We now approach a new age, the Age of Aristotle, which is essentially different in many respects from the preceding one, the Age of Plato, in spite of its closeness to it and of their mutual interpenetration. The political background is not Hellenic in the old way, but Macedonian. This requires a few words of explanation.

If one looks at a map, one will see that Macedonia is a Balkan country, north of Thessaly, east of Illyria, and west of Thrace. The map does not show boundaries between these countries, but their names in large letters indicate their general location. One could not do better. Moreover, the boundaries, wherever they existed, were not permanent, and the kings of Macedonia extended their territory from time to time. For example, it finally included the Chalcidice, the three–legged peninsula (a miniature Peloponnesos) at the northwest end of the Aegean Sea, a country more closely related to the Aegean islands than to Macedonia proper. The inhabitants of Macedonia were not of a special type; there was not a Macedonian type but rather a mixture of Thracian and Illyrian (Albanian) types. They did not speak Greek, but it is difficult to define their own languages. These belonged to the Indo–European group, but were probably different as well from the Hellenic subgroup as from the Slavonic one. The Thracian dialects were connected with the Phrygian ones spoken in the northwest part of Asia Minor (south of the Propontis); the Illyrian ones are represented today by the Albanian language.¹²⁵⁹ However, as southern Macedonia was so close to Thessaly and Epeiros, Greek refugees arrived in early days and there was a large movement of emigration from Argos (in the Peloponnesos). The Doric dialect of the Greek emigrants was soon permeated with barbarian words. We may assume that a Macedonian Greek arriving in Athens was easily detected as a stranger by the very women of the market place, even if he was himself well educated.

The Macedonians were ruled by a dynasty of kings that began, according to some, with Caranos of Argos (c. 750), or according to others, with Perdiccas I, also of Argive descent (700–652). Little is known of their history until the reign of the sixth¹²⁶⁰ king, Amyntas I (540–498), but even he, an ally of the Persians, did not attract much attention. Still king followed king and it was only when the twenty–second began his rule that the picture changed. That twenty–second king was Philip II (ruled from 359 to 336). These Macedonian kings were Greeks, yet they married native women and the Greek strain in them was repeatedly mixed with native ones. Thus, we hear that Philip’s mother learned the Greek language only in her old age; Philip, however, received a Greek education. When he gained power in 360, he understood very well the Greek situation: political chaos interrupted by precarious armistices; alliances made, broken, and replaced by new combinations; no hope of peace except upon the order of a ruler of overwhelming power. Philip determined to be that ruler. During his detention in Thebes, he had observed new military methods; he not only mastered them but improved upon them. He created a professional army and taught it to move and fight in a new formation, the Macedonian phalanx. It was a combination of infantry and cavalry, foot in the center and horse in the wings, trained to work together. The Macedonian tactics were generally irresistible; it remained the best military method for centuries; it was simple enough, yet its realization required unusual gifts of generalship, and its value depended very largely upon the genius that the general officer could evidence, slowly and steadily on the training fields, and more rapidly, with as many improvisations as might be required, on the field of battle. Philip managed to put an end to the tribal feuds of his mountaineers and created a national union. He had plenty of opportunities for the exercising of his army in his own region, south of the Danube and west of the Black Sea, and he gradually increased the area and solidarity of his native realm. After that, he was ready to tackle the disorganized Greeks. We need not tell the history of his campaigns.

What was the reaction of the Greeks and especially of the Athenians to the rise of Macedonia? We must bear in mind that in their eyes Philip, in spite of his education, was not a pure Hellene; he was not a barbarian, yet he was a stranger. His ambitions became more transparent every year. Would the Greeks, who had been thus far impatient with every leader, submit to the domination of an outsider? ¹²⁶¹ There were two great parties in Athens. The first, led by the old Isocrates (436–338), might be called in modern phraseology the party of collaborators. The second was inspired by the greatest of all Attic orators, Demosthenes (385–322). He delivered virulent orations wherein he denounced Philip’s ominous designs and defended Greek freedom against him.¹²⁶² In the fourth of these great orations he suggested that Persia might be asked to help protect Greek freedom against Macedonian imperialism. The incessant civil wars that had desolated the Greek world for more than a century were poisoned by Persian interventions, for Persia was always ready to interfere and either the one or the other of the groups fighting for hegemony would be susceptible to Persian gold and ready to ally itself with the national enemy in order to attain its own purpose. Hence, the Greek civil wars were always to some extent internationalized. From the time of Philip’s accession, the situation had changed; there were now two foreign powers in the offing, Persia and Macedonia, and the fighting between Greeks was preceded and accompanied by a vast amount of propaganda, diplomatic intrigue, and treacherous infiltration. The Greeks were unable to stand together without a foreign armature. The question was, which of the two enemies and prospective guardians was the more dangerous: Macedonia, half Greek, or Persia, wholly Oriental?

Demosthenes and his partisans considered themselves more patriotic than the others, and maybe they were. Both parties realized the imperative need of a national union; the “collaborators” claimed that the union was impossible or would not be viable except under Macedonian hegemony, the other party fought for national independence as well as for union. Looking at it from a long distance, it would seem that the collaborators were right; there was no hope or possibility of reconciling national freedom with national union. Needless to say, Philip did not consider himself a conqueror but rather the champion of Greek union and Greek culture against anarchy.

Thanks to his well–trained armies, he defeated his adversaries in many battles, the final one being that of Chaironeia (Boeotia) in 338. The last composition of Isocrates was his letter of congratulation to Philip for having gained that victory, a victory which he was sharing, for he himself had won it against Demosthenes; he died happy a few days later, almost a centenarian. Demosthenes had been present at the battle of Chaironeia; he survived it sixteen years, suffering many vicissitudes; he finally took refuge in the temple of Poseidon on the island of Calaureia (in the Saronic Gulf off the coast of Argolis) and committed suicide in 322.

To return to Chaironeia, 338, the peace that followed it established the Hellenic League, wherein all the Greek states (except Sparta) were represented and of which Philip was the head and protector. Soon afterward, Philip began operations in Asia Minor for the liberation of Greek colonies from the Persian yoke, but these operations were stopped by his murder in 336, at the age of forty–seven, in the twenty–fourth year of his rule. He was succeeded by his son, Alexandros III, whom posterity remembers under the name Alexander the Great. Philip was the creator of Macedonian power and the man who made the Alexandrian adventures and achievements possible. Many of Alexander’s qualities (such as the love of science and letters) were already in him, but they were smothered by sensuality and unscrupulousness. His murder was probably a fruit of the corruption that surrounded him.¹²⁶³

Chaitoneia marked the end of Greek independence, and thus the background of this period — the age of Aristotle — is the decadence and fall of political Greece. We attend the agony of the great nation that gave the world one of its most precious possessions, democratic ideals. She died in the travail of realizing them. Yet the Greek spirit is immortal, and even when national freedom was gone and lost, it produced wonderful achievements.


Chalcidice is much more like an island in the north of the Aegean Sea than a part of Macedonia. The main lines of communication are sea lines, just as in the case of the other isles. The peninsula was colonized very early by Greek emigrants who came from Chalcis ¹²⁶⁴ (hence its name Chalcidice); its early Greek culture was Ionian, and its natural relations were with the other Ionian colonies of the Aegean Sea and the Asiatic coast. Chalcidice was a member of various Greek leagues established for mutual defense. Its main enemies were Persia and Macedonia; it was so close to the latter and was so obviously a part of its natural territory that it was bound to arouse Macedonian cupidity. To make a long story short, it was finally conquered and annexed by Philip, who is said to have replaced the Greek colonists by Macedonian veterans.

It was in that region that Aristotle was born, in 384. His birthplace was the city of Stageira, situated just north of the easternmost leg, the Mount Athos peninsula, the Holy Mountain. At the time of his birth, Chalcidice, or at least the easternmost part of it, was still independent and Ionian; in any case, the higher culture remained Ionian even after the Macedonian conquest. Aristotle may thus be called an Ionian philosopher; as we shall see in a moment, the appellation Macedonian would be equally proper.

We know nothing of his mother, except her name, Phaistis. His father, Nicomachos, belonged to an Asclepiad family; he became physician to Amyntas II (king of Macedonia, 393–370), and then moved from Stageira to the Macedonian capital of that time. The boy, Aristotle, was thus educated in Macedonia and must have obtained some familiarity with court life. His youth was dominated by three kinds of influence: Ionian, Macedonian, and medical. The first and the third were excellent for the shaping of a future man of science.

At the age of seventeen he was sent to Athens to complete his education (this was a normal procedure which would appeal equally to the philhellenes of Macedonia and to the Ionians of Chalcidice). Aristotle spent the following twenty years in Athens (367–347), and this is often stated in the following terms: he joined the Academy in 367 and was Plato’s disciple for twenty years, until the latter’s death. Such a statement is certainly wrong. Aristotle was Plato’s pupil at the beginning of his stay, and Plato appreciated his precocity and his youthful energy; he called him the reader or the mind (anagn st s, nus). Considering Aristotle’s intellectual curiosity, it is probable that he listened to other teachers, such as Isocrates, and he certainly shared with the Athenians the lessons of eloquence and politics that could be obtained in the agora or the Areiopagos. He must have listened to some of the orations of Demosthenes.¹²⁶⁵ A man of his originality and zeal would not have remained Plato’s disciple for twenty years, but he was a member of the Academy and visited it from time to time; as far as we can judge from the fragments of his lost writings, he was a Platonist, at least until Plato’s death, but with increasing reservations. The time of his membership was the second half of the Academy’s existence; it had already abandoned its Socratic features and had become excessively Platonic, un–Socratic. There were occasional conflicts between the old master and his outstanding disciple; note that there was a difference of forty–four years between them; that is an enormous difference; Plato was not one generation but two generations back of him. According to Diogenes Laërtios,¹²⁶⁶ Aristotle seceded from the Academy while Plato was still alive; hence the remark attributed to the latter: “Aristotle spurns me as colts kick out at the mother who bore them”; the situation as well as the remark itself are plausible.¹²⁶⁷ It is, of course, impossible to say when Aristotle ceased to be a Platonist; it would be impossible even if we had all his early writings, and if these were dated; the boundaries between Platonism and non–Platonism are not sufficiently determined.

