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:: :: :: A R I S T O T L E ___ Psyche, Form and Matter

A Shift Toward Science in Philosophy – Aristotle greatly valued scientific explanation and was more empirical than Plato, even though Aristotle does not have a modern view of matter.  For him, any theory of human nature must include nutrition, respiration, and digestion (59). 

Aristotle’s View of the Psyche Not Equal to Immaterial Soul – Because for Aristotle psyche [ψυχη] is something that all living, animate beings have (even plants), it is a mistake to equate Aristotle’s notion of the psyche with non-material views of the soul (via Christian theology) or mind (via the mind vs. matter problem), even though psyche is often translated “soul” and used in Christian writings this way (59).

Aristotle’s Notions of Form and Matter – In Book II of On the Soul, Aristotle articulates his theory that every living body is both form and matter.  The form is the psyche and identifies what the living thing essentially is.  The matter is the stuff out of which it is composed.  Yet, Aristotle denies that form and matter and independent things.  Describing a bronze sphere via form, it is a sphere, described via matter, it is bronze. On the one hand, the form is the sphere itself, not some non-material universal form as Plato would have described it.  On the other hand, one cannot reduce the sphere to mere matter (i.e. the bronze) in the way some of the pre-Socratics would (60).  Similarly, human beings are only one thing: persons.  Described via form, they are a special kind of psyche identified by essential and distinctly human functions.  Described via matter, persons are flesh and bone.  Neither the form nor the matter should be thought of as separate substances, but as two aspects of an indivisible unity called “human.”  This, according to Thomson and Missner, cuts across the grain of dualist (mind/body) and materialist accounts of reality.  In contemporary terms, we might say a person can be described physically as flesh and bone, or psychologically in terms of what the person wants, believes, hopes, feels and does (61).


I am not an expert in Aristotelian philosophy, and therefore, I do not know whether this interpretation of Aristotle is unique and controversial, or generally agreed upon.

–_-_-___:: A R I S T O T L E :: :: :: Quotations

He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.”

—Aristotle, Politics 

Suppose, then, that all men were sick or deranged, save one or two of them who were healthy and of right mind. It would then be the latter two who would be thought to be sick and deranged and the former not!”

—Aristotle, Metaphysics

A R I S T O T L E ::: Snapshot at His Life

:: A R I S T O T L E  ::

A Life That Changed the World

______________384 – 322 B.C.______________

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The following chart I have made based on the chapter, “A Life that Changed the World,” in On Aristotle by Garret Thomson and Marshall Missner (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000), 5-8.

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384 B.C.

Aristotle is born.


347 B.C.

Plato dies and his nephew Speusippus becomes head of the Academy, so Aristotle leaves Athens and begins independent exploration, first in Assos where he founded an academy, second on the island of Lesbos 7 miles south of Assos.


343 B.C.

Aristotle is invited by Philip of Macedonia to tutor his son Alexander the Great at 14 years old.  Aristotle accepts and tutors for 7 years until Alexander became King in 336 B.C.


334 B.C.

Aristotle returns to Athens to start his own school, the Lyceum, in a grove in  the north of Athens that was said to be a spot frequented by Socrates.  Here  Aristotle would produce most of his mature and well known works, build a  team of researches in almost every field of science, collect hundreds of  manuscripts, maps, natural objects, specimens, etc., effectually creating the one  of the first libraries and museums. 


321 B.C.

 Alexander the Great dies and Athens targets Aristotle as the city becomes a  center for strong anti-Macedonian sentiments.  Aristotle voluntary leaves “in  order that the Athenians might not commit a second crime against Philosophy”  (i.e. repeat the fate of Socrates).  He leaves Theophrastus in charge of the  Lyceum. 


322 B.C.

 Aristotle dies leaving a will that he be buried next to his wife Pythias.



A R I S T O T L E ::: Legacy

“Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is the truth.”

– Aristotle 


All quotations without a footnote link are from Thomson & Missner, On Aristotle, Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 2000. 


Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. and died in 322 B.C., which means he lived to be roughly 62 years old.  We would say he died young, yet no single individual did more to influence the history of thought than Aristotle. “He single-handedly founded the sciences of Logic, Biology and Psychology.”¹   (more…)

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