In 384 BC, Nicomachas and Phaestas experienced the birth of their son, Aristotle, in a small town on the north east coast of the peninsula of Chaldice called Stagira. Descendent of a medical family, Aristotle would pursue studies in physical science, biology, psychology, chemistry, zoology, botany, mechanics, mathematics, and many more. You name it, and Aristotle studied it. He was also interested in the search for knowledge. (Aristotle, Barnes PG. 2). A quote of his states- ‘ the acquisition of wisdom is pleasant; all men feel at home in philosophy and wish to spend time on it, leaving all other things aside.
In this quote Aristotle uses the word Philosophy, not as a means of gathering academic knowledge but as a means to search for all knowledge of the academics, soul, and thought. Aristotle believed that happiness of man involved contemplation and intellectual activity. (Aristotle, Barnes p. 2) Aristotle felt that to fully be a man, one must imitate the gods, or immortalize themselves. This will free one from the restrictions of mortal thought. According to Aristotle man possesses a natural want for knowledge. Immortalizing oneself aides the desire for knowledge and self-realization.
Self-realization leads to happiness. We can find similar theories in modern day psychologists like Maslow. In his theory of hierarchy, Maslow places self-actualization as the last achievement before reaching true happiness. At heart, Aristotle was a teacher. He believed that knowledge and teaching went hand in hand, and regarded teaching as the ‘proper manifestation of knowledge. ‘; The Lyceum is where Aristotle spent most of his time reading his lecture notes to students anxious for self-realization. He spoke both to the chosen students and the general public.
The Lyceum did not in any way resemble a modern university. There was not a set course of learning; rather there was a great obtaining of knowledge that sprang from the depths of Aristotle’s thought and studies. Examinations were not taken, degrees were not awarded, and the education came very cheap it was free. I believe that Aristotle’s strong belief in knowledge as a right of man contributed to all of this. The Lyceum was not a moneymaking, competition oriented learning facility; it was a sanctuary of thought, learning, and exploring the mind and soul.
Aristotle would never except payment for his teachings. (Aristotle Barnes Pg 5) Aristotle’s view on the source of knowledge was perception. (Aristotle Barnes Pg 58) He felt that everything we do to grasp reality begins with perception. Perceptual observations are the grounds by which our concept of reality exists. Another quote from Aristotle backing this point says, ‘If we do not perceive anything, we will not learn or understand anything, and whenever we think of anything we must at the same time think of an idea’;. (Aristotle Barnes Pg 58). Man perceives facts.
If one looks at a purple object and thinks this is purple he will most often be correct. However, if one says this is a purple rose, he has a greater chance of being incorrect. The color purple is a particular fact, easy to perceive (with the exception of those who are color blind), however the flower said to be a rose can be misperceived. Aristotle says a group of similar perceptions, or memories, turn into experiences, which are close to knowledge. Knowledge is achieved when we understand why the rose is purple or, in another words, why the experience occurred.
Aristotle Barnes Pg 58 – 60). Aristotle spent a lot of his time on biology and psychology. He believed that studying one meant studying the other. He was skilled in the art of dissection, which he probable learned from his father. He dissected over 50 different types of animals. Although he never dissected a human body, he did dissect human embryos. (Aristotle Ross Pg 113). Aristotle was the first to collect information from the animal kingdom, and the first to classify them. There are three levels of likeness according to the studies of Aristotle.
First is the total identity of a type of animal, which exists, in a single species. Second, the likeness between the species’ bodily parts, these differ only in number, size, smoothness or roughness, etc. Third is the similarity in the analogy between species’. Aristotle was fully aware of the difficulties in classifying animals in this way. He knew there where many different similarities and differences to embark on. However, his process of classification was very true in its main purpose. It was also the greatest advance from long before him and after him.
Aristotle Ross Pg 115). Aristotle arranges animals in a ‘scala naturae’;. This depended on the degree of development reached by the animal up until the time of birth. Aristotle believed heat played a major role in all development. This is most shown by the heating of an egg preceding hatching. The most prevalent difference in animals, with respect to heat, is of those with blood and of those with a similar but colder liquid. Aristotle saw the purpose of lungs as being to moderate heat, so forth; animals with lungs differ from those without. (Aristotle Ross PG 116).
Aristotle saw animals in high and low types. Parents who possess enough vital heat to produce offspring much like themselves are classified as viviparous, the highest type of animal. Here the embryo is regarded as the immediate result of ‘copulation’;. (Aristotle Ross Pg 116). These eggs are either perfect or imperfect. A perfect egg does not grow much after being laid, whereas an imperfect egg grows more after being laid. There are some problems with classifying ‘Imperfect’; eggs, especially with cartilaginous fish. A lower stage of animals experience a third stage regarded as the grub stage.
