- Ideas do not have an independent, extra-mental subsistence, but exist in things.
- The material substratum, which is the potential for the existence of finite things, must be distinguished from absolute nonbeing or privation.
- The substances of things are a union of form and matter.
- Body and soul are conjoined as matter and form.
- The existence of all finite and transitory things can be understood as a movement from potential to actual existence.
- The world exists eternally, and movement of all things is an unceasing movement.
- The source of this movement is the unmoved or eternally acutal First Mover, the actuality of which draws finite things from potential into actual existence.
- The empirical order is a suitable realm for inquiry based on sense perception.
- Whereas in the logical order, demonstration proceeds deduxtively from general principles to particular conclusions, discussion of the natural order proceeds inductively from the observed particular to general conclusions.
- The good is that at which all things aim.
- All human inquiry and behavior is, therefore, guided by its end or goal, which is a particular good.
Aristotle was born in 384 BCE. at Stagirus, a Greek colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace. His father Nichomachus was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonia, and from this began Aristotle's long association with the Macedonian Court, which considerably influenced his life.
While he was still a boy his father died. At age 17 his guardian, Proxenus, sent him to Athens, the intellectual center of the world, to complete his education. He joined the Academy and studied underPlato, attending his lectures for a period of twenty years. In the later years of his association with Plato and the Academy he began to lecture on his own account, especially on the subject of rhetoric.
At the death of Plato in 347, the pre-eminent ability of Aristotle would seem to have designated him to succeed to the leadership of the Academy. But his divergence from Plato's teaching was too great to make this possible, and Plato's nephew Speusippus was chosen instead. At the invitation of his friend Hermeas, ruler of Atarneus and Assos in Mysia, Aristotle left for his court. He stayed there for three years and, while there, married Pythias, the niece of the King.
In later life he was married a second time to a woman named Herpyllis, who bore him a son, Nichomachus. At the end of three years Hermeas was overtaken by the Persians, and Aristotle went to Mytilene. At the invitation of Philip of Macedonia he became the tutor of his 13 year old son Alexander (later world conqueror Alexander the Great); he did this for the next five years. Both Philip and Alexander appear to have paid Aristotle high honor, and there were stories that Aristotle was supplied by the Macedonian court, not only with funds for teaching, but also with thousands of slaves to collect specimens for his studies in natural science. These stories are probably false and certainly exaggerated.
Upon the death of Philip, Alexander succeeded to the kingship and prepared for his subsequent conquests. Aristotle's work being finished, he returned to Athens, which he had not visited since the death of Plato. He found the Platonic school flourishing under Xenocrates, and Platonism the dominant philosophy of Athens. He thus set up his own school at a place called the Lyceum. When teaching at the Lyceum, Aristotle had a habit of walking about as he discoursed. It was in connection with this that his followers became known in later years as the peripatetics, meaning "to walk about." For the next thirteen years he devoted his energies to his teaching and composing his philosophical treatises. He is said to have given two kinds of lectures: the more detailed discussions in the morning for an inner circle of advanced students, and the popular discourses in the evening for the general body of lovers of knowledge. At the sudden death of Alexander in 323 BCE., the pro-Macedonian government in Athens was overthrown, and a general reaction occurred against anything Macedonian. A charge of impiety was trumped up against him. To escape prosecution he fled to Chalcis in Euboea so that (Aristotle says) "The Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy as they had already done in the person of Socrates." In the first year of his residence at Chalcis he complained of a stomach illness and died in 322 BCE.
It is reported that Aristotle's writings were held by his student Theophrastus, who had succeeded Aristotle in leadership of the Peripatetic School. Theophrastus's library passed to his pupil Neleus. To protect the books from theft, Neleus's heirs concealed them in a vault, where they were damaged somewhat by dampness, moths and worms. In this hiding place they were discovered about 100 BCE by Apellicon, a rich book lover, and brought to Athens. They were later taken to Rome after the capture of Athens by Sulla in 86 BCE. In Rome they soon attracted the attention of scholars, and the new edition of them gave fresh impetus to the study of Aristotle and of philosophy in general. This collection is the basis of the works of Aristotle that we have today. Strangely, the list of Aristotle's works given by Diogenes Laertius does not contain any of these treatises. It is possible that Diogenes' list is that of forgeries compiled at a time when the real works were lost to sight.
