Aristotle: A Complete Overview of His Life, Work, and Philosophy

Aristotle is one of the most influential thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. But how much do you really know about this ancient philosopher?

May 16, 2023By Viktoriya Sus, MA Philosophy

aristotle work bio


As Plato’s student and Alexander the Great’s teacher, Aristotle left a lasting impact on Western philosophy. He has shaped today’s perceptions of philosophy with his teachings on ethics and logic and thoughts on politics and metaphysics. His philosophy has been both scrutinized and venerated for years, thereby establishing him as an essential personality in Western philosophy.


From discussing topics like ethics to exploring concepts like metaphysics and politics, Aristotle’s writings had a profound influence that endures to this day. Let’s explore Aristotle’s life, his teachings, and their legacy!


Who Was The Great Philosopher Aristotle?

francesco hayez aristotle painting
Aristotle, Francesco Hayez, 1811, via Wikimedia Commons


Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) was a renowned ancient Greek philosopher who greatly influenced the world of philosophy, science, and logic. He is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of Western thought.


His works have been pivotal in developing metaphysics, ethics, politics, biology, and aesthetics. In addition, he famously wrote about topics such as natural philosophy, logic, and rhetoric which were studied extensively by many later philosophers.

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Aristotle was born in 384 BC in a doctor’s family, which is likely why his future works would also focus on physiology and anatomy. At 15, he became an orphan, and his uncle, who took the boy under his guardianship, told him about the already famous teacher at that time—Plato in Athens.


At 18, Aristotle independently reached Athens and entered the academy of Plato, whose admirer he had already been for three years. Due to his talent and success in scientific activity, Aristotle was given a teaching position in the academy.


In 347 BC, after the death of Plato, Aristotle moved to the city of Assos. Five years later, the Macedonian King Philip invited the philosopher to educate his son Alexander.


In 339 BC, Philip died, and the heir no longer needed lessons, so Aristotle returned to Athens, now a popular and well-known scholar, largely due to his connection to the royal court.


Contribution-wise, Aristotle played an important role in developing both zoology and anatomy via various research methods. He gained recognition for his exceptional contributions to fields like zoology by creating an animal classification system that factored in both physical traits and habits.


In addition to receiving credit for having revolutionized military tactics at that moment in history, another tremendous feat achieved by Aristotle was passing on this knowledge to Alexander The Great. His contribution to military strategy has been commended through time, resulting in his recognition as a brilliant strategist.


Aristotle’s Writings & Works

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Celestial map by Andreas Cellarius, 1660, via


Aristotle is highly esteemed for his significant contributions across a vast range of human knowledge fields. His numerous written works have profoundly impacted philosophy, science, mathematics, and more.


Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics is a significant work where he presents his theory on the appropriate way to live life. It explores the concept of virtues and their contribution to leading a satisfying life.


Another prominent example is Aristotle’s Politics. In this groundbreaking work, the author explains his political views, including the state’s role, what citizenship should be, and different types of government systems. He claims that the ideal state should be based on a constitution that respects the needs and desires of its citizens.


Another famous work by Aristotle is his Poetics. This piece is considered to be the first work on literary criticism, interpreting and analyzing the genre and structure of Greek literature. It has influenced the study of literature, film, and other art forms. Aristotle discussed the effects of plot, character, and tragedy on audiences to better understand how these devices can be used effectively.


Aristotle is also widely known for his works in the natural sciences. One of the most popular ones is the Metaphysics. This work deals with the fundamental issues of reality, including the study of existence, causality, and substance.


Relatedly, another one of his famous works is named Physics. It laid out his views on motion, time, space, and other important concepts later built upon in the scientific revolution.


Aristotle’s numerous works have made a lasting impact on history by providing valuable insights and knowledge to humanity. They have helped us gain a better understanding of our world, and continue to be discussed in academic and non-academic contexts alike.


Aristotle Was A Student Of Plato

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School of Athens, Raphael, 1509-1511, via Musei Vaticani


One important fact already stated is that Aristotle was a student of Plato and is widely considered his most illustrious student.


Plato (c. 428 – c. 348 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who was one of the preeminent minds in Western philosophy, laying down foundations for many areas such as epistemology, metaphysics, and political theory through his numerous dialogues and other works.


While studying at the Academy based in ancient Athens, Aristotle grew intellectually under mentorship from its founder – Plato—hence cementing its status as one of antiquity’s foremost places of advanced studies.