The way I would put it is this: Aristotle spent twenty years of study in Athens; during the first years, he was a regular student of the Academy, later he came back as a postgraduate student or alumnus, as a friend of the master and of other Academicians. The Academy was his main center of reunion, for there he would find not only the old master but a number of congenial men with whom he could discuss philosophic and scientific questions. Membership in the Academy was not a formal matter (as it would be today); it was informal; an old student, already distinguished, would always be sure of a welcome.

At the time of Plato’s death, his nephew Speusippos was elected head of the school (scholarch s), and he directed it for eight years (348—47 to 339). Did that choice annoy other members of the Academy? At any rate, Aristotle and his friend Xenocrates decided to leave; they accepted the invitation of a fellow student, Hermeias, ruler of Atarneus.

We must tell the story of Hermeias, for it illustrates the variety, the complexity, the unexpectedness of life in that age (as in all ages). The eunuch, Hermeias, who began his career as a money–changer, was a kind of financial wizard and became very wealthy and powerful. He obtained possession of a vast domain in Troas (northwest part of Mysia), and was known as the tyrant of Atarneus (opposite Lesbos). So far, his story is not very unusual; similar things have happened everywhere. The following is more typical of his own setting. He had been a student in the Academy (was this compatible with money brokerage? Why not? Many financiers are Harvard men), had remained a great admirer of Plato and had probably asked for his advice and help in government. Was not Plato the greatest master of politics? Two other alumni of the Academy, Erastos and Coriscos, both of Scepsis (in Troas), were Hermeias’ assistants and were trying to establish a better government under Plato’s patronage.¹²⁶⁸ They had actually founded a new school (call it a branch of the Academy), in Assos.¹²⁶⁹ after Speusippos’ election as scholarch s of the Academy, Aristotle and Xenocrates joined the school of Assos and they were followed later by Callisthenes and Theophrastos. Aristotle spent three years in Assos (347–344) and was one of Hermeias’ familiars. He married Pythias, who was Hermeias’ niece and adopted daughter. It was probably through Aristotle’s instrumentality that Hermeias negotiated with Philip to obtain Macedonia’s alliance. As Mysia was more or less under Persian suzerainty, Hermeias’ negotiations were from the Persian point of view treasonable. Mentor, a Rhodian condottiere in Persian service, invited Hermeias to a conference, had him seized, and delivered him to the Great King. Hermeias was questioned and tortured concerning his relations with Philip, but instead of revealing his secrets and the names of his associates to Artaxerxes Ochos (ruled 359–338), as Demosthenes had predicted, he refused to speak. The Great King was moved by Hermeias’ gallantry, and wanted to reprieve and befriend him, but his counselors discouraged such magnanimity. He then asked Hermeias what was his last request. “I wish my friends to know,” answered Hermeias “that I have done nothing to be ashamed of or unworthy of philosophy.” Hermeias was crucified; this occurred in Susa in 344. Aristotle dedicated at Delphi a monument to celebrate the heroic death of his friend, and wrote for it an inscription in two distichs. He also composed a longer poem in his honor, in the form of an ode to virtue, a paean, that is, a liturgic hymn, the purpose of which was to worship Hermeias. This poem (16 lines) and the inscription have both been preserved and give us a fair idea of Aristotle as a poet.

During his stay in Assos, Aristotle sailed from time to time to Mytilene (Lesbos) nearby, which was the native place of his new friend, Theophrastos. These three years in Assos and Mytilene were exceedingly fruitful; they enabled Aristotle to make many observations (for example, in the field of zoology) and to develop his own philosophy. Aristotle found himself in Assos.

Philip needed a tutor for his son, Alexander. It is possible that Aristotle was recommended to him by Hermeias; at any rate, Aristotle was known to him, and his merits as a negotiator and as a leader of the school of Assos must have been recognized. The royal offer was accepted, and Aristotle proceeded to Pella, which was Philip’s residence. Aristotle’s tutorship of Alexander lasted from 343 to 340, when the young boy (he was then only sixteen) was already obliged to replace his father (absent on military duties) as regent of the kingdom. It is not clear where Aristotle lived from 340 to 335, except that it was in Macedonian territory. Perhaps he remained in Pella, where he must have been an honored guest, or he may have returned to Stageira. He had good opportunities in any case to think out his new conceptions. His tutorship had compelled him to formulate his knowledge and wisdom as clearly and simply as possible; when the young prince lacked time for additional lessons, his tutor had more time for deeper meditations.

When the prince succeeded Philip, Aristotle remained his counselor and friend, at least until the imprisonment and death of Callisthenes. Soon after Alexander’s accession to the throne and while he was putting down rebellions in the Balkans and in Greece, Aristotle returned to Athens for the consummation of his great purpose: the creation of a new school and center of research, the Lyceum (335).

When the Alexandrian meteor had ended its astounding but brief trajectory in 323, the anti–Alexandrian factions of Athens resumed their vigor and their virulence. The king’s patronage of the Lyceum and his benevolence to Aristotle compromised the latter. It was remembered by his enemies that Aristotle had written a paean in Hermeias’ honor, and he was accused of impiety. Aristotle did not want Athens to repeat the unpardonable crime it had perpetrated when it had condemned Socrates to death and he preferred to take refuge in Chalcis (the mother city of his own native Chalcidice). He died there of disease within a few months, in 322 (Demosthenes committed suicide in the same year).

Aristotle had been married twice, the first time to Pythias of Assos, by whom he had a daughter bearing the same name. His second wife, Herpyllis, gave him a son who was named Nicomachos after her father–in–law, the Asclepiad, and was immortalized by the Ethics dedicated to him (the only ethical treatise of Aristotle the authenticity of which is unquestionable).

According to Diogenes Laërtios, Aristotle “spoke with a lisp... , his calves were slender, his eyes small and he was conspicuous by his attire, his rings and the cut of his chair.”¹²⁷⁰ We must be satisfied with these meager indications, because no plastic representation of him has come down to us. It is true the Austrian philologist, Franz Studniczka, claimed that the marble head preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna was an authentic portrait, but his argumentation is unconvincing and worthless.¹²⁷¹ He remarks that the Vienna head suggests comparisons with Melanchthon and Helmholtz, but even that does not prove that it represents Aristotle!

We have a better knowledge of Aristotle’s spiritual personality than of his physical appearance, through his abundant writings and also through his will, published by Diogenes Laërtios.¹²⁷² This will shows that Aristotle was a good paterfamilias, grateful to his wives, thoughtful of his children and of his servants. It is a document full of simple humanity.


Aristotle’s writings may be divided into three groups: (1) the early ones dating from the time ¹²⁷³ of his membership in the Academy, (2) erudite compilations dating probably from the Lyceum days, (3) a series of treatises prepared during his teaching years in Assos, Pella, and Athens.

All the works that have come down to us in their integrity belong to the third group, except for a single representative of the second group, the Athenian Constitution .

Though the works of the first group are lost, there are enough fragments of them and references to them in ancient literature to enable us to appreciate their contents. ¹²⁷⁴ Indeed, these lost works were not immediately lost, far from it, and for many centuries Aristotle’s fame was largely based upon them. These early works were written for the educated public in general, not for special students.¹²⁷⁵ They were in the form of dialogues, which was the Platonic form of predilection, and reflected more or less faithfully the teachings of the Academy. Some of these works were related not only to Plato in general but also to definite Platonic writings; for example, the Eudemos of Aristotle is derived from Phaidon, his Gryllos from Gorgias, his books on Justice from the Republic, his Protrepticos from the Euthydemos.

Let us examine three of them: Eudemos, Protrepticos, and Philosophy.

The Eudemos is a dialogue on the immortality of the soul, so named after Aristotle’s friend, Eudemos of Cypros,¹²⁷⁶ who had been killed in 354. When we bewail the death of a person whom we loved, we cannot help asking ourselves anxiously whether the physical death is final. Aristotle accepts the Platonic theory that the soul of man comes from heaven and returns thither when released from its bondage.

The Protrepticos¹²⁷⁷ (hortatory) is a treatise (not a dialogue) addressed to Themison, a prince of Cypros, exhorting him to study philosophy and to take a philosophic view of life. All the imperfections of mortal life are perfected in a transcendental world; death is the escape into a higher life. The imprisonment of the soul in the body is the cause of all our troubles and sufferings. The philosopher must keep himself as free as possible from worldly entanglements, which can only hinder his return to God. There are so many points of agreement between Protrepticos andEpinomis that the authors must have drunk from the same Platonic fountain, or else one of them copied the other.¹²⁷⁸ Protrepticos interests us specially because of its extraordinary fame. Cicero prepared a Latin adaptation of it under the title Hortensius.¹²⁷⁹ It influenced Iamblichos (IV–1) and Julian the Apostate (IV–2), and Cicero’s version made a very deep impression on St. Augustine (V–1). St. Augustine was nineteen years of age when he read the Hortensius, and it was that very book which stirred him to the study of wisdom.¹²⁸⁰ Is not that a singular fortune? Young Aristotle was the instrument of St. Augustine’s awakening. Note the temporal distance between them, almost eight centuries, and their very different orientations, Aristotle toward science, Augustine toward Christ.

