher who agreed with Plato on the existence of "uninstantiated universals".

Aristotle disagreed with Plato on this point, arguing that all universals are instantiated. Aristotle argued that there are no universals that are unattached to existing things. According to Aristotle, if a universal exists, either as a particular or a relation, then there must have been, must be currently, or must be in the future, something on which the universal can be predicated. Consequently, according to Aristotle, if it is not the case that some universal can be predicated to an object that exists at some period of time, then it does not exist.

In addition, Aristotle disagreed with Plato about the location of universals. As Plato spoke of the world of the forms, a location where all universal forms subsist, Aristotle maintained that universals exist within each thing on which each universal is predicated. So, according to Aristotle, the form of apple exists within each apple, rather than in the world of the forms.

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