The works of Aristotle fall under three headings:
(1) dialogues and other works of a popular character;
(2) collections of facts and material from scientific treatment; and
(3) systematic works.
Aristotle's writings on the general subject of logic were grouped by the later Peripatetics under the name Organon, or instrument. From their perspective, logic and reasoning was the chief preparatory instrument of scientific investigation. Aristotle himself, however, uses the term "logic" as equivalent to verbal reasoning. The Categories of Aristotle are classifications of individual words (as opposed to propositions), and include the following ten: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, situation, condition, action, passion. They seem to be arranged according to the order of the questions we would ask in gaining knowledge of an object. For example, we ask, first, what a thing is, then how great it is, next of what kind it is. Substance is always regarded as the most important of these. Substances are further divided into first and second: first substances are individual objects; second substances are the species in which first substances or individuals inhere.
Notions when isolated do not in themselves express either truth or falsehood: it is only with the combination of ideas in a proposition that truth and falsity are possible. The elements of such a proposition are the noun substantive and the verb. The combination of words gives rise to rational speech and thought, conveys a meaning both in its parts and as a whole. Such thought may take many forms, but logic considers only demonstrative forms which express truth and falsehood. The truth or falsity of propositions is determined by their agreement or disagreement with the facts they represent. Thus propositions are either affirmative or negative, each of which again may be either universal or particular or undesignated. A definition, for Aristotle is a statement of the essential character of a subject, and involves both the genus and the difference. To get at a true definition we must find out those qualities within the genus which taken separately are wider than the subject to be defined, but taken together are precisely equal to it. For example, "prime" "odd" and "number" are each wider than "triplet" (i.e., a collection of any three items, such as three rocks); but taken together they are just equal to it. The genus definition must be formed so that no species is left out. Having determined the genus and species, we must next find the points of similarity in the species separately and then consider the common characteristics of different species. Definitions may be imperfect by (1) being obscure, (2) by being too wide, or (3) by not stating the essential and fundamental attributes. Obscurity may arise from the use of equivocal expressions, of metaphorical phrases, or of eccentric words. The heart of Aristotle's logic is the syllogism, the classic example of which is as follows: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal. The syllogistic form of logical argumentation dominated logic for 2,000 years.
Aristotle's editors gave the name "Metaphysics" to his works on first philosophy, either because they went beyond or followed after his physical investigations. Aristotle begins by sketching the history of philosophy. For Aristotle, philosophy arose historically after basic necessities were secured. It grew out of a feeling of curiosity and wonder, to which religious myth gave only provisional satisfaction. The earliest speculators (i.e. Thales, Anaximenes, Anaximander) were philosophers of nature. The Pythagoreans succeeded these with mathematical abstractions. The level of pure thought was reached partly in the Eleatic philosophers (such asParmenides) and Anaxagoras, but more completely in the work of Socrates. Socrates' contribution was the expression of general conceptions in the form of definitions, which he arrived at by induction and analogy. For Aristotle, the subject of metaphysics deals with the first principles of scientific knowledge and the ultimate conditions of all existence. More specifically, it deals with existence in its most fundamental state (i.e. being as being), and the essential attributes of existence. This can be contrasted with mathematics which deals with existence in terms of lines or angles, and not existence as it is in itself. In its universal character, metaphysics superficially resembles dialectics and sophistry. However, it differs from dialectics which is tentative, and it differs from sophistry which is a pretence of knowledge without the reality.