The longest of the lost Aristotelian books, as far as we can judge from the fragments, was the treatise on Philosophy in three books. Going back to the speculations of the Seven Wise Men and early Delphic inscriptions (for example, gn thi sauton), Aristotle explained in Book I his conception of the eternal return of doctrines, ¹²⁸¹ in Book II he criticized the Platonic Ideas, in Book III, he outlined an astral theology. In that third book, he conceived the soul to be endowed with a spontaneous and eternal motion,¹²⁸² like the celestial bodies, each of which has a will of its own. He thus continued the strange aberration of the Timaios and of the Epinomis, according to which the regular periodicity of celestial bodies is considered to be a proof of their intelligence and divinity. It would seem that at the time of his writing this dialogue, Aristotle already thought of the fifth essence of heaven (or aether) as the very substance of which the souls are made.¹²⁸³ This I find very difficult to grasp. After having ascribed divinity to the planets because of their regularity, how could he assimilate to them the souls of men, the motions of which are unpredictable? Perhaps he was led astray by the idea of automaticity which he ascribed to the stars as well as to the souls. His cosmology in this treatise is comparable to that of the Timaios, with an important difference: divinity is not transcendental, as Plato understood it, but tangible in the celestial bodies. The main source of wisdom is the contemplation, no longer of abstract Ideas, but of the perfect motions of stars and planets.

Aristotle’s conviction of God’s existence was derived from two sources — the prophetic abilities of the soul (as revealed in dreams) and the sight of the starry heavens.¹²⁸⁴ His endorsement of the astral theology must have contributed powerfully to its general acceptance in the Hellenistic age. Jaeger summed up that situation very aptly and beautifully when he wrote:

The establishment of the worship of the stars, which are confined to no land or nation but shine on all the peoples of the earth, and of the transcendental God who is enthroned above them, inaugurates the era of religious and hilosophic universalism. On the crest of this last wave Attic culture streams out into the Hellenistic sea of peoples.¹²⁸⁵

This early philosophy of Aristotle is already independent of Plato’s, but not much; the essential of his metaphysics is still Platonic (except for the rejection of the Ideas) and permeated with the Chaldean and Iranian thoughts that were circulating in the Academy. This is not astonishing. His teaching at Assos and Pella had already oriented his mind in a new direction; he was putting in order his knowledge of logic, mathematics, astronomy, natural history, and for the time being was willing to accept Platonic metaphysics much as he found it. His position was very similar to that of a modern man of science who carries on his investigations without trying to inquire into the religious ideas and the religious practice that are essential parts of his family tradition.

The creation of these early writings is even less astonishing. The fact that they are essentially different from those of his maturity requires no explanation; he was a man of extraordinary genius, but genius itself must grow; it is foolish to expect it to be prematurely mature. The infant prodigies more often than not reach very early a low level of maturity and then fail to soar much higher. A real man of genius, on the contrary, is likely to develop more slowly than other men. Many men of science began their career with poetic or philosophic publications which they repudiated later on, or abandoned to oblivion.¹²⁸⁶ Such a course is natural enough; it was very much so in the case of a man submitted for twenty years to the fatuous speculations of the Academy. Aristotle was saved from the voodoo of the Timaios by his scientific curiosity, his growing habit of careful investigations, the practical duties put on his shoulders in Assos and Pella, and above all, by his own rationality and independence.

All things considered, the evolution of Aristotle was not exceptional, but normal. His mind was cleared of Platonic phantasies in proportion to the growth of his scientific knowledge.

We would not bother much about his early writings except for the importance attached to them during three or four centuries, and their subsequent mysterious disappearance. It is as if one Aristotle had been known for centuries and then suddenly replaced by another one, very different. What puzzles me most is the eclipse of the old Aristotle. As his writings enjoyed some fame, each must have been represented by many copies; how is it that all have disappeared and that we do not have the complete text of a single one? This illustrates once more the precariousness of manuscript tradition. Yet why was it more precarious in the case of Aristotle’s popular writings than in that of Archimedes’ very technical ones? We cannot answer that question. The preservation of manuscripts was exceedingly capricious and hazardous.


A historian of science would be tempted to say that the Platonic writings of Aristotle were lost because they were displaced and obliterated by his later writings, but if he did say that he would give a bad example of self–centeredness. We must bear in mind that Platonic illusions were for many centuries (and are even today) more agreeable to the majority of people than scientific matter–of–factness. The final loss of the old Aristotelian writings is very mysterious, and the temporary loss and rediscovery of his later ones romantic to a degree.

Here is what happened. After Aristotle’s death, his papers became the property of his friend and successor, Theophrastos. The latter bequeathed them, not to his own successor or to the Lyceum, as we would have expected, but to his nephew, Neleus of Scepsis.¹²⁸⁷ Neleus does not seem to have cared for them in any way, but his heirs sold some items to Ptolemy Philadelphos (ruled 285–247), who was building up the library of Alexandria. Being afraid that the rest might be seized by Attalos of Pergamon (ruled 269–197), who was their own king and was building up the rival library of Pergamon, they hid all the manuscripts in a cave. Some time later, Apellicon of Teos, who was passing through Scepsis, heard of that treasure and obtained it for the private library that he was gathering in Athens. This Apellicon was a Peripatetic and a rich collector of books; we do not know much about him except that he died soon before Sulla’s siege and sack of Athens (84 B.C.). Sulla bought or took the Aristotelian manuscripts and carried them to Rome. A Greek grammarian nicknamed Tyrannion was taken captive by Lucullus soon afterward (in 72 B.C.) and brought to Rome, and the arrangement of Apellicon’s books was intrusted to him. Tyrannion was a capable scholar, praised by Cicero and Strabon, but he does not seem to have done more than catalogue or describe the Aristotelian manuscripts, or if he began an edition of them his work was insufficient. The first edition was prepared at about the same time by Andronicos of Rhodes (I–1 B.C.), and Andronicos’ edition is fundamental; all other editions are derived from it, directly or indirectly. We should not conclude that the Aristotelian writings remained unknown until Andronicos’ publication c. 70 B.C., because there must have been an oral and a written tradition of them in the Lyceum. Andronicos’ edition, I take it, was the first that reached outsiders.

This story throws an interesting sidelight upon the cultural progress of the Hellenistic age, for example, upon the growth of libraries in Alexandria, Pergamon, Athens, and Rome.

The writings preserved by Andronicos were presumably the same as those that have reached us today. It will suffice at present to give a short list of them, with few remarks; we shall discuss some of them at greater length later on. We list them in the order that has become traditional, as represented, for example, in the Bekker text (1831) and in the English Aristotle.¹²⁸⁸

Vol. 1 (pp. 1–184). The Organon: Categoriae. De interpretatione. Analytica priora et posteriora. Topica. De sophistis elenchis.

Vol. 2 (pp. 184–338). Physica. De caelo. De generatione et corruptione.

Vol. 3 (pp. 338–486). Meteorologica. De mundo. De anima. Parva naturalia.¹²⁸⁹ De spiritu.

Vol. 4 (pp. 486–633). Historia animalium .

Vol. 5 (pp. 639–789). De partibus, motu, incessu, et generatione animalium.

Vol. 6 (pp. 791–858). De coloribus. De audibilibus. Physiognomonica. De plantis.

De mirabilibus auscultationibus. Mechanica . (pp. 968–980). De lineis insecabilibus. Ventorum situs et cognomina. De Melisso, Xenophane, Gorgia.

Vol. 7 (pp. 859–967). Problemata.

Vol. 8 (pp. 980–1093). Metaphysica.

Vol. 9 (pp. 1094–1251). Ethica Nicomachea. Magna moralia. Ethica Eudemia.

Vol. 10 (pp. 1252–1353). Politica. Oeconomica . (pp. 1°–69°, text Berlin Academy, 1903). Atheniensium res publica.

Vol. 11 (pp. 1354–1462). Rhetorica. De rhetorica ad Alexandrum. De poetica.

All these writings except one belong to the third group, that is, they are textbooks representing lectures given in the Lyceum either by Aristotle or by others. The exception is the Athenian republic (in vol. 10), which is the only extant representative of the second group, surveys prepared for the Lyceum. Aristotle had made a comparative study of 158 Greek constitutions, the most important being presumably the Athenian, which alone has come down to us. It includes two main parts: (1) the constitutional history of Athens from the origins to Aristotle’s time, each stage being intelligently and clearly described; (2) analysis of the Athenian constitution and government as it existed c. 330.

The tradition of that text is curious. Until 1891, only fragments of Aristotle’s constitutional studies were known. In that year a papyrus found in Egypt, preserved in the British Museum, was edited by Kenyon: this was the editio princeps of the Athenian Constitution.¹²⁹⁰

The corpus of Aristotelian writings is encyclopedic in scope. It covers logic, mechanics, physics, astronomy, meteorology, botany, zoology, psychology, ethics, economics, politics, metaphysics, literature, etc. No large treatise is devoted to mathematics, but there are a good many discussions of mathematical topics, scattered in various books.

Are these writings authentic? The question is more complex than it seems at first sight, and it cannot be answered in toto. The authenticity of each separate writing has been discussed by its editors, who have not always reached the same conclusions. If the question concerns the literal authorship — the actual writing of each text — it is probable that few were written by Aristotle himself. We cannot even say that all of them represent indirectly his own teaching; some may represent the teaching of Theophrastos or of other members of the Lyceum. The texts available to us may represent Aristotle’s ideas or the ideas of other Peripatetics; if they represent his own ideas, it does not follow that they represent his own words, except in so far as a good student would have taken pains to reproduce the master’s ipsissima verba, at least with regard to essentials.

