Biography of Aristóteles (filósofo griego, ca. 384-322 a.C.)

Greek philosopher born in Stagira 384 b.c. and died at Chalcis in 322 BC along with Plato, has dominated all the development in the history of Western philosophy since ancient times until the modern age. He is the first that manages to set up philosophy as a science within a global system of human knowledge. At the top of this knowledge the philosophy lies in its specific meaning of metaphysics, which points to the other sciences its limits and its connections.


Aristotle contemplating a bust of Homer. Rembrandt.

Life and works.

Aristotle was born in Stagira (Thrace, hence that appointed him, sometimes, as "The Estagirita"), 384 b.c. His father, Nicomachus, was doctor of King Amintas II of Macedonia. In the year 367, he entered the school of Plato, in Athens, in which he remained until the death of the master in the 347. Then he left Athens and went to Atarneus, where his friend Hermias provided him with the means to engage in biological research. The Filipo King of Macedonia entrusted the education of his son, the future Alejandro Magno. When this became King, Aristotle returned to Athens, and there founded her school to be called high school (to be based in a place dedicated to the God Apololicio; also became known under the name of "peripato", from the Greek peripatein "walk"), a kind of corridor where I used to take a walk during your lessons. After the death of Alejandro Magno broke out in Athens a strong antimacedonica current, which also affected Aristotle, which was forced to leave the city, retreating to Chalcis, land of his mother, where he died at the age of sixty-two.

The writings of Aristotle can be classified into two groups: the exoteric, (aimed at the general public not started in philosophy, something like what we would today call "of disclosure"); and the esoteric (directed to a public already started in philosophical knowledge). The first has been lost, and we know only the titles of some or small fragments. According to tradition, esoteric books have come to us because his heir, Neleus, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the King of Pergamon, moved the entire library of Aristotle to Troas and hid her in a cellar. Part of that library was composed of the manuscripts of the master. Recovered in the 1st century BC by Teo Apelicon, were reviewed in this city by Sulla, and then moved to Rome. The works were arranged in the order that we know today by Andronicus of Rhodes. All of them are called "Corpus aristotélicum".

The "corpus" comprises four large groups of works:

1) the writings of logic, known by the name of Organon ('instrument'; includes categories, interpretation, analytical analytical, seconds first, topics, refutations of sophistry).

(2) writings of the philosophy of nature or physical (physical sky, generation and corruption, weather, history of animals, the movement of the animals, power animal, the soul, feeling and sensible, memory and keepsake).

(3) the fourteen books collected under the title of metaphysics, so-called because serially ordered by Andronikos came after (meta in Greek) from the writings of physics.

(4) the moral, political, works of poetics and rhetoric, which are: to Eudemian ethics, ethics to Nicomachus, greater ethics or moral Grand (whose authenticity is discussed), politics, poetics, rhetoric and Constitution of Athens.

Aristoteles, as depicted in the famous painting the school of Athens, Rafael (1483-1520).

Doctrine of Aristotle.

The logic.

Means "logical" in Aristoteles discipline propaedeutics or preparation for the better development of the rest of the sciences. Although Aristotle excludes the logic of its consideration as a science, and even used the term to designate the method of reasoning or of knowledge, however, gets him such a boost and improvement that will remain almost unchanged for nearly two millennia. Only with Bacon and Descartes suffer refutations of importance. With the logic, the Estagirita plans to assemble your entire system to try to find the universal truth inscribed in the particular entities. After a treaty, that can be considered for introduction and which analyzes the terms (categories) and the proposals (of interpretation), he studied the silogistica structure common to all the arguments coherent, formally valid (first analytical). Then examines the requirements to be a reasoning, as well as formally correct, true (posterior Analytics, topics, refutations of sophistry).

The most important result of the Aristotelian logic is this doctrine of the syllogism, which he considers all valid inference scheme. It defines and classifies all valid forms of syllogism, distinguishing between them the true and the merely correct. In fact, a correct syllogism only gets to the truth if the premises are true. To prove the truth of the premises you can resort to another syllogism, but since this process cannot continue indefinitely, it is necessary that there are some obvious Supreme principles themselves, which do not need to show. These principles are: beginning of identity, principle of non-contradiction and principle of the excluded.

Important is also its doctrine on the concepts. A concept has an extension (scope of things to which applies) and understanding (the set of notes that characterize it). Extension and understanding are in inverse relationship. Depending on the degree of compression and extension, the concepts are called predicables and universal, and are grouped into five classes: can express the gender of an object, its species, the specific difference, properties and accidents.