Some of Aristotle’s most prominent works, like Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics, discussed various topics, including metaphysics, ethics, or morality, as well as communication through the spoken word—known as rhetoric.


The combination of Aristotle’s education under Plato and his own personal research made him a key figure in philosophy due to his logical yet creative approach to arguments and reasoning. His writing has been fundamental in the formation of traditional thought up until modern times, making him one of the most influential thinkers ever known.


Aristotle’s Style Of Teaching

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An Academy of Painters by Pierfrancesco Alberti, 1600–38, via the Met Museum


Aristotle’s pedagogy emphasized using the Socratic method for stimulating dialogue, ideas generation, opinion sharing, and conclusion building. The method focused on dialogues between the teacher and student to generate new ideas, express opinions and reach conclusions.


This was done by starting with a given problem or premise and then questioning it, with each student considering alternate solutions or alternative interpretations.


For example, when teaching, Aristotle might ask his students: “If we assume that all men are mortal, what does this imply about our understanding of Socrates?” Then, through further questioning, he would lead his students to conclude that Socrates is mortal.


In this way, the Socratic method allowed for deeper learning through active participation and discourse from both the teacher and the students.


By prioritizing logic over traditional sources of information like doctrine or custom when arriving at conclusions, Aristotle effectively shaped subsequent philosophical movements.


This influence would even stretch centuries into the future, with figures like Cicero and Augustine citing his work, which is still taught in schools and universities today.


Teaching Alexander The Great

placido costanzi alexander the great painting
Alexander the Great Founding Alexandria, Placido Costanzi, 1736-1737, via The Walters Art Museum


When Alexander the Great was a teenager, his father, Philip II, turned to the famous philosopher of the time, Aristotle, with a request to become his son’s teacher. Aristotle agreed to be Alexander’s teacher on one condition: if Philip restored his hometown of Stagira, which had been destroyed by the Macedonian king.


In that short time (343-340 BC), when the great thinker was Alexander’s teacher, he managed to instill in him a love for philosophy, art, and poetry, which acted as a catalyst in shaping the personality of a young man.


But the Homeric epic Iliad especially influenced Alexander. With the help of this work about the Trojan War, the philosopher found a good means for educating military prowess in his ward. This book accompanied Alexander throughout his short life.


Aristotle taught in the classroom about the duties of rulers and the art of government. He tried to develop the ability to perceive various factors, analyze them, and then make a decision. In addition, he enriched the young ruler with scientific knowledge in the lessons of physics, biology, mathematics, medicine, and geography.


The philosopher was preparing the future ruler so that he would become a full-fledged individual.


Aristotle Gave Us Scientific Reasoning

Aristotle, Luca Giordano, 1653, via Sotheby’s


Aristotle was a pioneering figure in the development of scientific reasoning. By combining his deep knowledge of philosophy, biology, and physics—he laid out the foundations for modern science by advocating for empirical observation, testing, and experimentation to draw meaningful conclusions.


While other philosophers tended towards deriving explanations from religious beliefs or authoritative sources, he stood out due to the emphasis on his analytical abilities tempered with insights into causation.


For instance, Aristotle postulated about natural phenomena, including the behavior of falling objects and species distribution in nature, which later became foundational concepts of classical physics.


To document animal behavior and analyze anatomy, Aristotle produced a multitude of writings on biology for future generations to learn from.


By careful observation, he deduced that every living organism was made up of equivalent elemental constituents. This served as a prefatory notion behind present-day notions concerning evolution and genetics.


Aristotle’s methodical approach to understanding nature left an indelible mark on human thinking. Scientific reasoning has since revolutionized how we understand and interact with our environment; from advances in medicine to space exploration, but Aristotle’s approach to problem-solving has had a lasting legacy.


Aristotle Laid The Foundation For A System Of Logic

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Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, Rembrandt, 1653, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Aristotle’s most invaluable and lasting contribution to the world of knowledge was undoubtedly his development of syllogistic logic. He coined the term “logic,” emphasizing logical relations between terms in reasonable conclusions. His approach to understanding philosophy and our conception of reality endeavored to explain how we think and develop ideas.


Aristotle’s landmark work, Prior Analytics, put forth syllogism as his chief logical contribution. Syllogisms are modes of reasoning that involve specific assumptions or premises from which a conclusion can be drawn. This logic system marked the starting point for much of our current understanding of argumentation processes.