With the exception of a few writings that are generally conceded to be apocryphal, the consensus of opinion seems to be that the books bearing Aristotle’s name may be taken to be the substance of his lectures; the original manuscripts (as edited by Andronicos) were written down on the basis of his own lecture notes (in various stages of development) or on the basis of the notes taken by auditors, revised (or not) by himself. The possible variations of that hypothesis are endless.

The documentation of some books, especially the zoölogic ones, may have been collected partly by the master, partly by his assistants and students. This would not diminish his authorship, however, for in such cases the author is not so much, or exclusively, the man who discovers the individual facts, but rather he who puts them together and explains them.

The chronology of Aristotle’s writings is very uncertain. Some of them were drafted, if not composed, in Assos or Macedonia; others owe their origin to the Lyceum. Most of them are the fruit of a long evolution, and were probably planned, written, and rewritten in many instalments. Professor Jaeger has proved that this was the case for the Metaphysics, the Ethics, and the Politics. Every author, and especially every teacher of long experience, will understand this easily. One may be able to date the completion of a book, and sometimes its inception, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to date its various parts. If two books have been completed in the years t and t+l, it does not follow that the second is wholly later than the first; in fact, the first may include references to the second.

Many of the traditional views concerning the composition or style of Aristotle are as arbitrary and legendary as those concerning Plato, except that the legends developed in opposite directions. The same pedants who admired Plato’s style (often without a sufficiently fluid knowledge of the Greek language to appreciate such subtleties), were agreed that the Aristotelian writings were poorly written, that Aristotle had no style, and so on. We recognize a fallacy that often dominates the mind of literary critics when they have to judge scientific writings. The main difference between scientific writings and imaginative ones concerns the relation of content to form. The man of science worries much more about what he has to say than about the way of saying it; he is satisfied when he has succeeded in explaining clearly his ideas and in describing exactly the results that he has obtained. His effort is likely to stop at that moment, for he has no patience with literary vanities, while the man of letters would take any amount of additional effort to express his thoughts more beautifully, with more wit and grace and a better rhythm. There is a subtle polarity between the form or style and the content of a book. In scientific books, style is subordinated to content; in poetic compositions, the opposite relation is more natural. When the critic is aware that the content of a book is intrinsically important, and that the form is severe and terse, he jumps easily to the conclusion that the author cannot write properly. His conclusion may be sometimes justified, because many scientific books are poorly written, but it is quite as often wrong and unfair. Being unable to appreciate the beauty of the content and chilled by the uncompromising austerity of the language, he decides that the book is “not” written, that it is “not” literature. The Aristotelian books are scientific books and their content mattered infinitely more than their form; the latter is sometimes a bit careless; on the other hand, we find in them occasional lapidary expressions that reveal the master’s genius (ex ungue leonem). Aristotle, I would say, was anxious to write as well as possible, because he was a poet ¹²⁹¹ and never forgot his Platonic education; if some of his books are imperfect and slipshod, it is not owing to his own carelessness but simply to the fact that he lacked the opportunity of finishing them as he would have liked to do.

The form of many of the books bearing his name might possibly have been improved by a stylist, but could the latter have done that without sacrificing some of the ideas, taking their edge off and putting on another, less worth while? We all agree that form and content are as inseparable as body and soul, but literary critics often behave as if the form were the soul, while the soul of a book is in its ideas, that is, in its content. That is certainly true of scientific books.

The language of the Aristotelian writings, it must be admitted, is no longer the Attic language of the golden age; it is mixed up not only with technical terms but also with common terms of various origins. Aristotle may be considered one of the founders of the new common language (h coin dialectos). His terminology is remarkable; it includes superfluities, but that was unavoidable in his time; the elimination of unnecessary terms, as well as the creation of new ones, is one of the aspects of scientific development. The marvel is not that many Aristotelian terms have been dropped but rather that so many have been preserved in our own languages.


The purpose of this book is not bibliographic, yet it is necessary to speak of some of the early editions — for these are historical landmarks — and to advertise the modern editions that are the most convenient for reference.

For incunabula editions, most of them in Latin, with or without the Averroës commentaries, see Klebs, Nos. 82–97 (Fig. 89).

One of the greatest of all incunabula is the Greek princeps of Aristotle published by Aldus Manucius in Venice, 1495–1498, in five folio volumes (Fig. 90). The printers of Basel were always competing with those of Venice, and thus a new edition of all the Aristotelian works was prepared by Erasmus of Rotterdam and Symon Grynaeus (2 vols., folio; Basel, 1531) (Figs. 91 and 92). The Greek text was edited again by Friedrich Sylburg (1536–1596) and printed in Frankfurt (11 vols.; 1584–1587). The first collected edition with Latin translation appeared in Lyons in 1590.

The most important of the modern editions is the one prepared by Immanuel Bekker (1785–1871) and published under the auspices of the Academy of Berlin with Latin translations (5 vols., quarto; Berlin, 1831–1870).¹²⁹² Bekker’s pagination has been preserved in almost all the later editions. The Bekker Greek text was reprinted in Oxford,¹²⁹³ with the addition of the “indices Sylburgiani” (11 vols.; Oxford, 1837). The Didot edition, Greek–Latin, is by F. Dübner, U. C. Bussemaker, and E. Heitz (5 vols.; Paris, 1848–1874).

Jules Barthélemy–Saint–Hilaire (1805— 1895) devoted the best part of his life to a French translation of the Aristotelian corpus (1839 ff.). Though his translations are no longer up–to–date, it is often very worth while to refer to them.

The works of Aristotle have been translated into English under the editorship of W. D. Ross (11 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908–1931). The contents of those volumes has been indicated above, p. 477.

Many Aristotelian works are available in Greek and English in the Loeb Classical Library, for example, Parts, movements and progression of animals (1937) [Isis 29, 205 (1938); 30, 322 (1939)]; On the heavens (1939) [Isis 32, 136 (1947–49)]; Generation of animals (1943) [Isis 35, 181 (1944)].

The English translation included in the Oxford volumes and in the Loeb series are up–to–date and convenient, but their annotations are insufficient. There is real need of new translations (preferably with the Greek text) fully explained by a scholar who knows the history of science as well as the history of philosophy, acquainted not only with philologic details but with all the realia expressed or implied.

Indexes. Marco Antonio Zimara, Tabula dilucidationum in dictis Aristotelis et Averrois (folio; Venice, 1537) [Isis 41, 106 (1950)]. The indexes relative to each separate work compiled by Friedrich Sylburg (1584–87) are reprinted in the Oxford Bekker edition (1837). Very elaborate index by Hermann Bonitz, Index Aristotelicus (896 pp., quarto; Berlin, 1870). This is the last volume of the Bekker edition, vols. 1–4 of which appeared in 1831–1846. There is also an elaborate index by Emile Heitz in vol. 5 of the Didot edition (932 pp.; Paris, 1874), vols. 1–4 of which appeared in 1848–1869. There are indexes to each separate work in the Oxford English Aristotle.

Fig. 89. First Latin edition of De anima (Padua, 1472), printed by Laurentius Canozius of Lendenaria, who worked in Padua from 1472 to 1475 (British Museum Catalogue, vol. 7, p. 907; Klebs, 84.1). The printing of this book was completed on 22 November 1472, 90 leaves folio, two columns. Each paragraph of Aristotle’s text is given twice, in a new and an old Latin version, and is followed by Ibn Rushd’s commentary on the latter. We reproduce the first page. [From the copy in the Harvard College Library.]

Fig. 90. A page of the first Greek edition of Aristotle’s works, 5 folio volumes in 6 printed by Aldus Manutius in Venice, 1495–1498 (Klebs, 83.1). This page is taken from vol. 1, containing the Organon, November 1495. It is the beginning of the Prior analytics. Note the beautiful printing full of ligatures; except for the top lines it looks like a manuscript page. The colophon includes a privilege granted by the Venetian Senate, forbidding other printers to publish the same texts. [From the copy in the Harvard College Library.]

Fig. 91. A page of second Greek edition of Aristotle’s works prepared by Erasmus of Rotterdam and Grynaeus of Heidelberg and printed by Bebel in Basel, 1531; two volumes, folio, generally bound in one. The printing is far less beautiful than that of the princeps. For the sake of comparison we have chosen the same text, the beginning of Prior analytics,which is preceded by the end of De interpretatione. [From the copy in the Harvard College Library.]

Fig. 92. Another page of the second Greek edition (Basel, 1531). The main text is preceded by eight introductory leaves, including Erasmus’ Latin dedication to John More dated Freiburg im Breisgau 1531, the short life of Aristotle by Guarino da Verona, and the table of contents (folio of last leaf), which we reproduce. Note that the text proper begins with the Introduction of Porphyry (III–2), very often added to the Organon. [From the copy in the Harvard College Library.]

Troy Wilson Organ, Index to Aristotle in English translation (183 pp.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949) [Isis 40, 357 (1949)].

The Berlin Academy has published a large series of commentaries. Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca (23 vols., 1882–1909); Supplementum Aristotelicum (3 vols., 1885–1903).

For special investigations one must always refer to the latest critical editions of the text required. These editions are too numerous to be listed here. Most needs will be answered, however, by referring to the general editions listed above.


Alexander was born in Pella twenty–eight years later than Aristotle, in the summer of 356, being the son of Philip II by the Epirote princess, Olympias, a passionate and superstitious woman. We do not know how he was educated in his younger years, but when he was thirteen Aristotle was invited to be his tutor. The tutorship lasted only three years, because at the age of sixteen Alexander was forced to act as regent of Macedonia during his father’s absence, and he took part very early in military affairs; at eighteen, he commanded his father’s left wing at Chaironeia. The following year, his father having married Cleopatra, palace intrigues obliged Alexander and his mother to flee to Illyria. What would have happened to the young man if he had remained in exile? The wheel of fortune turned very fast for him. Another year passed; Philip was assassinated,¹²⁹⁵ and Alexander became king of Macedonia at the age of twenty (336).