Any predicate which we can formulate can belong to one of these ten classes or categories: substance, quantity, quality, relation, time, place, situation, condition, action and passion.


Aristotle's metaphysical concerns is at the same time, with respect to his teacher Plato, constructive and critical, since proposed a new systematization. What he wants with the metaphysics is to get to know "first causes and principles". Deals with the subjects of metaphysics in what he calls "first philosophy" (prote philosophia), science which considers to be insofar be (to on and on). By addressing the first and real causes, can be considered equally divine, theological science science (Theoldgike episteme).

Aristotle rejects the Platonic theory of Ideas separate from the entities of this world. What truly exists are not the "Reflections" of Ideas, but the entities, captured by intelligence and in which lies the universal aspect. Being is the opposite of nothing, one and multiple at the same time, but when we speak of being in general we do similarly. Indeed, Aristotle distinguishes three ways of expressing the self: uniquely (when we refer to a single meaning: "man", "Brown", "five"), equivocate (when a single term to express different concepts: "Jewish", a leguminous plant;) "Jewish", a woman of that ethnic group). But when we say, for example, 'healthy', we can refer to a male, a climate, a food. We are applying the 'healthy' concept similarly.

All be it gives the substance (ousia, essence of each individual entity subsisting in itself) and accident (a quality that does not exist in itself but in the substance). The substance can be first substance, basis of accidents and principle of individuation, and second substance, which indicates the species and thanks to which scientific knowledge can be given. The first substance may in turn be corruptible (World of entities), eternal (the celestial world) and eternal e still (God).

Sensitive substances are formed by two principles: commodity (ule), which says what it is done one thing, and form (morphe), layout or structure of the same.

To explain the change, - because, against Parmenides, it is evident that change and movement occur in the world, relies on the concepts of Act and potency, first determinations of being. Now, with these two notions we know how happen changes or movements, but we do not know why. This we know it through the reasons or causes for the change, which Aristotle concretized in four: material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and cause (or teleological) final. The latter is of great importance for the Estagirita, since it is convinced that everything exists for a purpose, for all, by their own immanence, seeketh his intrinsic perfection.

The metaphysical science of Aristotle culminates in theology, which deals of being there per, i.e. the entity in its fullest sense, pure form without matter. To prove the existence of that being, appeals to several arguments: "among the things that there are one is better than the other; "from there that there is an optimal thing, which should be the divine". His best-known argument is the so-called cosmological predicament: things of this world are perishable, and therefore suffer change; This change is happening at the time. Change and time are, well, Evergreen; more to allow the change or eternal movement must be an eternal substance capable of producing that movement. But not we can go back to infinity to find the causes of the causes, so that we must reach a first unmoved mover. This engine is God, conceived by Aristotle as unalterable intangible force. That being, however, does not appear in Aristotle as the creator of the world, because it is eternal.

The world of movement: physics.

Physics, or "second philosophy" deals with substances of nature (physei), both of the land or sublunary of the celestial. The movement is common to all substances in the universe, though in different way: substances of this world have local and movement generation and corruption; the celestial, increadas, are circular, continuous and eternal movement. Aristotle accepted the four elements of Empedocles for the composition of the substances (water, Earth, air, fire), which do not may decompose, but they can be combined with each other, emerging elements mixed in infinite number.

The celestial world is composed of concentric spheres in constant motion, in a harmonious order. In the Center is the Earth. The farthest from the earth sphere is animated by the first engine. The stars are formed by ether, which produces certain incandescence upon contact with the air. Any material substance exists in an enveloping space in which there is no vacuum. Time is defined as "the number of movement according to the before and after".Aristotle is also worried about the biological world, even made direct investigations. In your classifier work, aside from its scientific importance for later science, it reveals its amazing ability to systematization.

Soul and knowledge.

All living beings are to Aristotle as possessors of soul (psyche), which are distinguished from inorganic or inanimate beings. Distinguishes three kinds of soul: vegetative (of plants, but also in animals and in man), sensitive (own animals and man), rational (exclusive of the man). This has three characteristics: it is cause of the movement of the body, known and is disembodied. He dies with the body, but remains the nous, which is immortal. Aristotle distinguishes two intellects: the active intellect - that is immortal, Uncreated and eternal; represents the ability to abstract and conceptualize-, and passive intellect, which is the ability of the soul to grasp things.