Moreover, Aristotle presented rules for appropriate reasoning, such as the law of non-contradiction, which expresses that two conflicting statements cannot simultaneously be true. This principle is still recognized as true today in many disciplines, including mathematics and science.


From its inception, Aristotle’s work on logic has been a driving force throughout the ages. Its pervasive impact can be seen in our modern-day understanding of philosophy and knowledge.


His contributions inform us about how we think and enable us to make more rational decisions concerning ourselves and our environment. Truly, his legacy will remain with us for generations to come!


Aristotle Established The Principle Of Inductive Reasoning

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Installation view of the exhibition “The Logic of Association” December 12th, 2010–April 4th, 2011, photograph by Matthew Septimus, via MoMA


Establishing the principle of inductive reasoning is one of Aristotle’s credited accomplishments. Inductive reasoning involves drawing general conclusions from specific observations and experiences. Generalizing fetched evidence helps us draw closer-to-truth conclusions, even if they’re not completely certain.


Aristotle first proposed the concept of induction in his book Prior Analytics. Initially described by Aristotle, induction involves collecting factual data and formulating hypotheses accordingly before reconciling them with further empirical research. Modern logic and systematic research owe much to this groundbreaking theory.


Starting from concrete observations up to developing more theoretical concepts is how inductive logic works differently than deductive logic, which goes straight from theory to specifics. This approach has been incredibly valuable in advancing scientific inquiry by eliminating false premises from the discussion.


Aristotle was a pioneer in many aspects of philosophy. Still, his establishment of the principle of inductive reasoning stands as one of his most significant contributions to our understanding of how knowledge is best acquired and evaluated.


Aristotle Was A Biologist Even Before There Was Biology

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Guinea Pigs, George Morland, 1792, via ART.UK


Before the formal practice of biology existed, Aristotle showed a remarkable talent for observing and classifying living things. Combining keen observations with philosophy, Aristotle established himself as an early maker of modern-day biological knowledge before it became more established and formalized.


Aristotle is rightly considered the creator of biology as a science. Several of his works are devoted to the problems of biology: The History of Animals, On the Parts of Animals, On the Origin of Animals, On the Movement of Animals, and a small essay, On the Walking of Animals.


In addition to these special works, which treat questions of zoology, the first two books of On the Soul are also devoted to the problem of life and the living.


In works devoted to the study of wildlife, the “empirical component” is especially striking: the philosopher relies both on his observations and on the vast experience gleaned from the practice of contemporary agriculture, fishing, etc.


Judging by his writings, Aristotle collected information about animals primarily from fishermen, shepherds, beekeepers, pig breeders, and veterinarians.


It should be noted that the philosopher shared some of the prejudices of his time, believing, for example, that males are warmer than females and the right side of the body of animals is warmer than the left.


In humans, he believed, the left side of the body is colder than in other living beings, so the heart is shifted to the left to balance the temperature of both sides of the body.


Aristotle’s pioneering work in biology and his insistence on empirical observation exemplify the power of scientific inquiry. Thanks to his observatory approach toward life sciences, many biologists have—a couple of millennia later—decoded nature’s clandestine ways.


Aristotle “Invented” the Field of Economics

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Old Smithfield Market, Jacques-Laurent Agasse, 1842, via Google Arts and Culture


The economic views of Aristotle are not separated from his philosophical teachings. They are woven into the general theme of reasoning about the foundations of ethics and politics (and, more broadly, how people and the state should be managed).


In his treatises, one can see the desire to single out and understand certain categories and connections that later became the subject of political economy as a science.


For example, in Aristotle’s time, the basis of wealth and the main source of its increase were slaves. Aristotle called slaves “the first object of possession,” so he advised that care must be taken to acquire good slaves who can work long and hard.


Barter trade’s evolution into large-scale commerce through history was also a subject matter Aristotle examined extensively. He tried with great persistence to understand the laws of exchange.


Aristotle’s focus was on comprehending how barter trade transformed into large-scale operations through historical analysis. Large-scale trade facilitated and contributed to state formation.


Aristotle approved of the type of management that pursued the goal of acquiring goods for the home and the state, calling it “economy.” The economy is associated with the production of products necessary for life. The activities of commercial and usurious capital, aimed at enrichment, he characterized as unnatural, calling it “chrematistics.”


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The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627, via the University of Leipzig


Chrematistics is focused on making a profit and primarily aims at the accumulation of wealth. Aristotle argues that trading in commodities is not part of chrematistics because it only involves exchanging objects necessary for buyers and sellers.