The axioms of science fall under the consideration of the metaphysician insofar as they are properties of all existence. Aristotle argues that there are a handful of universal truths. Against the followers of Heraclitusand Protagoras, Aristotle defends both the laws of contradiction, and that of excluded middle. He does this by showing that their denial is suicidal. Carried out to its logical consequences, the denial of these laws would lead to the sameness of all facts and all assertions. It would also result in an indifference in conduct. As the science of being as being, the leading question of Aristotle's metaphysics is, What is meant by the real or true substance? Plato tried to solve the same question by positing a universal and invariable element of knowledge and existence - the forms - as the only real permanent besides the changing phenomena of the senses. Aristotle attacks Plato's theory of the forms on three different grounds.
First, Aristotle argues, forms are powerless to explain changes of things and a thing's ultimate extinction. Forms are not causes of movement and alteration in the physical objects of sensation. Second, forms are equally incompetent to explain how we arrive at knowledge of particular things. For, to have knowledge of a particular object, it must be knowledge of the substance which is in that things. However, the forms place knowledge outside of particular things. Further, to suppose that we know particular things better by adding on their general conceptions of their forms, is about as absurd as to imagine that we can count numbers better by multiplying them. Finally, if forms were needed to explain our knowledge of particular objects, then forms must be used to explain our knowledge of objects of art; however, Platonists do not recognize such forms. The third ground of attack is that the forms simply cannot explain the existence of particular objects. Plato contends that forms do not exist in the particular objects which partake in the forms. However, that substance of a particular thing cannot be separated from the thing itself. Further, aside from the jargon of "participation," Plato does not explain the relation between forms and particular things. In reality, it is merely metaphorical to describe the forms as patterns of things; for, what is a genus to one object is a species to a higher class, the same idea will have to be both a form and a particular thing at the same time. Finally, on Plato's account of the forms, we must imagine an intermediate link between the form and the particular object, and so on ad infinitum: there must always be a "third man" between the individual man and the form of man.
For Aristotle, the form is not something outside the object, but rather in the varied phenomena of sense. Real substance, or true being, is not the abstract form, but rather the concrete individual thing. Unfortunately, Aristotle's theory of substance is not altogether consistent with itself. In the Categories the notion of substance tends to be nominalistic (i.e., substance is a concept we apply to things). In the Metaphysics, though, it frequently inclines towards realism (i.e., substance has a real existence in itself). We are also struck by the apparent contradiction in his claims that science deals with universal concepts, and substance is declared to be an individual. In any case, substance is for him a merging of matter into form. The term "matter" is used by Aristotle in four overlapping senses. First, it is the underlying structure of changes, particularly changes of growth and of decay. Secondly, it is the potential which has implicitly the capacity to develop into reality. Thirdly, it is a kind of stuff without specific qualities and so is indeterminate and contingent. Fourthly, it is identical with form when it takes on a form in its actualized and final phase.
The development of potentiality to actuality is one of the most important aspects of Aristotle's philosophy. It was intended to solve the difficulties which earlier thinkers had raised with reference to the beginnings of existence and the relations of the one and many. The actual vs. potential state of things is explained in terms of the causes which act on things. There are four causes:
Material cause, or the elements out of which an object is created;
Efficient cause, or the means by which it is created;
Formal cause, or the expression of what it is;
Final cause, or the end for which it is.
Take, for example, a bronze statue. Its material cause is the bronze itself. Its efficient cause is the sculptor, insofar has he forces the bronze into shape. The formal cause is the idea of the completed statue. The final cause is the idea of the statue as it prompts the sculptor to act on the bronze. The final cause tends to be the same as the formal cause, and both of these can be subsumed by the efficient cause. Of the four, it is the formal and final which is the most important, and which most truly gives the explanation of an object. The final end (purpose, or teleology) of a thing is realized in the full perfection of the object itself, not in our conception of it. Final cause is thus internal to the nature of the object itself, and not something we subjectively impose on it.
