Last modified on 14 October 2010, at 13:32

Political Philosophy: Ancient to Renaissance/Aristotle/Nicomachean

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: VERY EARLY STAGESEdit

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Aristotle was born in Stagira, on the peninsula of Chalcidice in 384 BC. His father, Nicomachus, was court physician to King Amyntas III of Macedon. It is believed that Aristotle's ancestors held this position under various kings of the Macedons. He did not go to school, instead he was taught by his father. His father's medical knowledge was perhaps the inspiration for Aristotle's later interest in natural phenomena.

Little is known about his mother, Phaestis, who died early in Aristotle's life. His father Nicomachus died when Aristotle was ten, making him an orphan. Then he was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, Proxenus of Atarneus, who also took over his education. He gave Aristotle significant instruction in Greek, rhetoric, and poetry (O'Connor et al., 2004). Aristotle went to Athens at the age of 18, and attended Plato's school for young Greek aristocracy (the Academy). Aristotle quickly became Plato's favorite student.

From the age of 18 to 37 Aristotle remained at the Academy. The relationship between Plato and Aristotle has formed the subject of various legends, many of which depict Aristotle unfavorably. No doubt there were divergences of opinion between Plato, who took his stand on sublime, idealistic principles, and Aristotle, who even at that time showed a preference for the investigation of the facts and laws of the physical world. It is also probable that Plato suggested that Aristotle needed restraining rather than encouragement, but not that there was an open breach of friendship. In fact, Aristotle's conduct after the death of Plato, his continued associations with Xenocrates and other Platonists, and his allusions in his writings to Plato's doctrines prove that while there were conflicts of opinions between Plato and Aristotle, there was no lack of cordial appreciation or mutual forbearance. Legends that reflect Aristotle unfavourably are allegedly traceable to the Epicureans, although some doubt remains of this charge. If such legends were circulated widely by patristic writers such as Justin Martyr and Gregory Nazianzen, the reason may rest in the exaggerated esteem which early Christian heretics had for Aristotle.

It is not exactly clear when in his life, but according to Clearchus of Soli in his work "De Somno" (apud: Josephus, Contra Apionem, I, 176-183:), Aristotle met a Jew in Asia Minor and regarded him very favorable, noting that there is something to learn from him. Clearchus of Soli quotes Aristoteles as: "'Well', said Aristotle, [...] 'the man was a Jew of Coele-Syria. These people are descended from the Indian philosophers. The philosophers, they say, are in India called Calani, in Syria by the territorial name of Jews; for the district which they inhabit is known as Judea. Their city has a remarkably odd name: they call it Hierusaleme. (180) Now this man, who entertained by a large circle of friends and was on his way from the interior to the coast, not only spoke Greek but had the soul of a Greek. (181) During my stay in Asia, he visited the same places as I did, and came to converse with me and some other scholars, to test our learning. But as one who had been intimate with many cultivated persons, it was rather he who imparted to us something of his own." Flavius Josephus writes: "...he [Aristoteles] went on to speak of the great and astonishing endurance and sobriety displayed by this Jew in his manner of life." (trans. H. St. J. Tackery, The Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge (Mass.)-London)