Aristotle Aristotle was born in 384 BC.; with him came the birth of Western realism. He was a student of Plato and a tutor to Alexander the Great (Founders, 1991). It is difficult to discuss the philosophies of Aristotle without bringing up those of his former tutor, Plato. Aristotle’s philosophies diverted from Plato’s, and led to Aristotle forming his own school, the Lyceum. After tutoring Alexander the Great for about five years, he founded the Lyceum in Athens, Greece (Wheelwright, 1983). The Lyceum was a philosophical school that dealt in matters such as metaphysics, logic, ethics, and natural sciences. 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” (Owens, 1981). For the next thirteen years he devoted his energies to his teaching and composing his philosophical treatises. This paper will attempt to discuss Aristotle’s contributions and theories in metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology. However, his major contributions are in Metaphysics. Aristotle’s editors gave the name “Metaphysics” to his works on first philosophy, either because they went beyond or followed after his physical investigations (Adler, 1983). Metaphysics are the theories of the nature of reality.
Aristotle broke down Plato’s dualism and replaced it with a hierarchy. He stated that both things and ideas are real, but ideas are better. Actually all things are a combination of matter and idea. For example: A chair may be wood, but it is more than just a block of wood. It is wood shaped by an idea.
By looking at the chair we can know something of the concept which gives it meaning. The physical chair is real, but the concept which gives it meaning is higher in the matter hierarchy. A more detailed look into this concept is discussed later in this paper. Aristotle also believed in mind-body dualism, like Plato, which asserts that the mind and body exist on separate planes. Realist metaphysics assumes the existence of objects independently of the human experience of those objects; cognition involves an interaction of the mind and the objective universe (Owens, 1981). The educational goals of realism are to develop human rationality through the study of organized bodies of knowledge and to encourage humans to define themselves by making rational decisions and exercising their potential.
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, 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. Aristotle argues that there are a handful of universal truths. Against the followers of Heraclitus and Protagoras, Aristotle defends both the laws of contradiction, and that of the 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,”(Founders, 1991). 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 beginning 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: 1. Material cause, or the elements out of which an object is created; 1.
Efficient cause, or the means by which it is created; 2. Formal cause, or the expression of what it is; 3. Final cause, or the end for which it is (Adler, 1991). Take, for example, a brick house. Its material cause is the brick itself.
Its efficient cause is the builder, which he creates the house into shape. The formal cause is the idea of the completed house. The final cause is the idea of the house as it prompts the builder to act on the bricks. The final cause tends to be the same as the formal cause, and both of these can be assumed 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 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. Epistemology are theories of or the study of the nature and grounds for knowledge with reference to its limits and validity (Wheelwright, 1983).
Aristotle accepts the idea of universal, knowable Truth. He believes that, since both ideas and things are real, knowledge can be attained by both reason and sense experience – actually reason applied to sense experience. Science and philosophy are both legitimate ways of knowing, but philosophy is superior. Axiology is the science of value. The word “axiology”, derived from two Greek roots “axios” (worth or value) and “logos” (logic or theory), means the theory of value (Adler, 1991). The development of the science makes possible the objective measurement of value as accurately as a thermometer measures temperature.
Aristotle is philosophically an absolutist. Certain values, like rationality, apply universally. In day to day decision-making, his “Golden Mean” concept seems relativistic (Founders, 1991). Important concepts include intrinsic and extrinsic values. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle established his ideals of moderation, balance, and harmony as the core of his axiological system or value theory (Owens, 1981).
Unlike Plato whose philosophy was based on abstraction, Aristotle’s methods were based on empirical observation and research, thus the basis for realism. Similar to Plato’s forms, Aristotle believed in essence, which refers to the attributes necessary for an object to be what it is. As mentioned earlier, this paper summarizes Aristotle’s theories in metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology, and does not discuss his other philosophies. To really understand Aristotle’s philosophy, one has to read all of his theories and beliefs. There is no fine line between his different theories, and attempting to separate them into sections, or to summarize them in a four page paper, strips them of their true global perspective in relation to his other theories. However, regardless of the latter fact, Aristotle’s philosophies still astound scholars and people of all walks of life today, two thousand three hundred and twenty two years later. Bibliography References Adler, M.
(1991). Aristotle For Everybody. New York, NY:MacMillan Publishing Company. Founders of thought. (1991). Philosophy. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Owens, J. (1981). Aristotle:The collected Papers of Joseph Owens. Albany, New York. State University of New York.
Wheelwright, Philip. (1983). Five Philosophers. New York, NY: The Odyssey Press, Inc.