Let us return for a moment to Aristotle’s tutorship. Though it did not last very long, it exerted a very deep influence upon his pupil. What did Aristotle teach him? Poetry, especially the Iliad (Alexander kept under his pillow a copy of the Iliad that his tutor had revised for him), the history of Greece and Persia, the geography of Asia Minor, ethics and politics. The content of Aristotle’s lessons does not matter so much as the spirit that informed them. We may be sure that the teaching was sensible, practical, moderate, and yet high–minded and generous; Aristotle could easily have been the best of tutors, even as Plato would have been the worst. When Alexander had to assume administrative and military duties, the tutorship came naturally to an end, but Aristotle remained an honored friend and a trusted counsel.¹²⁹⁶ Friendly relations continued between them at least until the murder of Callisthenes in 327.¹²⁹⁷

There are many proofs of Alexander’s kindness to his former tutor. As soon as he was in power, he ordered the restoration of the latter’s native place, Stageira, which had been destroyed by Philip; when he conquered Lesbos, he protected it from pillage for the sake of Aristotle’s friend, Theophrastos; when he visited the tomb of Achilles in Troas, he had with him Aristotle’s nephew, Callisthenes. He gave much assistance to the Lyceum, to Aristotle personally, and to his assistants in their scientific undertakings.

Though our readers have but little interest in military conquests, we must give a brief outline of Alexander’s campaigns in order to illustrate his astounding genius.

His campaigns began in Greece, for he had to subdue the rebellions that had occurred in various places after his father’s death. In order to illustrate his ruthlessness and to discourage further revolts, he destroyed Thebes, sparing only (and this was typical of him) the house of Pindar. In spite of Athens’ submission and allegiance, Demosthenes, whose efforts were financed by Persia, created new trouble. Alexander forgave them; and the Hellenic League was reestablished (still without Sparta) and Alexander elected its leader. He was now able to resume Philip’s plan of Asiatic conquest; the champion of Hellenism could do no less, and it was clear enough that Greek unity would remain precarious as long as Persia was capable of stirring up bad blood between the Greek states and of abetting insurrections.

Alexander had a strong dramatic sense and knew how to excite the loyalty and wonder of his soldiers and to feed the superstitions that were favorable to him. Having levied a Macedonian army including contingents from all the Greek states (except Sparta), he began his conquests in the northwest corner of Asia Minor, camped in the plain of Troas, and worshiped in the temple of Athena, evoking the ancient glories that every Greek had learned from the Iliad. To his soldiers he thus appeared in the form of a new Achilles. His first great battle was won in 334 near the river Granicos (in Mysia); the Persian satraps were unable to resist the Macedonian phalanx and were utterly defeated. After that Alexander was free to proceed southward, liberating one Greek colony after another. His position was endangered, however, by the existence of a strong Persian navy that might cut his communications with Macedonia and Greece. Therefore he resolved to make himself master of all the harbors (in Asia Minor, Syria, or Egypt) without which the Persian navy could not operate. This was done with astonishing speed. Alexander led his armies across Asia Minor, then across the Cilician gates, and fought in 333 another great battle at Issos,¹²⁹⁸ defeating the main Persian army led by the Great King himself, Darios III, the last of his line. Darios begged for peace, offering to abandon to the Greeks all the region west of the Euphrates, but by this time Alexander knew his power and could no longer restrain his ambition. Before completing his conquest of the Persian empire, he captured the Phoenician harbors and Egypt. The Persian fleet could not function any longer and was scattered or destroyed. Alexander then resumed his conquest of the East, crossed the Euphrates and the Tigris, and defeated Darios III again at Arbela (331). Darios was assassinated by one of his own men and Alexander showed great generosity to his family. There was nothing now to hinder him from taking the Persian cities, Babylon, Susa, Pasagarda (where he visited the tomb of Cyros), Persepolis (the marvelous palaces of which were set afire), Ecbatana. Alexander could not stop himself any more; he obliged his armies to march through the Iranian Plateau, to cross the Oxos and Jaxartes rivers, then to turn southward toward India. He would have continued indefinitely but for the despair and anger of his soldiers. They sailed down the Indus on 800 ships, and when they reached the Indian Ocean, the Greeks were amazed by the spectacle of the tides, which was new to them. The return journey to Babylon was effected partly afoot along the Persian deserts, partly on a fleet of ships following the shores of the Indan Ocean and sailing up the Persian Gulf and the Shatt–al Arab. The survivors of that incredible journey reached Babylon in 323.

These prodigious conquests had gradually changed Alexander’s character. His natural disposition was generous and he proved his magnanimity on many occasions. On the other hand, he could not help feeling exalted; if not a god, he felt himself to be more than a man, a superman, in the Greek meaning, a hero. During his stay in Egypt, he had spent three weeks of his time visiting the temple of Amon in the western desert, and there he had been proclaimed a son of Zeus–Amon. To the Egyptians he was a living god; to the Asiatics he was the successor of the Great King, an absolute ruler, whom nobody could gainsay; to the Greeks, he was the head and protector of the Hellenic League, a conquering hero, a dictator. Like every other dictator of any time, he was the main victim of his irresponsible and unrestrainable power. Those who dared oppose him, either in the government, in a debate, or simply in an orgy, must die, and he was the direct or indirect cause of many murders: the execution of Philotas, son of his best general Parmenion, in 330, the murder of Parmenion himself, the killing by his own hand of his best friend, Cleitos, who had saved his life at the Granicos, the execution of Callisthenes in 327, and others. This was the price that Alexander paid for his glory, the infamous deeds that no amount of victory and majesty could ever compensate.

There was but one friend left to him, the Macedonian Hephaistion, son of Amyntor, but Hephaistion died of fever in 324 and the king mourned him extravagantly. While he was making new plans for the conquest of Arabia and perhaps of the Western Mediterranean (for the making of such plans was part of his nemesis), he fell sick with fever and died at Babylon in June 323, at the age of thirty–three. His phenomenal career had lasted thirteen years, during which he had conquered a large part of the world and in spite of his generosity caused the death and misery of innumerable people.

Thus lived and died Alexander the Great, a man whose deeds could never be forgotten, nor forgiven.

Alexander was fortunate in his death, more fortunate than other conquerors, because he did not witness the disintegration of his empire. Great as his achievements were, he had done only the beginning of his task, the easiest part. An immense amount of work remained to be accomplished in order to consolidate his victories, to organize the empire, and to stop the innumerable causes of conflict and of weakness. It had been possible to steal the world from feeble hands; it would have been impossible, even with the strongest hands, to keep it sound and whole. The gods were more generous to Alexander than he deserved and permitted him to die while he was at the acme of his glory. He was like a gambler who has collected all the chips on his side of the table and expires suddenly before losing them.

The Alexandrian empire did not survive him. For the next fifty years his main officers fought one another for as much power as they could get. By 275, three new dynasties had emerged: the Antigonids, holding Macedonia and Greece; the Seleucids, holding Western Asia; the Ptolemies, holding Southern Syria, Egypt, Cyrenaica, Cypros. Greece disintegrated into its old elements, some of which would sometimes ally themselves against the others. Not only did the empire vanish but Greece and Macedonia were gradually absorbed into the new Roman world. By 200, Greek and Macedonian freedom were approaching the end. Macedonia had enjoyed a long existence before Alexander; it did not live two centuries after him; it collapsed in 167 and became a Roman province in 146.¹²⁹⁹ Alexander did not found a durable empire, but he helped to destroy his own country, his own patrimony.

Did Alexander mistake himself for a god? If he had a grain of intelligence, how could he? Do the gods suffer pains and illusions? Did he dream of a world empire? Probably not in a conscious way, but his nemesis obliged him to conquer more and more. Such as it was, his empire was unwieldy, heterogeneous, weakened by all kinds of external and internal tensions. The only way of relieving such tensions is domestic or foreign war; thus, the expansion continued while the domestic repressions were postponed. If Alexander had lived longer, his remaining years would have been wasted in continuous and fruitless strife.

It is possible that other men fancied him to be a god, for his power was incalculable. The Egyptians accepted his divinity and maybe some Asiatics did; the Greeks took it with a grain of salt. The superstitious reverence paid to dictators in our own enlightened time helps us to understand the situation that shaped itself twenty–four centuries ago.

Alexander was very generous but impulsive. In one essential respect he was more generous than Aristotle, not to mention Plato. Both philosophers had considered the barbarians, that is, the non–Greeks, as inferiors by nature. It was meet to wage war against them, to extirpate or enslave them. The Greeks were born freemen, and the barbarians were born slaves. It is much to Alexander’s credit that he was able to raise himself to a higher plane than his tutor.¹³⁰⁰

Alexander perceived the unity of mankind, which they did not. The explication of his moral superiority in this respect over theirs lies in his greater experience of men. He had known the seamy side of Greek and Macedonian life from his very childhood. As the intelligent boy grew up, the corruption of his father’s court cannot have been completely hidden from him; his mother, Olympias, may have opened his eyes if his father did not. On the other hand, he must have known many Orientals who were good men. He must have discovered early that the opposition of Greek to barbarian was false and wrong. In the course of his short but crowded life his experience of men must have increased by leaps and bounds; as he himself was idolized he was exalted to so high a plane that all men appeared equal in their inequality to him. He was so high above them that it was easy for him to be tolerant of their diversities and to recognize their fundamental brotherhood.

