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A History of Greek Philosophy / ARISTOTLE

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Aristotle was the son of a Greek physician, member of the colony of Stagira in Thrace. His father, Nicomachus by name, was a man of such eminence in his profession as to hold the post of physician to Amyntas, king of Macedonia, father of Philip the subverter of Greek freedom. Not only was his father an expert physician, he was also a student of natural history, and wrote several works on the subject. We shall find that the fresh element which Aristotle brought to the Academic philosophy was in a very great measure just that minute attention to details and keen apprehension of vital phenomena which we may consider he inherited from his father. He was born 384 B.C., and on the death of his father, in his eighteenth year, he came to Athens, and became a student of philosophy under Plato, whose pupil he continued to be for twenty years,—indeed till the death of the master. That he, undoubtedly a far greater man than Speusippus or Xenocrates, should not have been nominated to the succession has been variously explained; he is said to have been lacking in respect and gratitude to the master; Plato is said to have remarked of him that he needed the curb as much as Xenocrates needed the spur. The facts really need no explanation. The original genius is never sufficiently subordinate and amenable to discipline. He is apt to be critical, to startle his easy-going companions with new and seemingly heterodox views, he is the ‘ugly duckling’ whom all the virtuous and commonplace brood must cackle at. The Academy, when its great master died, was no place for Aristotle. He retired to Atarneus, a city of Mysia opposite to Lesbos, where a friend named Hermias was tyrant, and there he married Hermias’ niece. After staying at Atarneus some three years he was invited by Philip, now king of Macedon, to undertake the instruction of his son Alexander, the future conqueror, who was then thirteen years old. He remained with Alexander for eight years, though of course he could hardly be regarded as Alexander’s tutor during all that time, since Alexander at a very early age was called to take a part in public affairs. However a strong friendship was formed between the philosopher and the young prince, and in after years Alexander loaded his former master with benefits. Even while on his march of conquest through Asia he did not forget him, but sent him from every country through which he passed specimens which might help him in his projected History of Animals, as well as an enormous sum of money to aid him in his investigations.


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Cf. D'Arcy W. Thompson, Aristotle's Natural Science

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