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Who is Aristotle?

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher was born into an aristocratic family in 384 BC. His father was the personal physician to the King of Macedon.In 367 BC, Aristotle went to Plato’s academy as a student, but he later became a teacher there. After Plato’s death in 347 BC, Aristotle renewed his connections to the Macedonian court and became a tutor to the king’s son, the future Alexander the Great.

Unfortunately for modern scholars, only a small portion (approximately one-third) of Aristotle’s writing has survived. He composed two types of works, one designed for the general public and another designed specifically for students and teachers of philosophy. It is believed that it is the latter collection that remains today, which would explain the extremely dense nature of the material.

Aristotle’s extant works can be divided into five categories: logic, physical works, psychological works, philosophical works, and natural history. Some of his most studied volumes today include Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, Rhetoric, and Poetics.

In 323 BC Alexander the Great died unexpectedly and the government of Athens was overthrown by anti-Macedonian forces. Having had close connections with the Macedonian royal family, Aristotle was associated with the Macedonians and was unpopular with the new ruling powers. The new government brought charges of impiety against Aristotle, but he fled to his country house in Chalcis in Euboea to escape prosecution. Aristotle commented that he fled so that "the Athenians might not have another opportunity of sinning against philosophy as they had already done in the person of Socrates." About a year later, Aristotle died after complaints of a stomach illness.


 A full presentation of the philosophical thought of Aristotle would require many volumes. However, some of the important points of that thought which influence the Aristotelian educational theory can be summarized briefly. Those points are:


a. RealityThe universe is composed of two ultimate entities, spirit or form and materiality or matter. All things are reducible to one or other of these basic entities.b. The Nature of ManMan is a rational animal. He is animal in his possession of a body With its physical needs and appetites. He is rational because he has a soul. The active element of the soul is part of the universal principle of life. This element is immortal. The passive element of the soul is the individual personality, with memories and thoughts relating to the experiences of life. This passive element ceases to exist with death. The soul and body form a necessary whole for the existence of the organism. The implications of this theory are:

 (1) Destiny. Man has no eternal destiny. He ceases to exist as an individual personality at death.(2) Nature. The highest faculty in man is his spiritual nature. Man acts according to his nature when he subordinates his physical appetites to reason.
c. TeleologyThere is purpose, order and intelligence in the universe, stemming from the first being, the unmoved Mover, God.
2. EPISTEMOLOGY.a. Source of TruthThe faculty of reason in every man can be trained, through the principles of logic, to reason toward true conclusions.  b. Nature of TruthTruth is objective. For example, a true proposition does not depend upon the mind of the individual man for its existence. Truths exist in nature and are discoverable by the reason of man.3. ETHICS.a. HappinessThe highest good to which man may aspire is happiness. A truly happy life can be assessed only upon its completion. b. NaturalismA man lives happily when his actions are in accordance with his nature. Man's spiritual nature is superior to his physical nature. The highest good for any man is the activity of his soul.
 c. ReasonThe faculty of reason, resident in the soul of man, must guide his every action. The physical appetites must be controlled by reason. Reason, therefore, is the source of virtue.d. VirtueMan uses his reason to judge between the extremes of any given act. The middle course constitutes virtue. For example, the mean between the two extremes of the vice of rashness (excess of courage) and the vice of cowardice (lack of courage) is the virtue of temperate courage.
 4. POLITICS.a. PurposeThe purpose of the state is to produce human good.b. NaturalismMan is social by nature. He will naturally be political. The difficulty in political philosophy is to determine how man may act reasonably and virtuously to achieve the best political action.
c. ReasonThe ideal state must be reasoned as a mean between two governmental extremes.
 d. Constitutional MonarchyThe best form of government is a constitutional monarchy, which is the mean between the extremes of despotism and democracy. The constitution guarantees moderation between the demands of the wealthy and the interests of the poor.
 e. Public EducationThe state is perpetuated through the education of its citizens. Therefore education is, of necessity, public in nature.


 EDUCATION. The importance of education in the philosophy of Aristotle was great, since the individual man could learn to use his reason to arrive at virtue, happiness, and political harmony only through the process of education.1. AIM OF EDUCATIONThe purpose of education is to produce a good man. Man is not good by nature. He must learn to control his animal activities through the use of reason. Only when man behaves by habit and reason, according to his nature as a rational being, is he capable of happiness. Education must aim at the development of the full potentialities of each man. It must seek the development of man's intellectual capacities to their fullest extent. It must aim also at developing each individual's body to its highest level of health and strength.
2. EDUCATION OF WOMENWomen were considered inferior to men. The nature of women suggested that their proper function was fulfilled exclusively in the home. Women would not be educated with men. They would receive training in gymnastics and domestic arts to enable them to manage households, to bear and raise children, and to please and be obedient to their husbands.
3. EDUCATION OF MENSince citizenship would extend only to the aristocracy, which included rulers, soldiers, and priests, education would be given exclusively to this group. The farmer, laborer, merchant, and slave would be trained in whatever specific skills were required of them. Training in industrial arts or vocational skills is not education. Education is that which liberates man, enabling him to live his leisured existence according to his full potentialities. Education is therefore a practical means to the end of achieving the acme of man's nature.
4. THE CONTENT OF EDUCATIONEducation must not serve any mean or vocational activity. These activities are the functions of slaves. The subject material must train the future rulers in the use of reason. Future rulers must learn obedience and responsibility before they rule. We may infer from the curriculum of the Academy that the following subjects would be taught:

a. BasicsThese would include reading, writing and mathematics (not for purposes of trade, but as a preparation for the intellectual abstractions of higher mathematics).b. Natural SciencesAristotle emphasized the natural sciences of astronomy, biology, physiology, zoology, chemistry and physics.
 c. Physical EducationThe training of the body is important to the physical well-being of every citizen.
d. HumanitiesRhetoric, grammar, poetry, politics and philosophy would be important subjects. During the early education of the child, Aristotle would have the state legislature censor the material which would be read by children.5. THE METHOD OF EDUCATIONAristotle placed habit high in the learning process. Man learns by nature, by habit, and by reason. Consequently, the teacher would organize materials according to the laws of reason. Repetitive drill would be used to reinforce what was understood by elementary knowledge of reading and writing. Arithmetic was never developed to a sophisticated extent because of the awkward method of writing numerals.

Quotes of Aristotle / Thoughts of Aristotle

  • Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
  • Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well.
  • There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man.
  • Time crumbles things; everything grows old under the power of Time and is forgotten through the lapse of Time.”
  • “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
  • “Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.”

  • “He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
  • Nature does nothing uselessly.
  • What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.
  • Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.
  • Liars when they speak the truth are not believed.
  • The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law.
  • Love truth, and pardon error.
  • Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.
  • Law is order, and good law is good order.
  • Hope is a waking dream.
  • Wit is educated insolence.
  • Happiness depends upon ourselves.
  • Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing.
  • Education is the best provision for old age.
  • The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
  • Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy.
  • Virtue is a mean state between two vices, the one of excess and the other of deficiency.


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