Aristotle's Politics: Biography

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Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher who, with Socrates and Plato. is one of the founders of the discipline of Western Philosophy. His writings on physics, poetry, logic, rhetoric, politics, ethics, biology, government, and metaphysics, among other subjects reflect the scientific interests that were aroused by his father, a well known doctor. He was so knowledgeable and analytically sharp that he was nicknamed the “Brain” by his students at Plato’s Academy.

Aristotle was born in Stageira, Chalcidice and was raised with all the advantages of an aristocrat.  At the age of eighteen, he left to study at Plato’s Academy, where he spent more than twenty years of study. He was greatly influenced by Plato, one of his mentors, who believed that poets who represented evil had to be countered with Sophocles’s belief in goodness.  This laid the background for Aristotle’s defense of poetry in the Poetics. With this work, Aristotle took on the role of the defender of poetry. After Plato’s death, Aristotle traveled to Assos where under the patronage of Hermias, Aristotle founded his first philosophical school. At the court of Hermias he met Pythias whom he eventually married, and with whom he had a daughter, also named Pythias. After Hermias’s death, Philip II of Macedon invited Aristotle to tutor Alexander the Great.

Eventually, Aristotle returned to Athens, setting up an academy in 335 BC: the Lyceum. The Lyceum, a gymnasium just outside Athens, was an academy where Aristotle famously lectured while walking with his students, giving his philosophical school the name Peripatetics. After his wife’s death, he became involved with Herpyllis of Stageira, with whom he had a son named after his father Nicomachus.

It was at this time that Aristotle composed many of his works, many of which were later lost. He wrote widely, according to his wide-ranging interests and expertise, works that included the Poetics, Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, and De Anima.

After the death of Alexander the Great, Aristotle faced increasing hostility, and was denounced by the people for not honoring the gods. He fled to Chalcis, famously explaining: “I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy.” He died the same year, in 322 BC.

 

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