Born 384 B.C.; died 322 B.C. Ancient Greek philosopher and scholar.
Aristotle was born in Stagira and moved to Athens in 367. He became a student of Plato and was a participating member of Plato’s Academy for 20 years, until Plato’s death in 347. In the year 343, Aristotle was summoned by Philip, king of Macedonia, to tutor his son Alexander. In 335, Aristotle returned to Athens and there established his own school (the Lyceum, or peripatetic school). He died in Chalcis on the island of Euboea, where he had fled from persecution arising from accusations of a crime against religion. He was an advocate of a moderate form of democracy.
The works of Aristotle that have come down to us may be divided into seven groups according to their contents. They are (1) logical treatises, collected in the compilation entitled Organon, which include Categories (Russian translations, 1859, 1939), On Interpretation (Russian translation, 1891), Prior and Posterior Analytics (Russian translation, 1952), and Topics; (2) physical treatises, including Physics, On Coming to Be and Passing Away, On the Heavens, and On Meteorological Questions; (3) biological treatises—History of Animals, On the Parts of Animals (Russian translation, 1937), On the Origin of Animals (Russian translation, 1940), and On the Movement of Animals, as well as the treatise On the Soul (Russian translation, 1937); (4) works dealing with “first philosophy” which consider being as such and consequently have received the title Metaphysics (Russian translation, 1934); (5) ethical works—the so-called Nicomachean Ethics (dedicated to Nicomachus, Aristotle’s son; Russian translations, 1900, 1908) and the Eudemian Ethics (dedicated to Eudemus, Aristotle’s student); (6) sociopolitical and historical works—Politics (Russian translations, 1865, 1911), the Athenian Constitution (Russian translations, 1891, 1937); and (7) works about art, poetry, and rhetoric, including Rhetoric (Russian translation, 1894) and the incompletely preserved Poetics (Russian translations, 1927, 1957).
Aristotle embraced almost all the branches of knowledge accessible in his time. In his “first philosophy” (“metaphysics”), he criticized Plato’s doctrine of ideas and provided a solution to the ontological relationship between universals and particulars. The particular is that which exists only “somewhere” and “now”; it is perceivable by the senses. The universal is that which exists in any place and at any time (“everywhere” and “always”), and appears under definite conditions in the particular, through which it becomes known. The universal constitutes the object of scientific knowledge and is attained by the mind. In order to explain what exists, Aristotle employed four causes: (1) the essence and core of being, by means of which every object is what it is (formal cause); (2) matter and what lies beneath it (substratum)—that out of which something originates (material cause); (3) moving cause, the beginning of motion; and (4) final cause—that for the sake of which something is done. Although Aristotle acknowledged matter as one of the first causes and considered it to be a certain kind of essence, he saw in it only a passive principle (a potential to become something). Moreover, he attributed all activity to the remaining three causes; to the essence of being—form—he ascribed eternity and immutability, and he considered the source of all motion to be the unmoved but moving principle—god. Aristotle’s god is the “prime mover” of the world, the highest goal of all forms and formations developing in accord with their own laws. Aristotle’s doctrine concerning “form” is the doctrine of objective idealism. Nevertheless, as Lenin remarked, this idealism is in many respects “more objective and removed, more general than Plato’s idealism, and therefore in natural philosophy it is more often equal to materialism” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, p. 255). Motion, according to Aristotle, is the transition of something from a potential to an actual state of being. Aristotle distinguished four kinds of motion: qualitative, or change; quantitative—increasing and decreasing; displacement—spatial movement; and coming to be and passing away, which could be included among the first two kinds.
According to Aristotle, every genuinely existing object is a unity of “matter” and “form,” and “form” is an inherent “appearance” that substance takes. One and the same object of the sensory world may be regarded both as “matter” and “form.” Copper is “matter” in relation to a sphere (“form”) which is cast from the copper, but the very same copper is “form” in relation to the physical elements which are combined, in Aristotle’s view, to form the substance of copper. Thus, all reality turns out to be a sequence of transitions from “matter” to “form” and from “form” to “matter.”
In his doctrine of knowledge and its aspects, Aristotle distinguished “dialectic” from “apodictic” knowledge. The sphere of the former is “opinion” gained from experience, whereas the sphere of the latter is trustworthy knowledge. Although opinion may also attain an extremely high level of probability in its content, Aristotle considered that experience is not the last instance of trustworthiness in knowledge because the highest principles of knowledge are directly contemplated by the mind. Aristotle saw the goal of scientific knowledge as the complete definition of an object, achievable only by combining deduction and induction: first, knowledge about each separate property must be gained from experience and, second, the conviction that this property is essential must be proved by the conclusion of a special logical form—the categorical syllogism. With his doctrine of proof, the research on the categorical syllogism conducted by Aristotle in his Analytics became the central part of his logical teaching. Aristotle understood the connection between the three terms of the syllogism as a reflection of the connection between consequence, cause, and causal agent. The basic principle of the syllogism expresses the connection between general class, less general class, and the particular object. The aggregate of scientific knowledge cannot be subsumed under a single system of concepts because there is no such concept which could be the predicate of all the other concepts. For Aristotle, therefore, it seemed necessary to indicate all the higher general classes—the categories—under which the remaining classes of being could be subsumed.
