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He returned to Macedonia in 338 to tutor Alexander the Great. When Alexander conquered Athens, Aristotle returned to Athens and set up a school of his own, known as the Lyceum. After Alexander’s death, Athens rebelled against Macedonian rule, and Aristotle’s political situation became precarious. He fled to the island of Euboea, where he died soon after.
Aristotle is said to have written 150 philosophical treatises. The 30 that survive touch on an enormous range of philosophical problems, from biology and physics to morals to aesthetics to politics. Many, however, are thought to be “lecture notes” instead of complete, polished treatises, and a few may not be the work of Aristotle but of members of his school.
His students acquired the name “peripatetics” from the master’s habit of strolling about as he taught. Although the surviving works of Aristotle probably represent only a fragment of the whole, they include his investigations of an amazing range of subjects, from logic, philosophy, and ethics to physics, biology, psychology, politics, and rhetoric. Aristotle appears to have thought through his views as he wrote, returning to significant issues at different stages of his own development. As a result what remains is a complex record of Aristotle’s thinking about many significant issues rather than a consistent system of thought.
The aim of Aristotle’s logical treatises (known collectively as the Organon)1 was to develop a universal method of reasoning by means of which it would be possible to learn everything there is to know about reality. Thus, the Categories2 proposes a scheme for the description of particular things in terms of their properties, states, and activities. On Interpretation3, Prior Analytics4, and Posterior Analytics5 examine the nature of deductive inference, outlining the system of syllogistic reasoning from true propositions that later came to be known as categorical logic. Though not strictly one of the logical works, the Physics6 contributes to the universal method by distinguishing among the four causes which may be used to explain everything, with special concern for why things are the way they are and the apparent role of chance in the operation of the world. In other treatises, Aristotle applied this method, with its characteristic emphasis on teleological explanation, to astronomical and biological explorations of the natural world
In Metaphysics7 Aristotle tried to justify the entire enterprise by grounding it all in an abstract study of being qua being. Although Aristotle rejected the Platonic theory of forms, he defended his own vision of ultimate reality, including the eternal existence of substance. On The Soul8 uses the notion of a hylomorphic composite to provide a detailed account of the functions exhibited by living things-vegetable, animal, and human-and explains the use of sensation and reason to achieve genuine knowledge. That Aristotle was interested in more than a strictly scientific exploration of human nature is evident from the discussion of literary art (particularly tragedy) in Poetics9 and the methods of persuasion in the Rhetoric.
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