It is not probable that Alexander dreamed of a world empire but it is almost certain that he dreamed of world homonoia(concordia). He realized that men should not be classified blindly according to their races, but intelligently and kindly according to their merits. One may object that other conquerors may have had the same idea: the only defense of their deeds would be to claim that they had come not to conquer, but to unite, not to enslave but to liberate.¹³⁰¹ True, but Alexander was the first, and his merit is greater, because it would have been natural for him to continue the evil tendencies of Plato and Aristotle. The fact that he was able to overcome unaided those tendencies is the best proof of his genius.

His ideas on the necessity of the fusion of races for the common tasks of humanity may have been facilitated by his own ancestry; he was not a pure Greek like Plato, but half a barbarian.¹³⁰² At any rate, he did his best to realize his new political ideal by appointing Orientals to satrapies and to other high offices, mixing soldiers of various races in his armies, mixing populations in the new cities, marrying the Bactrian princess Roxane and encouraging mixed marriages around him. It is probable that all these measures were very insufficient, yet they prove his good will, and the beginning of a new policy, radically different from the earlier one. As Tarn put it: ”Aristotle’s State had still cared nothing for humanity outside its own borders; the stranger must still be a serf or an enemy. Alexander changed all that. When he declared that all men were alike sons of one Father, and when at Opis he prayed that Macedonians and Persians might be partners in the commonwealth and that the peoples of his world might live in harmony and in unity of heart and mind, he proclaimed for the first time the unity and brotherhood of mankind.“¹³⁰³

That idea — the brotherhood of mankind — has often been ascribed to the Cynics, to the Stoics, to the Christians, but Alexander was ahead of them all.¹³⁰⁴ Zeno the Stoic, we should remember, was born about the time when Alexander began his conquests, and was only twelve years old when the conqueror died.

Diogenes of Sinope (c. 400–325), who is often considered the founder of the Cynic school, was older than Alexander and, if a famous anecdote is true, he met the latter at the general assembly of the Greeks held at the Isthmus of Corinth. Alexander having been appointed leader of the expedition against Persia, many people came to congratulate him. Not so, however, Diogenes, who was living in Corinth but took not the slightest notice of the king. “Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many persons coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, ’Yes,’ said Diogenes, ’stand a little out of my sun.’ It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, ’But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.’”¹³⁰⁵

Diogenes may have inspired Alexander, but the cosmopolitanism of the Cynics (if it ever existed) was a much later creation.¹³⁰⁶

Thanks to his genius and to Aristotle’s tuition, Alexander was not a vulgar conqueror; he might have become a greater man than he was if unfortunate circumstances had not forced him to conquer the world. He was interested in Aristotle’s undertakings and ready to support the Lyceum and to obtain for it all the specimens that were needed.¹³⁰⁷ His expeditions into Asia might be called the first scientific expeditions. Not only did he take with him engineers able to construct military machines or to deal with water works or mining, architects, geographers, and surveyers, but there were a secretarial or historical department headed by Eumenes of Cardia, philosophers and literary men such as Callisthenes of Olynthos, Anaxarchos the Democritean and his pupil Pyrrhon who founded the Skeptic school, Onesicritos, seaman and romancer, naturalists collecting specimens for the Lyceum, and the future king Ptolemy, son of Lagos (Ptolemy I Soter, c. 367–282, king of Egypt), to whom we owe the most reliable information concerning Alexander’s career. In all this Alexander showed the same kind of intellectual ambition that would redeem Bonaparte’s fame twenty–one centuries later.

Alexander’s dream of a world united under Greek hegemony was too premature to be realized, but he accomplished a certain community of culture that superficial though it was, was never obliterated. That is what is often called the Hellenization of the East. Thanks to his efforts, Hellenic ideals were spread over Western Asia, and reached India and even China. The most striking illustration of that Hellenization is given to us by the beginnings of Buddhist iconography as it developed under Greek influence in the Gandh ra.¹³⁰⁸ It was chiefly in Western Asia, however, that the Hellenization was felt (it had been felt before Alexander and continued after him) and because of it that part of the world was knit more closely to Europe than to the rest of Asia. The Hellenization of the East cannot be denied, but one should not forget that it was accompanied by another movement in the opposite direction, which we may call the Orientalization of the West.¹³⁰⁹ It was because of the example given by Alexander in Babylon and by his successors in Egypt and Asia that new ideas of sovereignty, politics, and government were introduced into the West. The Hellenization of the East had begun long before Alexander, and it was continued throughout the Hellenistic and the Roman ages, and even to some extent by the Byzantine autocrats; in the same way, the Orientalization of the West was not by any means a novelty in Alexander’s age, but both movements reached a climax in that age.

When that is said it must be emphasized again that both the Hellenization and the Orientalization were exceedingly superficial. That is the way most cultural influences spread, like oil upon the face of the waters. The waters are not changed. There were Greek manners in the East, but Greek ideals could not be understood, and hence could not serve as a bond of union. It is for that reason above all others that the Macedonian empire was essentially unstable: there was no cement to hold it together, nothing whatever except Alexander’s personal might.

The Greek culture that developed in Western Asia was definitely post–Alexandrian; it developed under the Roman patronage and was given a certain stability because of the continuity and the relative length of the Pax Romana. We may assume that in many cases seeds of the Alexandrian age did not fructify until Roman peace gave them a chance. The best example of this is the astrologic religion and all that belongs to it (such as the seven–day cycle) which dates back to Plato and Philip of Opus, yet did not really flourish except in Roman times.

The Alexandrian influence was felt in another way in the form of legends. Such influence should not be despised; the legends were crude travesties of reality but they were accepted by the majority of the people as truthful. The world knew Alexander through those legends, even as it knew Helen and Achilles through the Iliad. For the great mass of the people, East and West, the legendary Alexander was the real one. The Alexander romance spread everywhere; more than eighty versions of it have been collected in twenty–four languages. When the Muslims conquered the world a millennium after him, they helped to advertise the story of the great hero, Alexander Dhül–qarnain (the two–horned king), and the Arabic story was retranslated into other languages.¹³¹⁰

Some of the earliest legends, spread by Peripatetics, who could not forgive the murder of Callisthenes, were very unfavorable to Alexander. He was represented as a very good pupil of Aristotle, who had been ruined by his extraordinary fortune and had degenerated into a cruel tyrant. The legends of a later time abandoned political implications and made of Alexander a supernatural hero and a wizard to whom all the conceivable mirabilia could be ascribed. All of which is popular literature and folklore without scientific value of any kind, yet full of humanity.

Among the creatures immortalized by the history of Alexander and the Alexandrian folklore, let me select for mention a single one, Bucephalos, the hero’s favorite horse, which was killed at the battle of Hydaspes in 326.¹³¹¹ Bucephalos is the most illustrious representative of his species.

Alexander the Great will continue to ride his faithful steed Bucephalos as long as men exist.


Though Aristotle must have ceased his tutorship of Alexander when the latter assumed administrative and military duties, he remained at Pella (or perhaps in Stageira) a few more years. In 336, Alexander succeeded Philip as king and soon afterward began his campaignings first in Thrace and Illyria, then in Greece. By 335, he was the master of Greece and was preparing his conquest of Asia, to which the rest of his short life would be devoted. By 335, Macedonia was on a war footing, not very comfortable for a scholar, and Aristotle returned to Athens. What was his situation there? He had spent twenty years of his youth (aet. 18–38) as a student, associate, and friend of the Academy; now, after an interval of twelve years, he was coming back in the train of the Macedonian army. He could not be welcome to all the Athenians, but only to the collaborators.

At any rate, he could not go back to his old school, and he founded a new one in another part of the city. The Academy was northwest of the walls, outside of the Dipylon gate; the Lyceum was east of the walls, near the road to Marathon.¹³¹² From the gardens of the Lyceum one could see Mount Lycabettos northward and the river Ilissos in the south. It was a grove sacred to Apollon Lyceios (the wolf god) and its name, Lyceum, was derived from that dedication. In the warm climate of Athens much of the teaching took place in the open, under the trees or under a portico. The teacher and students might be sitting for a while, then walking up and down, hence their nickname, the Peripatetics.

There are great differences between Plato’s foundation and Aristotle’s. Half of Plato’s life was spent as director and oracle of the Academy; Aristotle founded the Lyceum in the opposite direction from Athens fifty–two years later, and he remained its head for thirteen years only (not forty, like Plato). Plato’s foundation was a great innovation and his teaching experience was relatively small; when Aristotle started the Lyceum, he was fifty, and he had obtained considerable experience of men and students in Assos and Pella. Plato had always dreamed of the intimate association between a great king and a leading philosopher, but his dreams had not been realized. On the contrary, Aristotle was supported by Alexander, the most powerful king of antiquity; Alexander gave him money (perhaps this came under the head of Macedonian propaganda) and, what is almost equally important, he provided for the museum that was a part of the new school specimens of natural objects of many kinds. If there were anything needed to make the teaching more concrete and more effective, Aristotle could always obtain it from his patron.

This fact underlines the fundamental difference between the Lyceum and the Academy. It is not so much that Aristotle could obtain exhibits if he needed them; it is that he did need them, while Plato would have spurned them. Plato was satisfied with eternal and immortal Ideas; Aristotle wanted tangible objects. We know little about details of teaching. Aulus Gellius (II–2) tells us that Aristotle offered two kinds of lessons, in the morning for the initiated (es terica, acroamatica) and in the evening for a larger public (ex terica). He is a late witness, but what he tells is plausible enough. There are open and closed courses in almost every school, for both kinds answer natural purposes.

Both schools were philosophical, but the Academy tended towards metaphysics or transcendentalism, even when it dealt with practical subjects such as education or politics. The Lyceum was philosophical in another sense which will be defined presently; Aristotle was interested in logic and science; under his direction it became an organization for personal and even for collective research. Our “Academies of Science” are misnamed; the name “Lyceum” would fit them better. Languages are very capricious, however, and no one could safely foretell how given words, whether domestic or foreign, will be eventually accepted. The word “lyceum” has become as popular as “academy” in almost every Western language: in France it is used to designate all the state high schools (secondary schools); in the United States it enjoyed some popularity to designate free associations for lectures, debates, concerts, and “improving” entertainments of sundry kinds.