God to Aristotle is the first of all substances, the necessary first source of movement who is himself unmoved. God is a being with everlasting life, and perfect blessedness, engaged in never-ending contemplation.
Aristotle sees the universe as a scale lying between the two extremes: form without matter is on one end, and matter without form is on the other end. The passage of matter into form must be shown in its various stages in the world of nature. To do this is the object of Aristotle's physics, or philosophy of nature. It is important to keep in mind that the passage from form to matter within nature is a movement towards ends or purposes. Everything in nature has its end and function, and nothing is without its purpose. Everywhere we find evidences of design and rational plan. No doctrine of physics can ignore the fundamental notions of motion, space, and time. Motion is the passage of matter into form, and it is of four kinds:
(1) motion which affects the substance of a thing, particularly its beginning and its ending;
(2) motion which brings about changes in quality;
(3) motion which brings about changes in quantity, by increasing it and decreasing it; and
(4) motion which brings about locomotion, or change of place.
Of these the last is the most fundamental and important.
Aristotle rejects the definition of space as the void. Empty space is an impossibility. Hence, too, he disagrees with the view of Plato and the Pythagoreans that the elements are composed of geometrical figures. Space is defined as the limit of the surrounding body towards what is surrounded. Time is defined as the measure of motion in regard to what is earlier and later. it thus depends for its existence upon motion. If there where no change in the universe, there would be no time. Since it is the measuring or counting of motion, it also depends for its existence on a counting mind. If there were no mind to count, there could be no time. As to the infinite divisibility of space and time, and the paradoxes proposed by Zeno, Aristotle argues that space and time are potentially divisible ad infinitum, but are not actually so divided.
After these preliminaries, Aristotle passes to the main subject of physics, the scale of being. The first thing to notice about this scale is that it is a scale of values. What is higher on the scale of being is of more worth, because the principle of form is more advanced in it. Species on this scale are eternally fixed in their place, and cannot evolve over time. The higher items on the scale are also more organized. Further, the lower items are inorganic and the higher are organic. The principle which gives internal organization to the higher or organic items on the scale of being is life, or what he calls the soul of the organism. Even the human soul is nothing but the organization of the body. Plants are the lowest forms of life on the scale, and their souls contain a nutritive element by which it preserves itself. Animals are above plants on the scale, and their souls contain an appetitive feature which allows them to have sensations, desires, and thus gives them the ability to move. The scale of being proceeds from animals to humans. The human soul shares the nutritive element with plants, and the appetitive element with animals, but also has a rational element which is distinctively our own. The details of the appetitive and rational aspects of the soul are described in the following two sections.
Soul is defined by Aristotle as the perfect expression or realization of a natural body. From this definition it follows that there is a close connection between psychological states, and physiological processes. Body and soul are unified in the same way that wax and an impression stamped on it are unified. Metaphysicians before Aristotle discussed the soul abstractly without any regard to the bodily environment; this, Aristotle believes, was a mistake. At the same time, Aristotle regards the soul or mind not as the product of the physiological conditions of the body, but as the truth of the body - the substance in which only the bodily conditions gain their real meaning.
The soul manifests its activity in certain "faculties" or "parts" which correspond with the stages of biological development, and are the faculties of nutrition (peculiar to plants), that of movement (peculiar to animals), and that of reason (peculiar to humans). These faculties resemble mathematical figures in which the higher includes the lower, and must be understood not as like actual physical parts, but like such aspects as convex and concave which we distinguish in the same line. The mind remains throughout a unity: and it is absurd to speak of it, asPlato did, as desiring with one part and feeling anger with another. Sense perception is a faculty of receiving the forms of outward objects independently of the matter of which they are composed, just as the wax takes on the figure of the seal without the gold or other metal of which the seal is composed. As the subject of impression, perception involves a movement and a kind of qualitative change; but perception is not merely a passive or receptive affection. It in turn acts, and, distinguishing between the qualities of outward things, becomes "a movement of the soul through the medium of the body."