Therefore, the original form of commodity profit was barter, but with its expansion, money necessarily arises. With the invention of money, barter must inevitably develop into commodity trade. The latter turned into chrematistics, the art of making money.


Arguing in this way, Aristotle concludes that chrematistics is built on money since money is the beginning and end of any exchange.


Therefore, Aristotle tried to determine the nature of these two phenomena (economics and chrematistics) to determine their historical place. On this path, he was the first to distinguish between money as a simple means of enrichment and money that has become capital.


Aristotle’s Views On Death And The Afterlife

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The Death of Socrates, Jacques Louis David, 1787, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Aristotle, who considered the ability to think about death an indispensable condition for active happiness and a wonderful life, did not try to embellish the bitter truth. On the contrary, he believed death was the worst thing because this was the limit.


The philosopher knew that many of his readers believed in an afterlife. We can find hints that his ethics were compatible with a belief in the so’s immortality in a dialogue designed to console those mourning the heroic death of a Cypriot named Evdem, who did not belong to philosophical circles.


But Aristotle, like most of today’s atheists and agnostics, certainly considered death final and irrevocable. Immortality can be desired, he says in Nicomachean Ethics, but it is not given to a person to consciously choose it.


Aristotle believed life and death are not opposites but two parts of a natural process. He theorized that when a person dies, their soul leaves their body and enters either the celestial realm or Hades—depending on whether they had lived virtuously or unvirtuously during their lifetime.


The souls in the celestial realm would enjoy an eternal existence full of happiness, wisdom, and moral fulfillment. At the same time, those who lived a more unvirtuous life would be doomed to an eternity of instability and suffering within Hades.


Aristotle also thought that certain spiritual objects, such as friendship, love, knowledge, and beauty, could exist beyond physical death. Furthermore, he believed that these non-physical forms were immutable and could, therefore, never perish.


Aristotle’s Views On Justice / Equality

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First page of a 1566 edition of the Nicomachean Ethics in Greek and Latin, Aristotle, 1566, via WikiMedia Commons


Aristotle also expressed his views on justice in Nicomachean Ethics. For him, justice is the equalization of one’s own interest with the interests of others. The task of justice is to serve society, and if the law is violated, it is a crime.


According to the philosopher, actions consistent with justice and contrary to it can be of two types: they can affect one person or the whole society. A person who commits adultery and inflicts beatings is doing injustice to one particular person, and a person who evades military service is doing injustice to society.


For Aristotle, justice is a principle that regulates relations between people regarding the distribution of social values. The ancient Greek philosopher points out the differences between justice and injustice.


He believed that justice is retribution to everyone for his merits. Injustice is arbitrariness that violates human rights. Objective decisions are fair. It is unfair to transfer one’s own responsibilities to others and receive benefits at the expense of others.


Aristotle distinguishes two types of justice—comparative and distributive. Comparative justice implies a comparison of actions between people, and distributive justice focuses on the equitable distribution of social resources to all members of society.


Aristotle’s views on justice are not dissimilar from those of modern society, as he believed that law should be based on equality and applied to all people without discrimination. He also argued that justice should work for the benefit of all it affects.


Aristotle’s Views On Politics

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Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix, 1830, via Louvre Museum


Aristotle plunged into politics with the same passion with which he studied nature and ethics. Aristotle considered man a “political animal” (zoon politikon), which acquires its true essence only in community with other people. In his opinion, a person must live in a political society to be complete and happy.


According to Aristotle, the ideal state should be neither too big nor too small so that citizens can personally participate in political life and follow justice. Furthermore, Aristotle taught that the best way of life and government is the golden mean between extremes.


Thus, an ideal state is a place where the interests of different social strata are balanced, and no one group dominates the others.


Aristotle did a great job of studying the history and experience of different forms of government to understand what kind of government best promotes the common good. In his Politics, he analyzes over 150 city-states and their constitutions.


Aristotle argued that a good state should provide education for all its citizens since educated people can better serve their state and live in harmony with laws and morals. For the philosopher, politics was an art and science to secure a just common good.


Aristotle’s Views On Slavery

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The Slave Merchant by Claude Augustin Duflos le Jeune (After François Boucher), 1746–47, via the Met Museum


Aristotle’s singular approach toward envisaging enslavement as a crucial piece of historical community sets him apart. He viewed slavery as a necessary phenomenon in the social structure. That said, his viewpoint was detailed and layered, though unacceptable by today’s ethical standards.


