The Renaissance Man
Aristotle Aristotle is one of the most famous and remembered of the Greek philosophers. Aristotle was not just a philosopher, but a man of many talents, passions, and above all, thoughts and ideas. Aristotle was very active in biology, botany, logic, history, ethics, chemistry, metaphysics, rhetoric, philosophy of mind, zoology, psychology, poetics, political theory, philosophy of science, and physics, yet he is predominately remembered mainly due to his work in philosophy. Aristotle was an ancient day renaissance man, skilled in multiple subjects, and his work shaped western ideals even though the reformations and revolutions throughout the world. Aristotle was born in Macedonia, Greece in 384 BCE. In 367 BCE, Aristotle moved to Athens (after his father's death) to enroll in the Academy of Plato, where he spent over 20 years learning from Plato. Much of Aristotle's early works (though few fragments have survived) show heavy Platonian influence. After Aristotle had learned from Plato, he was invited by Philip II of Macedon to teach his son, Alexander. Aristotle was one of the "advisors" to Alexander, pushing Alexander to conquer the east. In a quote from Aristotle, he advises Alexander to "[be]a leader to the Greeks and a despot to the barbarians, to look after the former as after friends and relatives, and to deal with the latter as with beasts or plants". Aristotle later returned to Athens and led the Lyceum, a school for higher thinking. It is during his time at the Lyceum that Aristotle created many of his works and ideas, while at the same time, refined his existing ideas and works. Though he was absorbed in his work, Alexander actually believed that Aristotle was plotting against him. Aristotle was a likely suspect due to his speaking against the divinity of Alexander, and Alexander had Aristotle's grandnephews executed and branded as a traitor. After Alexander's death, Aristotle moved to Chalcis, on his mother's estate. There he lived the rest of his life until his death in 322 BCE. Aristotle was fond of using syllogisms. His train of thought went something like this:
"All stars are distant objects. All distant objects twinkle. Therefore, all stars twinkle."
This logic is what helped Aristotle create hard beliefs that he held to in his philosophical ponderings. This simple logic was instrumental in his philosophical ideas, and also stretched into his views on the natural world as well.
Aristotle was also huge believer in mental exploration. To learn is mans highest calling, and Aristotle embraced it. "ALL men by nature desire to know." This was Aristotle's belief, and he stuck to it by learning virtually all he was able to. Aristotle was very good at theorizing. He sums it up nicely in this quote:
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
This alone shows that Aristotle had an ability that I consider very rare in the world today. He could listen to ideas and incorporate them into his own, disregard them, or even accept them for truth. This allowed Aristotle to be incredibly flexible with his ideals and the philosophical paths he explored, without being closed minded in his ideas. Aristotle created many works while he was at the Lyceum. His work "On The Soul" and "On the Motions of Animals" are some of his more remembered works, though there were numerous more that he created. "Metaphysics" is also another work of Aristotle, and is widely known as an incredibly diverse work on the ideas and ruminations of mankind. Aristotle's works on nature are simply genius for his time, though there were errors of course. Aristotle seemed to be obsessed with balance, both in the natural world as well as in regards to the body/spirit of man.
Aristotle suggested that Nature, giving no animal both horns and tusks, was staving off vanity, and giving creatures faculties only to such a degree as they are necessary. Noting