The objects of the senses may be either (1) special, (such as color is the special object of sight, and sound of hearing), (2) common, or apprehended by several senses in combination (such as motion or figure), or (3) incidental or inferential (such as when from the immediate sensation of white we come to know a person or object which is white). There are five special senses. Of these, touch is the must rudimentary, hearing the most instructive, and sight the most ennobling. The organ in these senses never acts directly , but is affected by some medium such as air. Even touch, which seems to act by actual contact, probably involves some vehicle of communication. For Aristotle, the heart is the common or central sense organ. It recognizes the common qualities which are involved in all particular objects of sensation. It is, first, the sense which brings us a consciousness of sensation. Secondly, in one act before the mind, it holds up the objects of our knowledge and enables us to distinguish between the reports of different senses.
Aristotle defines the imagination as "the movement which results upon an actual sensation." In other words, it is the process by which an impression of the senses is pictured and retained before the mind, and is accordingly the basis of memory. The representative pictures which it provides form the materials of reason. Illusions and dreams are both alike due to an excitement in the organ of sense similar to that which would be caused by the actual presence of the sensible phenomenon. Memory is defined as the permanent possession of the sensuous picture as a copy which represents the object of which it is a picture. Recollection, or the calling back to mind the residue of memory, depends on the laws which regulate the association of our ideas. We trace the associations by starting with the thought of the object present to us, then considering what is similar, contrary or contiguous.
Reason is the source of the first principles of knowledge. Reason is opposed to the sense insofar as sensations are restricted and individual, and thought is free and universal. Also, while the senses deals with the concrete and material aspect of phenomena, reason deals with the abstract and ideal aspects. But while reason is in itself the source of general ideas, it is so only potentially. For, it arrives at them only by a process of development in which it gradually clothes sense in thought, and unifies and interprets sense-presentations. This work of reason in thinking beings suggests the question: How can immaterial thought come to receive material things? It is only possible in virtue of some community between thought and things. Aristotle recognizes an active reason which makes objects of thought. This is distinguished from passive reason which receives, combines and compares the objects of thought. Active reason makes the world intelligible, and bestows on the materials of knowledge those ideas or categories which make them accessible to thought. This is just as the sun communicates to material objects that light, without which color would be invisible, and sight would have no object. Hence reason is the constant support of an intelligible world. While assigning reason to the soul of humans, Aristotle describes it as coming from without, and almost seems to identify it with God as the eternal and omnipresent thinker. Even in humans, in short, reason realizes something of the essential characteristic of absolute thought -- the unity of thought as subject with thought as object.
Ethics, as viewed by Aristotle, is an attempt to find out our chief end or highest good: an end which he maintains is really final. Though many ends of life are only means to further ends, our aspirations and desires must have some final object or pursuit. Such a chief end is universally called happiness. But people mean such different things by the expression that he finds it necessary to discuss the nature of it for himself. For starters, happiness must be based on human nature, and must begin from the facts of personal experience. Thus, happiness cannot be found in any abstract or ideal notion, like Plato's self-existing good. It must be something practical an human. It must then be found in the work and life which is unique to humans. But this is neither the vegetative life we share with plants nor the sensitive existence which we share with animals. It follows therefore that true happiness lies in the active life of a rational being or in a perfect realization and outworking of the true soul and self, continued throughout a lifetime.
Aristotle does not regard politics as a separate science from ethics, but as the completion, and almost a verification of it. The moral ideal in political administration is only a different aspect of that which also applies to individual happiness. Humans are by nature social beings, and the possession of rational speech (logos) in itself leads us to social union. The state is a development from the family through the village community, an offshoot of the family. Formed originally for the satisfaction of natural wants, it exists afterwards for moral ends and for the promotion of the higher life. The state in fact is no mere local union for the prevention of wrong doing, and the convenience of exchange. It is also no mere institution for the protection of goods and property. It is a genuine moral organization for advancing the development of humans.
