Saturday, 17 January 2015

Philosopher Profiles - Aristotle

My recent post about Aristotle's views on God, which can be found by clicking here, proved to be pretty popular with readers, so continuing along the same strand of thought, I've decided to start a new series, starting with the famed Greek philosopher Aristotle. The series will be called Philosopher Profiles and will take a detailed look into some of the ideas and motivations behind the makings of these great philosophers.

So, a bit about that Aristotle philosopher. Many see him as one of the greatest of all philosophers, let alone one of the defining thinkers of the ancient Greek period. He studied under Plato whom many of you will be well acquainted with, who in turn studied under Socrates, another one of Greek's great philosophers. However, Aristotle was a man of logic, an idea which we'll see in a number of his concepts, and because of this he was inherently different from the likes of Plato, someone who perhaps wasn't as empirically-minded as the father of all logic. In particular, Aristotle was largely known for his contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, all forms of science, politics, ethics and the arts; not only this but Aristotle's contributions to many of these subjects actually changed the way people thought at the time.

Of course Aristotle was influential during his time, but many of his ideas have survived up until modern day, ideas such as euidaimonia define the way human beings think in the modern world. Euidaimonia is the idea of flourishing, fulfilling one's potential; The Greek philosopher Aristotle, believed that each specie has its own nature, and a perfect life is fulfilling that nature. Seems simple enough, but what does that mean exactly? Well, Aristotle believed human beings to be political animals, and our natural drives were for society/community, happiness and knowledge. He believed that it was the pursuing of these principles that allowed human beings to reach their full potential, and the rational mind was the intrinsic distinction in which we tried to improve ourselves, pushing towards an identifiable human development.

Where do we find examples of self improvement within society? Well, overtime it has been common for human beings to seek fulfillment from a spiritual point of view, many people point towards different religions, all of which expound ideas of self-discipline with the prospect of getting into heaven; not murdering and loving thy neighbour are both principles that contribute to a decent and working society. Whether or not you believe in God is irrelevant, the motifs set down in the bible, man-made or divinely inclined, produce feelings of compassion and love, which I think we can all agree help in achieving happiness or a sense of companionship among people.

Away from religion we find science, Aristotle was a pragmatic man and differed from Plato in that respect. Plato believed that philosophy was purely for contemplation but Aristotle rejected this concept by saying we live in a physical world, and knowledge should come from rigorous testing and understanding our place within the world - Plato thought that understanding came from beyond the material world and was found in spiritualism. Philosophical teaching however, was very much a narrative of contesting ideas and, more often than not, speeches were given to try and persuade the public to think a certain way.

Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe not, David Cameron was never very good at convincing me of anything! Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, a concept which was coined by Aristotle when he lay down a number of techniques on the arts of debate and argument. Rhetoric is still in use today and I actually wrote an essay whilst at uni on how rhetoric had been used in the world of modern politics. Winston Churchill and Bill Clinton are both examples of men who used rhetoric in different ways, Clinton in how he made it seem as though he was reigniting J.F.K's golden boy reign 30 years after his assassination, and Churchill in how he managed to motivate a nation, and made it plausible to convey the loss of life as a small price to pay for freedom. The ideas of rhetoric are designed to bring people together to form one single idea, an idea which you have planted in their heads!

Aristotle's logic is embedded in the ideas of rhetoric, syllogisms in particular, or deductions as we can call them, are the process of taking two points to form a third point - or, creating a valid argument. This is a loose representation of what Aristotle's logic is, and syllogisms are just one example of derivations from the ideas themselves, however this is just a profile and if you would like to read about these ideas more in depth, I will gradually get to each of them.

I hope I have given you an idea of what Aristotle was all about but to contain his ideas in a single blog post would be unfathomable. Over the coming weeks I will be looking at a number of Aristotle's ideas but if you would like to request any specific analyses, then please do so below. Bear in mind this was just a taster of things to come, I hope you enjoyed.

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