In this stage ‘quasi egg’; differs from a true egg because the whole of the egg develops into a living organism, no part of the egg is meant for nutrition. The testocea is yet a lower animal type, which do not produce eggs at all. These produce a sexually or from spontaneous generation (i. e. budding). (Aristotle Ross Pg 117). Aristotle’s view on life consists in three groups’ growth and reproduction, sensation and local movement. Reproduction is the area of most interest to Aristotle. The three ways in which reproduction can occur are as follows- 1) spontaneously, 2) from one parent 3) from two parents.
Aristotle was fascinated with sexual reproduction rather than asexual reproduction. He wonders the contribution from each parent and whether the contributions came from one body determinate, or the whole body itself. He had many replies to his wonderment. To name a few, he noted that some children resemble ancestors rather than parents, some parents bare children who turn gray even if the parents do not, and that semen must possess qualities of each part inherited by the offspring. He saw semen as possessing a surplus of either useless material or useful nutrients. Healthy animals prove semen to contain useful nutrients.
Aristotle believed that some natural substances are alive, while others are inanimate. The distinguishing factor is the substances possession of psuche, which is often translated as soul. Our word, psychology, is a derivative from this word. Psuche is what gives life to an object, and its purpose varies in complexities. The powers of the soul are broken down into five areas. 1) power of nutrition, 2) of perception , 3) of appetition, 4) of change in place, and 5) of thought. Some objects possess within them all the powers; some only possess a few, and some only one. (Aristotle, Barnes Pg 65).
Appetition seems to be the most important power according to Aristotle. This power consists of ‘ desire, inclination, and wish ‘. (Aristotle, Barnes Pg 66). Touch is the chief sense, which all animals possess. Through touch both pleasure and pain are experienced. Pleasure causes desire, so anything that experiences pleasure must possess desire. Two other possessions of the soul are the power of locomotion and the power of thought and intelligence. Imagination and perception are required in thought, which brings us back to Aristotle’s view of perception as the bases of knowledge.
Perception does not exist separate from the power of nutrition and reproduction. This poses a question from within my own thought- if perception exists wit nutrient and reproduction which are the only powers plant life possesses, then does plant life perceive, or if perception cannot exists without nutrition and reproduction, can the two exists without perception? Aristotle believes in concentrating on the different functions of the soul, which be explains in his treatise ‘On the Soul ‘. For something to have a soul it must be naturally and organically capable of functioning.
These functions are sets of ‘powers, capacities, or faculties’;. ( Aristotle, Barnes Pg. 66 ) The body and soul are one, and coexists, acting upon each other. This is difficult for some to grasp, however I refer again to Maslow’s theory of hierarchy to explain in modern terms. The first of Moaslows needs are physiological, those that satisfy the physical body such as hunger and thirst. Safety, belongingness recognition, and finally self-actualization follow. The point is the physical aspect of the soul, the body, must first be satisfied, for self-actualization (or self-realization as Aristotle states it).
Aristotle, unlike his teacher, Plato, did not believe that the soul could survive the body. I strongly disagree with this; however from this I deduce that Aristotle did not leave a religious life. Many of Aristotle ‘s psychological beliefs take a biological standing point; yet still remain on the same subject. For example he dismisses the psychological aspect of imagination, as thought by many, by stating that imagination is a ‘Motion, coming about by the agency of an act of perception. An act of perception is a physiological change, and it may cause a further physiological change, which constitutes an imagination. However, to Aristotle physiology and psychology are synonymous. ( Aristotle and Barnes pg. 67 )
A very excepted view on when life begins is when the soul enters the body. Aristotle, however, dismissed this theory. For him, the ideal of the soul existing without a body is like a voice existing without a larynx. The body and soul are one. One cannot exist without the other. This is a very important aspect of Aristotle’s thought because it dismisses spirituality in part because if everything is physical, then what lies beyond the physical.
In 322 BC, in Chalcis, Euboea, Greece, Aristotle found out what happens after the physical body ceases to function. His student and friend Theophrastus took over his position in the world and continued the legacy of the Lyceum. Although Aristotleianism began its descent in the 3rd century BC, Aristotle is anything but forgotten. His work is still study today and many scientists and psychologists use these beliefs as bases for their own thought. A man schooled in just about every subject, Aristotle’s memory was not lost in the ancient world. He lives on in our own thoughts, and of course, in every library.