In spite of the fact that the Academy and the Lyceum were as different as the spirits of their founders, one should not exaggerate their differences, or rather one should not forget that there were between them similarities as well. Both were institutions of higher and disinterested learning; the master of the second was an illustrious alumnus of the former. We may imagine that students passed from one to the other, or, if they were sufficiently wide awake, attended lectures in both. The history of the two institutions reveals many examples of interplay. There was no reason for not discussing the writings of Plato in the Lyceum or those of Aristotle in the Academy. Many commentators of a later time commented on Plato as well as on Aristotle.

These two men represented antipodal types, however, the alternance of which seems to exhaust possibilities, so much so that it has been claimed that “every thinking man is either a Platonist or an Aristotelian.” That claim cannot be completely substantiated, but it is remarkable that it could be made at all.

We shall now tell the early history of the Lyceum, even as we told that of the Academy, and for the same reason. One cannot know a living thing except while it is alive and changing; one cannot know what the Lyceum was without contemplating its evolution. This is somewhat paradoxical, for Aristotle could not foresee the vicissitudes of the Lyceum any more than a father can foresee those of his children, let alone his more distant progeny.

Aristotle’s headmastership of the Lyceum lasted only thirteen years. Toward the end of his life two men were considered fit to succeed him, Eudemos of Rhodes and Theophrastos of Eresos. Aulus Gellius tells us¹³¹³ that Aristotle expressed his preference for the latter by comparing the wine of Rhodes with that of Lesbos. “Both are good but the Lesbian wine is sweeter” (h diõn ho Lesbios). Theophrastos succeeded him and may be called the second founder of the Lyceum, for he was the leader for thirty–eight years (323–286), and he completed its organization. He bequeathed some of his property to the trustees of the Lyceum with definite indications as to its use; his library, however, he gave to Neleus. Theophrastos was succeeded by Straton of Lampsacos (III–1 B.C.), who was the head for nineteen years (286–68). This completed the golden age of the Lyceum. The fourth scholarch s, Lycon of Troas, ruled for forty–four years (268–225), but this was a period of relative decadence. He had no interest in science and restricted himself to ethics and rhetoric. Curious information on the first four masters of the Lyceum is provided by Diogenes Laërtios, who gives us¹³¹⁴ the full text of their wills; he must have obtained those four remarkable documents from a single source. After Lycon’s time the history of that famous school is full of holes, but a few names emerge, chiefly that of Andronicos of Rhodes (I–1 B.C.), who flourished in Athens c. 80 B.C, and was the tenth successor of Aristotle.

A complete history of the Lyceum should not be restricted to the activities of the headmasters. One should speak of some of their collaborators, and not forget the interplay and occasional collaboration with Academicians. During Aristotle’s headmastership, the head of the Academy, the third head, was his friend Xenocrates of Chalcedon, and among his pupils were Theophrastos and Eudemos, Aristoxenos of Tarentum, Dicaiarchos of Messina, Clearchos of Soloi. Among Theophrastos’ pupils was Demetrios of Phaleron, who was to be the founder of the Alexandrian library.

After Andronicos’ time, the Peripatetic school loses its identity, and its members are no longer pure Peripatetics but Stoics, Academicians, Neoplatonists. Great leaders of thought like Panaitios of Rhodes (II–2 B.C.), Posidonios of Apamea (I–1 B.C.), Ptolemy (II–1), Galen (II–2) are Peripatetics only in a measure; they have studied some of Aristotle’s books, and they continue some of his tendencies.

Beginning with the third century, one speaks no longer of headmasters but of commentators, one of the first and greatest being Alexander of Aphrodisias ( III–1), the commentator par excellence (ho ex g t s), who was actually the head of the Lyceum from 198 to 211. By this time it had already become necessary to free Aristotelian thought from Platonic or Neoplatonic interpretations. The Lyceum becomes relatively insignificant; the main philosophic school in Athens during the first five centuries of our era (or rather until 529) is the Academy. It alone continues to exist as an administrative entity; it loses its philosophical entity; its main tendency is Neoplatonic but that is combined with much else. The Lyceum has gone and the Academy has become a school of pagan philosophy.


A history of Aristotelianism would be a cross section not only through the history of philosophy but also through the history of science, at least as far as the eighteenth century. We cannot go into that without inserting too long a digression. Incidentally, we might remark that what makes the history of science so difficult is that the significance of each stage cannot be appreciated except in the light of everything that happened before and everything that happened later, and that is a pretty big order. The whole ancient and medieval tradition of Aristotle is explained implicitly in my Introduction. We must satisfy ourselves at present with a very brief sketch. The influence of Aristotle was continued not only by translators and commentators but also by philosophers, theologians, men of science who could not help meeting Aristotle at every step and were obliged to bow to his superiority or to fight him.

We have already referred to Alexander of Aphrodisias, the Commentator, but he was not by any means the first one. The first editor, Andronicos of Rhodes (I–1 B.C.), had been naturally the initiator; he was followed in the second half of the same century by Boethos of Sidon, Ariston of Alexandria, Xenarchos of Seleucia (Cilicia), Nicolaos of Damascos (I–2 B.C.). In the first century after Christ there was Alexandros of Aigai, tutor of Nero (emperor 54–68). In the second century, the number of commentators is singularly large: Ptolemaios Chennos of Alexandria (flourished under Trajan and Hadrian, emperors, 98–138), the author of the De mundo,¹³¹⁵ Aspasios, Adrastos of Aphrodisias (II–1), Ptolemy (II–1), Galen (II–2), Aristocles of Messina in Sicily, Herminos. The last named was the teacher of the illustrious Alexander of Aphrodisias (III–1), whose very elaborate commentaries have come to us in the original Greek or in Arabic translation.

With Alexander of Aphrodisias begins a new era in Aristotelian scholarship which is represented by the names of the Syrian Porphyrios (III–2), Anatolios of Alexandria (III–2), Themistios of Paphlagonia (IV–2), Syrianos of Alexandria (V–1), head of the Academy, and in the sixth century by Damascios of Damascus (VI–1), the Arab Doros, Ammonios son of Hermias (VI–1) and his pupil Asclepios of Tralles (VI–1), Simplicios of Cilicia (VI–1), who flourished in Athens and Persia, and the greatest of all, John Philoponos of Alexandria (VI–1). To the same century belonged also the earliest Latin translator and commentator, Boetius of Rome (VI–1).¹³¹⁶ The history of the Greek tradition includes quite a few distinguished names of later times, such as Stephanos of Alexandria (VII–1), who flourished in Constantinople, Eustratios of Nicaea (c. 1050–1120), Michael of Ephesos, pupil of Michael Psellos (XI–2) Sophonias (XIII–2).

In the meanwhile, the Aristotelian tradition was continued by means of the Arabic detour, and the Arabic leaders were the Arab al–Kindi (IX–1), the Persians or Turks al–F r b (X–1) and Ibn Sinä (XI–1), and above all Ibn Rushd of Cordova (XII–2), known to the Latin world as Averroës.The Aristotle reëxplained by Averroës influenced St. Thomas Aquinas (XIII–2) and the other Catholic schoolmen, and their Christian interpretation dominated medieval thought. We need not continue that story, which from this point on is sufficiently well known.

The main thing to remember is that the Aristotelian thought had been commented upon by a large number of scholars, first in Greek, then in Arabic, finally in Latin and the Western vernaculars. It was explained by pagan interpreters, then by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian ones. The Christian Aristotle was the great master, “il Maestro di color che sanno,”¹³¹⁷ the “Magister dixit” whose authority became so overwhelming and paralyzing that it impeded further progress. The history of modern science begins with the rebellion against Aristotle.


The study of so long a tradition offers many difficulties, the greatest of which are caused by the fact that the subject changes with the passing of time. The Aristotle that Cicero knew, was not the same as the one explained by Alexander of Aphrodisias; al–Kind in the ninth century and Ibn Rushd in the twelfth had not read the same Aristotelian books, or they had read them in different moods; the Aristotle praised by St. Thomas in the thirteenth century is not the same as the one blamed by Ramus in the sixteenth century or by Gassendi in the seventeenth. There were times when the passions for or against Aristotle ran so high that objective appraisals became almost impossible. Now that these passions are dead and cannot be revived, even in the institutes devoted to scholastic philosophy, we are able to rediscover the real Aristotle, who never was as omniscient and all–wise as some people believed, nor as dogmatic and preposterous as his enemies accused him of being.

Aristotle’s scientific views and achievements will be discussed in the following pages, but we must try to show him at once in his wholeness. Perhaps the simplest way of doing that is to compare him with his old master, Plato. The latter’s scientific training had been restricted to mathematics and astronomy; Aristotle’s was primarily medical. His father, Nicomachos, was an Asclepiad, and the Asclepi–adean tradition was handed down directly from father to son. The young Aristotle may have visited patients with his father or assisted him in his treatment of them in the surgery; at any rate, he could not help, wide–awake as he was, learning much from his father’s lips and above all absorbing the empirical point of view. A mathematician, especially one like Plato, inspired by Pythagorean arithmology, would satisfy himself with a priori conceptions of the universe; a physician soon realized that one should assume and foretell as little as possible, but observe, take notes, induce and deduce prudently. Plato was imaginative and tender–minded;¹³¹⁸ Aristotle, experimental and tough–minded; yet, one should remember that Aristotle had begun his intellectual life as a Platonist and never shook off completely some of his Platonic fantasies. To my mind, this illustrates his greatness; he never was as dogmatic as his master had been and was so keenly aware of the mysteries of life that he remained somewhat Platonic in his growing resistance to Plato.