According to the thinker, there exist segments of the human population that are predestined by nature towards servitude. In his opinion, slaves had physical abilities but could not manage their lives or make decisions. So, those born as slaves required leadership from the wise.


One of Aristotle’s beliefs was that slavery actually proved advantageous for both masters and slaves alike. He believed that slavery was advantageous for slave owners and slaves alike because, he argued, masters provided protection and provision to their slaves in exchange for their labor and services.


Aristotle also acknowledged that slaves could be “improved” through the upbringing they received from their masters. In his view, the masters are responsible for teaching the slaves virtues and discipline.


Part of a slave’s improvement process involved learning from their master how to live virtuously, leading them to become more independent individuals with greater responsibilities towards society.


Aristotle’s Views On Women

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Phyllis and Aristotle, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530, via the Lucas Cranach Digital Archive


Aristotle’s views on women became influential in the further development of philosophy and thoughts of future thinkers until the end of the Middle Ages. In his treatise on state Politics, Aristotle defined women as the subordinate sex to men.


As stipulated by Aristotle, according to his beliefs expressed within Politics—when males maintained dominance over politics—females were considered higher class individuals when compared with slaves.


Among the notable features of women were: expansiveness, compassion, and naivety, which also hindered them in political life.


However, in writing Rhetoric, Aristotle put women’s happiness on the same level of importance as men’s because he believed it is impossible to achieve general happiness in society if some segments of the population remained dissatisfied.


Aristotle believed that men and women possess differing levels of intelligence and physiological distinctions. Some recent studies have shown that memory strength may vary between genders, though the reasons for this are unclear.


Besides, the thinker said that fair-skinned women, but not black-skinned women, can climax during sex. Aristotle believed women were more passionate than men despite having weaker intellects.


Overall, even though it might not seem that way, Aristotle’s views on women were somewhat progressive for his time. Aristotle’s outlook on female empowerment and rights was somewhat liberal for its period; nevertheless, it remained insufficiently evolved compared with present-day perspectives.


Aristotle’s Views On Homosexuality

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Der Kuss by Peter Behrens, 1898, via Wikimedia Commons


With a discussion of homosexuality in the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle was one of the first early Ancient Philosophers who shared their thoughts on this topic.


He proposed that one’s ability and character should outweigh their sex when it comes to making friends. Aristotle asserted that a gentleman should not feel attracted to someone of the same sex if their relationship is solely based on physical pleasure, which would go against nature’s purpose for human sexuality.


Homosexual behavior might cause a man to act against his nature, thus leading him toward moral wickedness.


While generally expressing disapproval of such relationships, the author also recognized their potential benefits in boosting a person’s physical and emotional wellness whenever the relationship is based on genuine mutual affection.


Despite holding these relatively open attitudes towards homosexuality compared to other ancient thinkers, it’s clear that Aristotle still viewed it as primarily something harmful or unnatural. This reflects the prevailing attitudes towards LGBT+ people during his lifetime. Nevertheless, contemporary societal standards classify these views as obsolete and morally questionable.


So, Who Was The Great Philosopher Aristotle?

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Roman copy of one of Aristotle’s busts, via Encyclopedia Britannica


As a renowned philosopher and polymath from ancient Greece, Aristotle’s contributions have influenced fields including politics, logic, science, mathematics, and philosophy.


Aside from his groundbreaking contributions in these fields, he authored several works on various subjects like ethics, politics, morality, etc., which many scholars continue to study today.


Looking at reality and considering the philosophical disputes prevalent during his time formed Aristotle’s foundation for philosophy. Throughout the Middle Ages, Aristotle’s perspective towards topics such as homosexuality, slavery, and women has been considered influential for later scientific thought.


That being said, most people now regard Aristotle’s beliefs about slavery, homosexuality, and women as archaic.


The level of admiration directed towards Aristotle persists even today because of his extraordinary intelligence and the breadth of his work. He managed to organize and deepen the lessons of his ancestors and lay them out into a large number of works that, fortunately, remain available to us to this day.


Therefore, Aristotle made a far-reaching arrangement of theories, covering all areas of human thought and interest, from what would later become the topics of social sciences and governmental issues to physical science and rationality.

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By Viktoriya SusMA PhilosophyViktoriya is a writer from L’viv, Ukraine. She has knowledge about the main thinkers. In her free time, she loves to read books on philosophy and analyze whether ancient philosophical thought is relevant today. Besides writing, she loves traveling, learning new languages, and visiting museums.