Aristotle’s cosmology, for all its achievements (the inclusion of all visible celestial phenomena and the movements of the stars in one harmonious theory), was in several respects backward compared to the cosmology of Democritus and the Pythagoreans. The influence of Aristotle’s geocentric cosmology remained paramount until the period of Copernicus. Aristotle was guided by the planetary theory of Eudoxus of Cnidos, but he ascribed a real, physical existence to the planetary spheres. In this view, the universe consists of a number of concentric spheres moving at various speeds and driven into motion by the extreme sphere of the immovable stars. The “sublunar” world—that is, the region between the moon’s orbit and the earth’s center, is an area of disordered, uneven movements, and all the bodies in this region consist of the four lower elements—earth, water, air, and fire. As the heaviest element, the earth occupies the central position, and above it in sequence are distributed encircling layers of water, air, and fire. The “superlunar” world—that is, the region between the moon’s orbit and the extreme sphere of the immovable stars, is an area of eternally even movements, whereas the stars themselves consist of a fifth, most perfect element—the ether.
In biology one of Aristotle’s meritorious services is his doctrine of biological expediency, based on observations of the expedient structure of living organisms. Aristotle saw examples of nature’s expediency in such facts as the growth of organic structures from seeds, the various manifestations of the expeditiously acting instinct among animals, the mutual adaptability of their organs, and so on. In his biological works, which served for a long time as the fundamental source of knowledge in zoology, Aristotle provided a classification and description of numerous animal species. The body was considered to be the material of life, whereas its form was the soul, which Aristotle called entelechy. Corresponding to the three main classes of living beings (vegetable, animal, and human), Aristotle made the distinction between three souls, or three parts of the soul—vegetative, animal (capable of sensation), and rational.
In ethics Aristotle placed above everything the contemplative activity of reason (dianoetic virtues), which, in his opinion, contained in itself its own particular pleasure, strengthening its energy. In this ideal was expressed the separation—characteristic of slave-owning Greece during the fourth century B.C.—of physical labor, which was the fate of the slaves, from intellectual labor, which was the privilege of free citizens. Aristotle’s moral ideal was god—the most perfect philosopher, or “thought thinking itself.” The ethical virtue, which Aristotle conceived as the rational regulation of one’s activity, was defined by him as the mean between two extremes (“metriopathy”). For example, generosity is the mean between miserliness and squandering.
Art was regarded by Aristotle as a special kind of cognition, based on imitation. He ranked it as an activity which depicts that which could be on a higher level than historical knowledge, which has as its object the reproduction of momentary, individual events in their bare, factual nature. This view of art allowed Aristotle (in his Poetics and Rhetoric) to develop a profound theory of art, close to that of realism. He also put forth a doctrine of artistic activity and theories concerning the epic and drama.
Aristotle distinguished three good and three evil forms of governing a state. He considered those forms good within which the possibility for making a profit from the use of power was excluded and wherein power itself would be used to serve the entire society. Such forms include monarchy, aristocracy, and “polity” (the power of the middle class), based on a combination of oligarchy and democracy. Tyranny, pure oligarchy, and extreme democracy, on the other hand, were considered by Aristotle to be the evil, degenerate variations of these forms. As an advocate of the city-state (polis) ideology, Aristotle was opposed to large state formations. He based his theory of the state on an enormous amount of factual material on the Greek city-states which he had studied and which had been collected in his school. The doctrine of Aristotle, whom Marx called the summit of ancient Greek philosophy (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Iz rannikh proizv. 1956, p. 27), had an enormous influence on the subsequent development of philosophical thought.
On the basis of his ethical and psychological conceptions, Aristotle developed a theory of education for “freeborn citizens.” According to Aristotle, the three aspects of the soul should have three corresponding and interconnected aspects of education—physical, moral, and intellectual. The goal of education consists in developing the higher aspects of the soul, both rational and animal (the will). Natural endowments, habits, and intellect are in Aristotle’s opinion the motivating forces of development upon which education must be based. Aristotle was the first in pedagogic history to attempt to divide education into periods according to age. Regarding education as a means for strengthening the state structure, he considered that there should be only state-administered schools and that in them all citizens except slaves should receive the same education, which would orient them toward state order.
Aristotle’s economic doctrine was based on the premise that slavery was a natural phenomenon and must always be the basis of production. He studied the relationships between goods and money and came close to understanding the difference between a natural economy and the production of goods. Aristotle distinguished two kinds of wealth—the aggregate of consumer values in use and the accumulation of money (or the aggregate of exchange values). The source of the first kind of wealth was considered by Aristotle to be production—agriculture and crafts—and he called it natural production since it arises as a result of productive activity directed at satisfying people’s needs and because its scope is limited by those needs. The second kind of wealth was called unnatural by Aristotle because it arises from circulation; it does not consist of objects of direct consumption, and its scope is in no way limited. Aristotle divided the study of wealth into economics and chrematistics. He understood economics as the study of natural phenomena connected with the production of consumer values. In this he also included small-scale trade necessary for the satisfaction of people’s needs. Aristotle understood chrematistics as the study of unnatural phenomena connected with the accumulation of money; he included large-scale trade in this category. Aristotle regarded chrematistics negatively.
Contrasting economics with chrematistics led Aristotle to an analysis of the inner nature of goods and their exchange. He was the first to note the distinction between value in use and exchange value. He attempted to analyze exchange value, but since he did not understand labor’s role in the creation of the value of goods, he asserted that only money makes it possible to compare various goods. Marx wrote: “Aristotle’s genius is revealed precisely in the fact that he discovered the relationship of equivalence in expressing the value of goods” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Sock., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 70).
Marx also noted that Aristotle provided a splendid explanation of how the need arose to assign the character of money to a specific good that has value from exchange trade between various communities (Ibid., vol. 13, p. 100, note 3). But Aristotle did not understand the historical expediency of money, and he considered that it had become the universal means of exchange as a result of agreement. Aristotle regarded money as a means of circulation, a measure of value, and accumulated wealth.
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