The family, which is chronologically prior to the state, involves a series of relations between husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave. Aristotle regards the slave as a piece of live property having no existence except in relation to his master. Slavery is a natural institution because there is a ruling and a subject class among people related to each other as soul to body; however, we must distinguish between those who are slaves by nature, and those who have become slaves merely by war and conquest. Household management involves the acquisition of riches, but must be distinguished from money-making for its own sake. Wealth is everything whose value can be measured by money; but it is the use rather than the possession of commodities which constitutes riches.
Financial exchange first involved bartering. However, with the difficulties of transmission between countries widely separated from each other, money as a currency arose. At first it was merely a specific amount of weighted or measured metal. Afterwards it received a stamp to mark the amount. Demand is the real standard of value. Currency, therefore, is merely a convention which represents the demand; it stands between the producer and the recipient and secures fairness. Usury is an unnatural and reprehensible use of money.
The communal ownership of wives and property as sketched by Plato in the Republic rests on a false conception of political society. For, the state is not a homogeneous unity, as Plato believed, but rather is made up of dissimilar elements. The classification of constitutions is based on the fact that government may be exercised either for the good of the governed or of the governing, and may be either concentrated in one person or shared by a few or by the many. There are thus three true forms of government: monarchy,aristocracy, and constitutional republic. The perverted forms of these are tyranny, oligarchy anddemocracy. The difference between the last two is not that democracy is a government of the many, and oligarchy of the few; instead, democracy is the state of the poor, and oligarchy of the rich. Considered in the abstract, these six states stand in the following order of preference: monarchy, aristocracy, constitutional republic, democracy, oligarchy, tyranny. But though with a perfect person monarchy would be the highest form of government, the absence of such people puts it practically out of consideration. Similarly, true aristocracy is hardly ever found in its uncorrupted form. It is in the constitution that the good person and the good citizen coincide. Ideal preferences aside, then, the constitutional republic is regarded as the best attainable form of government, especially as it secures that predominance of a large middle class, which is the chief basis of permanence in any state. With the spread of population, democracy is likely to become the general form of government.
Which is the best state is a question that cannot be directly answered. Different races are suited for different forms of government, and the question which meets the politician is not so much what is abstractly the best state, but what is the best state under existing circumstances. Generally, however, the best state will enable anyone to act in the best and live in the happiest manner. To serve this end the ideal state should be neither too great nor too small, but simply self-sufficient. It should occupy a favorable position towards land and sea and consist of citizens gifted with the spirit of the northern nations, and the intelligence of the Asiatic nations. It should further take particular care to exclude from government all those engaged in trade and commerce; "the best state will not make the "working man" a citizen; it should provide support religious worship; it should secure morality through the educational influences of law and early training. Law, for Aristotle, is the outward expression of the moral ideal without the bias of human feeling. It is thus no mere agreement or convention, but a moral force coextensive with all virtue. Since it is universal in its character, it requires modification and adaptation to particular circumstances through equity.
Education should be guided by legislation to make it correspond with the results of psychological analysis, and follow the gradual development of the bodily and mental faculties. Children should during their earliest years be carefully protected from all injurious associations, and be introduced to such amusements as will prepare them for the serious duties of life. Their literary education should begin in their seventh year, and continue to their twenty-first year. This period is divided into two courses of training, one from age seven to puberty, and the other from puberty to age twenty-one. Such education should not be left to private enterprise, but should be undertaken by the state. There are four main branches of education: reading and writing, gymnastics, music, and painting. They should not be studied to achieve a specific aim, but in the liberal spirit which creates true freemen. Thus, for example, gymnastics should not be pursued by itself exclusively, or it will result in a harsh savage type of character. Painting must not be studied merely to prevent people from being cheated in pictures, but to make them attend to physical beauty. Music must not be studied merely for amusement, but for the moral influence which it exerts on the feelings. Indeed all true education is, as Plato saw, a training of our sympathies so that we may love and hate in a right manner.
