Aristotle (384-322 BCE.): Biology

Aristotle was born in the year 384 B.C. in the town of Stagira, the modern town Stavros, a coastal Macedonian town to the north of Greece. Aristotle was raised at the court of Amyntas where he probably met and was friends with Philip, who was later to become king and father to Alexander the Great. When Aristotle was around 18, he was sent to Athens to study in Plato's Academy. Aristotle spent twenty years at the Academy until Plato's death (though Diogenes says Aristotle left before Plato's death). When Plato was succeeded by his nephew, Speusippus, as head of the Academy, Aristotle accepted an invitation to join a former student, Hermeias, who was gathering a Platonic circle about him in Assos in Mysia, near Troy. Aristotle spent three years in this environment. During this time, he may have done some of the natural investigations that later became The History of Animals.

At the end of Aristotle's stay in Mysia, he moved to Lesbos, an adjacent island. This move may have been prompted by Theophrastus, a fellow of the Academy who was much influenced by Aristotle. It is probable (according to D'Arcy Thompson) that Aristotle performed some important biological investigations during this period. Aristotle returned to Athens about 334-5 BCE. This began a period of great productivity. He rented some grounds in woods sacred to Apollo. It was here that Aristotle set up his school (DL V, 51).

At his school Aristotle also accumulated a large number of manuscripts and created a library that was a model for later libraries in Alexandria and Pergamon. According to one tradition, his former pupil Alexander paid him, as a form of gratitude, a handsome sum of money each year plus some exotic animals for Aristotle to study that Alexander encountered in his conquests.

At the death of Alexander in 323, Athens once again was full of anti-Macedonian sentiment. A charge of impiety was brought against Aristotle due to a poem he had written for Hermeias. One martyr for philosophy, namely, Socrates, was enough for Aristotle. So he left his school to his colleague, Theophrastus, and fled to the Macedonian Chalcis. Here in 322 he died of a disease, though which disease is still the subject of speculation.

 

Aristotle's Theory of Soul

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