Aristotle had some experience of the occult practices of Greek religion and like Plato he compared intuitive knowledge with the initiation into the mysteries, yet he evaded mystical exaggerations. He appreciated the value of enthusiasm and of mystical and healing cults, but tried to build up a rational and transmissible system of thought. He fully realized the existence of two kinds of knowledge (intuitive and discursive) and of two modes of psychologic life (intellectual and emotive), but emotive life, important as it is, should be regulated by self–restraint instead of being exacerbated by Corybantic rituals. One of his disciples, Clearchos of Soloi, tells us that Aristotle, having attended a seance of hypnotism, was convinced that the soul could be separated from the body;¹³¹⁹this illustrated his open–mindedness; yet he was always anxious to explain things in a scientific way. His residual mysticism was very much like that of the great scientists of every age who are humble and prudent and never unmindful of the infinite complexity of the universe.¹³²⁰

One of his fundamental ideas, expressed by the word teleology, may be called mystical, for its validity cannot be completely proved. The idea is very typical of the Plato–Aristotle relation, for it was derived from the Platonic conceptions of Idea or Form as prior to the existing object, as their metaphysical womb, as it were; for Aristotle the Idea is an unattainable goal. Plato tended to assimilate change with corruption; Aristotle, on the contrary, conceives change as a motion toward an ideal. Plato rejected the possibility of progress, while Aristotle accepted it. Things change because of the potentialities inherent in them; they change in order to attain or to approach their perfection. The Idea or Form is in the thing (like the adult in the embryo), not outside. The destiny of a thing is foretold by its hidden unrealized essence. Evolution proceeds as it does, not because of material causes producing natural consequences, pushing them on by a vis a tergo, but by final causes pulling them ahead by a vis a fronte. All the things that exist are directed toward an end (which is potentially inside of them); their development is shaped by a purpose. The world is gradually realized because of a transcendental Design, or call it Divine Providence.

Aristotle realized that mechanism and purpose are complementary and inseparable aspects; in the study of nature one must seek for a mechanical explanation or for the leading reason; sometimes the mechanism is clearer, sometimes the reason. In his time practically no mechanism (for example, a physiologic mechanism) was conceivable; hence, there remained only the teleologic explanation.

To a hard–boiled man of science of today such an explanation is mere verbiage. It is futile to ask the “why” of things, he would say; it suffices to answer as carefully as possible the question “how?” Aristotle was trying prematurely to answer the question “why?” and was giving that question first place. Was he all wrong? The question might be premature, but it was not futile; it had in a first approximation a guiding value. To his credit we should bear in mind also: (1) that his conception of terminal ideas (teleology) was an enormous improvement upon Plato’s conception of germinal ideas: (2) that the teleologic explanations, even if insufficient, are yet very useful; every man of science uses them wittingly or unwittingly; the purpose of an organ helps us to understand and to remember its anatomy and physiology; (3) that the vitalists use teleologic language, and there are still many of them among us; it is impossible to suppress the vitalist point of view; it dodges every blow and reappears under a new form; (4) finally, if one accepts Divine Providence one cannot reject teleology.

The teleologic appearances of nature are obvious enough; do they correspond to an inner reality or are they simply illusions? The question can be put this way: Is the argument of design valid or is it a paradox? Aristotle was the first to use that argument and to attach considerable importance to it. Who will be the last?¹³²¹ Aristotelian teleology is one of the proofs of his genius.

The teleologic point of view implied the concept of evolution, evolution toward an ideal, progress. To understand things we must penetrate their purpose, their genesis and growth. Aristotle applied these ideas to natural history, rather than to human history; otherwise he would have been one of the ancestors of the historians of science.

Aristotle was primarily an encyclopedist and with the partial exception of Democritos he was the first one. Earlier philosophers had tried to explain the universe, but Aristotle, who shared their ambition, was the first to realize that such an explanation should be preceded by as complete an inventory and description of it as possible. He did not simply understand that need but, what is more remarkable, he satisfied it. The totality of his works represents an encyclopedia of the available knowledge, much of which was obtained by himself or because of his leadership. It is easy to find holes or errors in that encyclopedia, but the amazing thing is that it was as good, as comprehensive and durable, as it was.

The encyclopedic purpose implies the belief that there is some unity and order in the universe and the conviction that the same unity and order should be transparent in our knowledge of it. The unity is proved by one’s study of first principles (philosophy, theology), the order by proper classification and description.

As to first principles, there is a soul in every living thing and there is in each soul something divine, something connected with pure reason. God exists, for it is the necessary principle and end of everything, the first motor. All motion and all life symbolize an immense and universal impulse to perfection, to God; that impulse is obscure in the lower forms of existence, but it becomes clearer and clearer in men according to their degree of intelligence. Much of this could and did eventually lead to scholasticism and to mysticism, but in Aristotle’s mind these sublime thoughts were restrained by his matter–of–factness and moderation. Aristotle’s classification made a first distinction between the various branches of science, theoretical, productive, and practical. The theoretical ones have no aim but the apprehension and contemplation of truth; they are mathematics, physics, metaphysics (first philosophy, theology). The productive branches concern the arts. Practical philosophy seeks to regulate human actions; its two chief branches are ethics and politics. In spite of its insufficiency, Aristotle’s classification exerted a very strong influence upon the whole development of philosophy and science down to our own day.¹³²²

His encyclopedic ambition was a very elementary one as compared with ours. He could not help believing that it could be achieved by an accumulation of definitions (that is why I used the word “inventory” above), and his definitions were verbal, not truly explicative. To the modern mind this is very insufficient indeed, but one had to begin with such inventories and fill them in gradually with more and deeper meaning.¹³²³

Scientific knowledge of a thing is possible when we know its causes, and the main cause is the essence.¹³²⁴ We should know the varieties of each kind of thing, and this means enumeration and description. Ideas of increasing generality are not established a priori but are derived from the observation of increasing numbers of things. Aristotle, his colleagues, and his disciples accumulated a large number of observations; they provided good analyses and descriptions, and intelligent interpretations. Their terminology was often artificial, but much of it was apposite and has survived in modern languages. Unfortunately, the search for the essence of things opened the door to metaphysics; explanations were often wordy, and the enumerations incomplete. Aristotle did not realize their incompleteness and often concluded an enumeration with the words cai para tauta uden (and beyond that nothing else); he believed himself nearer to the goal than he was, or than he could possibly be. That was natural enough. His school had done so much that its illusions were pardonable; illusions of complete knowledge are far less pardonable today.

That philosophy was satisfying, because it is full of common sense and is moderate. Aristotle’s love of order, of clearness and tidiness, of the via media, appealed to the Greek mind. After the days of paganism, when religious fervor increased, all that was necessary to preserve fhe popularity of his philosophy was to harmonize it with the dogmatic theology of other nations, and this was done by various doctors, for example, Ibn Rushd for the Muslims, Maimonides for the Jews, St. Thomas Aquinas for the Christians.

It has sometimes been said that Aristotelianism as compared with mystical deviations lacked humanity, tenderness, and even ideals. This was very misleading. Its main ideal was the scientific ideal, the discovery of the truth, an ideal that is always far ahead of men, yet a guide in the darkness. Aristotle’s conception of science was very insufficient as compared with ours, but that was unavoidable. Because of his willingness to compromise he has been accused of mediocrity; that is another way of saying that he lacked ideals. That seems very unfair to me. He was trying hard to reach the truth; he could not realize as clearly and strongly as we do that truth (scientific truth) is not attainable, though we may approach it indefinitely.


Strangely enough, logic was not included in the Aristotelian classification; it was a kind of external introduction to philosophy and to science. Yet Aristotle devoted to it a series of books that constitute magnificent propylaea to the rest of his work.

These books, no fewer than six of them (Categoriae, De interpretatione, Analytica priora, Analytica posteriora, Topica, De sophisticis elenchis) are designated in their totality by the word Organon, meaning instrument. This is the instrument for philosophic intercourse, the instrument par excellence. Nobody would study logic today in the Aristotelian Organon, and it is easy enough to discover weaknesses in it, the main one being excessive verbalism. Yet it was an astounding creation, the greatest perhaps of the many creations that we owe him, and such as it is the most enduring. Aristotle invented logic and wrote its very first treatises, treatises of astounding complexity and richness.

These treatises examine and analyze such things as the ten categories or heads of predication (substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, possession, action, affection), the quality, quantity, and conversion of propositions, the syllogism and its correct figures, demonstrations by deduction (apodeixis) and induction (epag g ), classification of fallacies, the art of reasoning correctly versus the art of disputation (dialectics), and so forth. All of which had been debated by sophists before Aristotle, and then more systematically in the Academy and the Lyceum, but Aristotle was the first to put all these things together, to make other people realize their propaedeutic importance, and to give the Western world its fundamental instrument, the universal key to philosophic and scientific discussion.

Such an instrument could easily be abused and was abused by the schoolmen; it was and is still abused by logicians who love logic for its own sake, but we cannot blame Aristotle for that. On the other hand, there is no doubt that his immense prestige and excessive authority in medieval times and later was largely due to his creation of the Organon. The abstraction of that work had the dual effect of discouraging some readers and of increasing their superstitious reverence for the author. In modern times we have frequently witnessed the same kind of paradoxical spectacle. People who were flabbergasted by the (to them) incomprehensible writings of a mathematician accepted the soundness of his philosophic views with incredible passivity.¹³²⁵ They seemed to think that because they could not understand his mathematics they need not try to understand his philosophy, and might accept the latter as well as the former. The creator of the Organon became naturally in the popular opinion the master of all knowledge.

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