Art is defined by Aristotle as the realization in external form of a true idea, and is traced back to that natural love of imitation which characterizes humans, and to the pleasure which we feel in recognizing likenesses. Art however is not limited to mere copying. It idealizes nature and completes its deficiencies: it seeks to grasp the universal type in the individual phenomenon. The distinction therefore between poetic art and history is not that the one uses meter, and the other does not. The distinction is that while history is limited to what has actually happened, poetry depicts things in their universal character. And, therefore, "poetry is more philosophical and more elevated than history." Such imitation may represent people either as better or as worse than people usually are, or it may neither go beyond nor fall below the average standard. Comedy is the imitation of the worse examples of humanity, understood however not in the sense of absolute badness, but only in so far as what is low and ignoble enters into what is laughable and comic.
Tragedy, on the other hand, is the representation of a serious or meaningful, rounded or finished, and more or less extended or far-reaching action - a representation which is effected by action and not mere narration. It is fitted by portraying events which excite fear and pity in the mind of the observer to purify or purge these feelings and extend and regulate their sympathy. It is thus a homeopathic curing of the passions. Insofar as art in general universalizes particular events, tragedy, in depicting passionate and critical situations, takes the observer outside the selfish and individual standpoint, and views them in connection with the general lot of human beings. This is similar to Aristotle's explanation of the use of orgiastic music in the worship of Bacchas and other deities: it affords an outlet for religious fervor and thus steadies one's religious sentiments.
Major Works of Aristotle
- The Athenian Constitution
- The History of Animals
- Nicomachean Ethics
- On Dreams
- On Generation and Corruption
- On Interpretation
- On Longevity and Shortness of Life
- On Memory and Reminiscence
- On Prophesying by Dreams
- On Sense and the Sensible
- On Sleep and Sleeplessness
- On Sophistical Refutations
- On the Gait of Animals
- On the Heavens
- On the Motion of Animals
- On the Parts of Animals
- On the Soul
- On Youth and Old Age, On Life and Death, On Breathing
- Posterior Analytics
- Prior Analytics
- Virtues and Vices
Quotes from Aristotle
- "A friend is a second self." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "All the affectionate feelings of a man for others are an extension of his feelings for himself." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "[A]ny one can get angry- that is easy- or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable and noble." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "The brave man is man who faces or fears the right thing for the right purpose in the right manner at the right moment." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "Contemplation is the highest form of activity." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "The coward calls the brave man rash, the rash man calls him a coward." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "To coward has too much fear and too little courage, the rash man too much courage and too little fear." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "The good man thinks it more blessed to give than to receive." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "Happiness does not consist in pastimes and amusements but in virtuous activities." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "It is repeated performance of just and temperate actions that produces virtue." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "The life of the intellect is the best and pleasantest for man, because the intellect more than anything else is the man. Thus it will be the happiest life as well." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "The love of pleasure is one of the great elementary instincts of human nature." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "One swallow does not make a spring; neither does one fine day." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "The temperate ... man is so constituted that the bodily pleasures never make him do anything against his principles[s]." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "[S]uch a [good] man wishes to live with himself; for he does so with pleasure, since the memories of his past acts are delightful and his hopes for the future are good, and therefore pleasant. His mind is well stored too with subjects of contemplation." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "To kill oneself as a means of escape from poverty or disappointed love or bodily or mental anguish is the deed of a coward rather than a brave man." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "Virtue is a mean between two vices." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "Virtue is more clearly shown in the performance of fine actions than in the nonperformance of base ones." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "What we learn to do, we learn by doing." (from "Nicomachean Ethics")
- "It is a great matter to observe propriety in these several modes of expression, as also in compound words, strange (or rare) words, and so forth. But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances." (from "Poetics")