With respect to knowledge, Aristotle does not support the reminiscent of Plato, nor the innatism. The mind at birth is "tamquam tabula rasa", in which nothing is written. Knowledge begins in the senses, as experience shows us. The catchments of the senses are apprehended by the intellect passive, in the form of images or ghosts (phantasmata). When active understanding comes to abstraction is universal, generating the concept. In this way we arrive at the spiritual knowledge.

Ethics and politics.

For Aristotle, the ethics depends on the policy, since individual behaviour must be subject to Community requirements. The world history and culture, and thus also of ethics and politics, it is not governed by principles necessary as other sciences, but that its general principles are extracted of judgments and acts of conduct observed in citizens of a community and its history. We must adhere to the concrete reality. The degree of certainty that may require is what allows us to mobility and variety of the human vicissitudes. The ethics of Aristotle has a purpose which is summed up in the pursuit of happiness. For some, happiness consists in the pleasures; for others, the wealth; but the wise man seeks it in the exercise of the activity which is her own man, i.e., in the intellectual life. This does not exclude the moderate enjoyment of the sensitive pleasures and other goods, as long as it does not obstruct the contemplation of truth. On this basis, Aristotle developed the concept of virtue. Virtue consists of medium. But it does not refer to an average mathematician. What you want to imply acting man must be governed by prudence or straight rule. There are two modes of virtue: the dianoeticas (which relate to the exercise of intelligence) and ethics (referring to the sensitivity and affection). All virtues are habits that are acquired through repetition. The virtue par excellence is justice, which is in compliance with the laws and respect to other citizens.

Also for the policy criteria should be based on tradition, culture and common sense. For Aristotle, the man is a "political animal" by nature. Only animals and gods can live isolated. Natural force toward reproduction and conservation tips the man to live United, first in the family, then in the village (union of several families) and finally in the City-State (neither too few nor too many inhabitants). The proper functioning of a city-state is not secured only by combining wills towards the same aim; It is required also of sensible and appropriate laws that respect differences and educate citizens to the civil responsibility within liberty (Aristotle, in its Greek class mentality, not conceived the right to citizenship either for women or slaves). There are three forms of legitimate Government: monarchy (Government of one), aristocracy (Government of the best) and Republic (Government of many). These straight forms of Government tyranny, oligarchy and democracy they oppose (Aristotle meant by 'democracy' the Government of the poor). You cannot say which of the three is better, because the concrete theory for a people have to deduct it from an objective investigation of the various historical forms of Government, and define the circumstances what is more suitable for a certain State (Aristotle collected and studied the constitutions of 158 States). In principle, any form of Government is good if who governs seeks the good of the governed.

Poetics and rhetoric.

Here Aristotle also departs from the theories of Plato. While Plato valued negatively of MIME art or imitation of nature because, according to him, it drives away men of contemplation of the truth, Aristotle believed that imitation of nature helps to know her better. Imitation which holds art enriches the man, and is precisely the form of imitation which gives rise to the various arts. The focus of the poetic lies about the tragedy (of course refers to the Greek tragedy of his time). She credited a cathartic or similar to some psychotherapeutic current techniques purification function: in the Remote Viewer emerge retained dangerous passions; those passions are personified in the scene by the authors; by means of this "mirror", the spectator "live them," internalized them, finally freeing himself, by a kind of discharge, the oppressive anxiety producing those passions.

Similarly, if Plato believed rhetoric as the art of the Sophists, able to present as true which is false, Aristotle defends in the politician, dexterity or clumsiness with which is practiced depends on many occasions the positive or negative resolution of issues important to the polis.

Finally, Aristotle distinguishes between history (which concerns what happened), poetry (referring what could have happened or could happen).

The influence of Aristotle in all fields of philosophy was felt throughout the middle ages both in Latin and Arabic, and even today still live in the tradition of the theology and philosophy free of the Catholic Church.


VUILLEMIN, j.: Of the logique à the theologie. Cinq études sur a., Paris, 1967.

GRENE-GLICKSMAN, M.: A portrait of Aristotle, Chicago, 1967.

DUALIZING, p.: The problem of being in Aristotle, Madrid, 1974.

HELLER, a.: Aristotle and the ancient world, Barcelona, 1983.

JAEGER, w.: Aristotle, Mexico, 1947;

MOREAU, j.: Aristotle and his school, Buenos Aires, 1972.