Aristotle 384-322 B.C.

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Aristotle was born in Macedonia in 384 B.C., the son of a physician. As a boy he was educated in that country as his father was attached to the royal Court of the Macedonian king. At 17 he went to Athens where he spent the next 20 years. He was Plato's pupil for the first few years. He was a member of the Academy but not continuously in residence. In 342 he undertook the tutorship of Alexander, then 13 years of age, son of Philip, King of Macedonia. He continued this responsibility for three years at which time Alexander became regent of the Kingdom as his father was absent on military duties. When Alexander succeeded his father (335 B.C.), Aristotle continued as his counselor and friend. Aristotle returned shortly to Athens and created a new school and center of learning called the Lyceum. Aristotle assembled a large number of scholars to whom he delivered lectures on philosophy while walking up and down the shady avenues. From this the name Peripatetic was derived which was eventually given to his school. He delivered lectures both morning and afternoon to two different types of individuals. In the morning philosophy and physics were discussed and in the afternoon "rhetoric" and "politics." He presided over the school 13 years. Upon the death of Alexander the Great, he left Athens to return to his native province where he died in 322 B.C.

Aristotle's writings may be divided into three groups: (1) early ones dating from the time he was residing in the Academy (2) compilations dating probably from his Lyceum days and (3) treatises prepared during his years as completely Aristoidian except for the Athenian Constitution, a "representative of the second group." The works of the first group were lost although the fragments and references to them in ancient literature permit us to ascertain their contents. It is interesting to note that these works were not immediately lost and for many centuries Aristotle's fame depended upon them. They were in the form of dialogues which was the usual form used by Plato. Finally all copies of these early writings disappeared mysteriously. After Aristotle's death his papers and original manuscripts became the property of his successor, Theophrastus. The latter bequeathed them not to the Academy, but to his nephew Nelius. Nelius did not care for these writings and sold some to Ptolemy Philadelphus (ruled 285-247 B.C.) who was building up the library of Alexandria, Egypt. The remaining manuscripts were hid in a cave until they were obtained for a private library in Athens. Shortly thereafter (84 B.C.) they were taken to Rome where they were cataloged and a first edition was prepared about 1 B.C. From this first edition all other editions have originated directly or indirectly. All these writings except one belonged to the third group.

The various writings were in reality lectures given by Aristotle or by others in the Lyceum. They cover logic, mechanics, physics, astronomy, meteorology, botany, zoology, psychology, ethics, economics, politics, metaphysics, literature and the like. It is possible that Aristotle did not verbally compose the material dealing with each subject. They may have represented the teachings of Theophrastus and other members of the Lyceum. Generally they are believed to be the subject of his lectures.

Botanical subjects were presumable discussed in the Academy and the Lyceum. It has been pointed out that Aristotle and his pupils were not merely interested in the practical value of plants but were also concerned with definitions, form, and growth of plants as well. Aristotle's botanic writings have been lost and De Plantis is believed not to be specifically written by him. It is generally believed to be due to Nicholas of Damascus, (Nicolaus Damascenus, a Greek historian), although many parts are similar to various writings of Aristotle and Theophrastus. It is believed that Aristotle cared more for animal biology than botany and turned over that specific area to his favorite pupil, Theophrastus.