- "[I]t is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. ... The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may happen. Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular." (from "Poetics")
- "A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies." (from "Politics")
- "A good life requires a supply of external goods, in a less degree when men are in a good state, in a greater degree when they are in a lower state." (from "Politics")
- "A tyrant should also endeavor to know what each of his subjects says or does, and should employ spies ... for the fear of informers prevents people from speaking their minds, and if they do, they are more easily found out. Another art of the tyrant is to sow quarrels among the citizens..." (from "Politics")
- "Anyone who obtains power by force or fraud is at once thought to be a tyrant." (from "Politics")
- "As to the exposure and rearing of children, let there by law that no deformed child shall live." (from "Politics")
- "The best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both the other classes, or at any rate than either singly; for the addition of the middle class turns the scale, and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant." (from "Politics")
- "Everywhere inequality is a cause of revolution." (from "Politics")
- "The greatest crimes are caused by excess not by necessity." (from "Politics")
- "[H]e must put to death men of spirit; he must not allow common meals, clubs, education, and the like; he must be upon his guard against anything which is likely to inspire either courage or confidence among his subjects; he must prohibit literary assemblies or other meetings for discussion, and he must take every means to prevent people from knowing one another (for acquaintance begets mutual confidence)." (from "Politics")
- "The honor he should distribute himself, but the punishment should be inflicted by officers and courts of law." (from "Politics")
- "[I]s there any one ... intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?
There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule." (from "Politics")
- "In the virtue of each the virtue of all is involved." (from "Politics")
- "It is a characteristic of man that he alone [among animals] has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust." (from "Politics")
- "It is characteristic of a tyrant to dislike every one who has dignity or independence; he wants to be alone in his glory, but any one who claims a like dignity or asserts his independence encroaches upon his prerogative, and is hated by him as an enemy to his power." (from "Politics")
- "It is not the possessions but the desires of mankind which require to be equalized." (from "Politics")
- "Man is by nature a political animal." (from "Politics")
- "Nature ... makes nothing in vain." (from "Politics")
- "No government can stand which is not founded upon justice." (from "Politics")
- "Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime." (from "Politics")
- "The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole. But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god: he is no part of a state" (from "Politics")
- "There are two parts of government; one is the actual obedience of citizens to the laws, the other part is the goodness of the laws which they obey." (from "Politics")
- "There must be war for the sake of peace." (from "Politics")
- "They should rule who are able to rule best." (from "Politics")
- "War compels men to be just and temperate, whereas the enjoyment of good fortune and the leisure which comes with peace tends to make them insolent." (from "Politics")
- "Whereas states consist of two classes, of poor men and of rich, the tyrant should lead both to imagine that they are preserved and prevented from harming one another by his rule." (from "Politics")
- "No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness." (from "Problemata")
- "Every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite." (from "Rhetoric")
- "Happiness [is] prosperity combined with virtue." (from "Rhetoric")
- "In order to be wronged, a man must (1) suffer actual harm, (2) suffer it against his will." (from "Rhetoric")
- "Revenge and punishment are different things. Punishment is inflicted for the sake of the person punished; revenge for that of the punisher, to satisfy his feelings." (from "Rhetoric")
- "Style to be good must be clear. ... Clearness is secured by using the words that are current and ordinary." (from "Rhetoric")
- "[W]e ought in fairness to fight our case with no help beyond the bare facts: nothing, therefore, should matter except the proof of those facts." (from "Rhetoric")
- "Wealthy men are insolent and arrogant; their possession of wealth affects their understanding; they feel as if they had every good thing that exists; wealth becomes a sort of standard of value for everything else, and therefore they imagine there is nothing it cannot buy." (from "Rhetoric")
- "Wit [is] well-bred insolence." (from "Rhetoric")
- "Anonymous: How should we behave to friends?Aristotle: As we should wish them to behave to us." (from "Lives of Eminent Philosophers" by Diogenes Laertius)
- "Windbag: Have I bored you to death with my chatter? Aristotle: Not really, for I was paying no attention to you." (from "Lives of Eminent Philosophers" by Diogenes Laertius)
- "Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth."