History of Philosophy and Christian Thought - Lesson 12

Aristotle's Life

Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson 12
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Aristotle's Life

Aristotelian Philosophy

Part 1

I. Aristotle's Life

A. Important Dates

384 B.C. Aristotle is born in Macedonia.

367 B.C. Aristotle comes to Athens to study at Plato's Academy.

347 B.C. Plato dies; Aristotle leaves Athens, travels to Asia Minor, marries.

342 B.C. Aristotle returns to Macedonia to tutor Alexander.

336 B.C. Aristotle leaves Macedonia.

334 B.C. Aristotle establishes his university, the Lyceum, in Athens.

323 B.C. Alexander the Great dies; Aristotle leaves Athens.

322 B.C. Aristotle dies.

B. His Library

  • Thales and Anaximander were two philosophers in the sixth century BC that lived in Miletus.

  • Heraclitus and Pythagoras lived into the 5th century BC.

  • Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

  • Fundamental beliefs of a naturalistic worldview is that nothing exists outside the physical universe and that all things evolved.

  • Plato was a student of Socrates and lived into the fourth century BC. He opposed hedonism, empiricism, relativism, materialism, atheism and naturalism.

  • Plato described the universe as having three levels: the world of particulars, the world of forms, and the form of the good.

  • Plato's view of the universe was dualistic.

  • One of Plato's fundamental arguments is that the human soul is immortal.

  • Evaluation of Plato's arguments and comparison of Plato's philosophy with biblical theology.

  • Empiricism teaches that all human knowledge arises from sense experience. Rationalism teaches that some human knowledge does not arise from sense. experience

  • Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

  • Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of two worlds.

  • Discussion of Aristotelian philosophy as it relates to the incarnation.

  • Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to attributes of God and fundamental assumptions about psychology.

  • Aristotle made a distinction between passive intellect and active intellect.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the law of non-contradiction.

  • Discussion of the nature and substance of matter.

  • Hellenistic philosophy was an approach that was popular from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD.

  • Stoics were determinists who believed in living according to nature.

  • Hedonism emphasized pleasure as the greatest good. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we might be dead."

  • Philo's philosophy was based on a synthesis of Stoicism and Platonism.

  • Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

  • Plotinus lived in the third century AD and is considered the founder of Neoplatonism.

  • Augustine is a Latin church father, is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.

  • Augustine wrote Confessions as an autobiographical work to record his experience as a sinful youth and his experience becoming a follower of Christ.

  • Augustine wrote to refute some heresies of the day by focusing on the concepts of faith and reason.

  • Augustine writes about the problem of evil and describes evil as the absence of good.

  • Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

  • Augustine writes to refute Donatism.

  • The fundamental idea of skepticism is that no one can know anything. Augustine this statement contradicts itself because the skeptic is claiming that you can know that you can't know anything.

  • When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

  • In Augustine's theory of knowledge, he says that eternal reason and human reason are two different levels of reason.

  • Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

  • The intellectual background of Thomas Aquinas was influenced by the discovery of ancient manuscripts, the rise of universities, the rise of religious brotherhoods and the rise of Muslim philosophy.

  • Aquinas describes faith as whatever a human can know through special revelation, and reason as whatever a human can know outside of special revelation.

  • Aquinas attempts to prove God's existence.

  • Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

  • The rationalists and empiricists set the stage for Kant and other philosophers of the modern era.

  • Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative."

  • Kants two worlds are the phenomenal world and the noumenal world.

  • Discussion of criticisms and questions about Kant's ideas.

  • Similarities between Kant's ideas and postmodernism.

  • The dialectic is a central idea in Hegel's philosophy.

  • Ideally, Marxism begins with class struggle, then revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, withering away of the state, and a utopian classless society.

  • Discussion of four faces of Marxism.

  • Nietzsche proclaimed that, "God is dead." His cure was to live life knowing there is no ultimate meaning. Kierkegaard emphasized a worldview based on true faith.

In this class, you will explore the rich history of philosophy and its relationship with Christian thought. The course begins with an introduction to the definition and importance of philosophy in Christian theology. You will then delve into the evolution of philosophical thought from the Pre-Socratic era, through the Classical Greek philosophers, and into the Hellenistic period. As you progress, you will discover how early Christian thought emerged and developed during the Patristic period, with a special focus on Augustine. The class continues with an examination of medieval Christian thinkers, such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and concludes with an analysis of modern philosophers like Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard, and their influence on contemporary Christian thought.

Dr. Ronald Nash

History of Philosophy and Christian Thought


Aristotle's Life

Lesson Transcript

Aristotle was born in 384 B.C.. Aristotle was not born in Athens. Even though he ended up a student in Plato's Academy. Aristotle was born in what was called Macedonia. This started out as another one of many Greek colonies. Remember, the Greeks were traveling all over the world, the Mediterranean world, establishing colonies. Well, they established a colony in Macedonia. And by the time we get to 384, it's. It's a Philip II. Yes, the same city that to which Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippines. Philip II was a very civilized community, and Aristotle's father was court physician to the king of Macedonia, a man named Philip. Okay. Well, when Aristotle reached the age of 17, his father had both the money and the power to send Aristotle to Athens, where he could study in Plato's Academy, which was called the I mean, to Plato's Academy. That was the name of Plato's University. There's little doubt about the fact that Aristotle was clearly the most brilliant student in the academy, so brilliant, in fact, that he believed that when Plato died, the leadership of the Academy would pass directly to Aristotle. Now, let me see if Aristotle we're talking 384 and Aristotle went to the Academy in 367 at the age of, and Plato died in 347. So Aristotle was a student in Plato's Academy for about 20 years. He would have been in his upper thirties by the time Plato died. But Plato left the leadership of the academy to a nephew. This is called nepotism, where you pass on some prize to somebody, not because he's worthy of it, but because he happens to be your closest living relative. That nephew's name was Spew Sippers. There's a good name if you're you know you're expecting a child.


[00:02:30] Spew sippers. What would the nickname of spew sippers be? Hmm. Never mind. Never mind. So because Aristotle was hurt by the fact that he was not given control of the academy. Aristotle left Athens, and he wandered for a number of years in Asia, Western Asia minor, where he met and married the daughter of a king. And then they had at least one child. That child's name would have been my comics, and he may also have had a daughter and so on. After wandering in Asia minor for a while, he got a call back to Philippi in his home country because the King of Macedonia wanted Aristotle to come back home and tutor his young teenage son, whose name was Alexander. And yes, you're right. It's the same Alexander whom we now call Alexander the Great. He would have been in his young teens. Aristotle tutored the young prince for a couple of years. By all that we know, Aras Alexander was not a great student. He was having too much fun playing with his toy soldiers. And then, of course, he played with real soldiers and conquered the world. There had been some palace intrigue, and I think Alexander's father was was killed. And he had to he had to kill some people in response to regain control of the show. And by that time, Aristotle had left the troubles in Macedonia and had returned to Athens, where Aristotle formed his own university that was called the Lyceum. Can you see some exam questions or quiz questions coming up for next week? The Lyceum. Finally, in 323 B.C., Alexander the Great died. Some people think he was poisoned. In all likelihood, he was assassinated. But when news of Alexander's death finally reached Athens, there were serious threats raised to Aristotle's life.


[00:05:00] Because, you see. The the Athenians did not appreciate the fact that they had been conquered by Alexander and that someone who had been so close to Alexander in his in his teenage years was now teaching in Athens. So there was a serious question that the Athenians might rise up and then kill Aristotle. So that confronted Aristotle with a question should he be brave and stay in Athens and possibly be assassinated himself, or should he skipped town? Well, Aristotle decided to skip town, but lest anyone accuse him of cowardice, Aristotle came up with a pretty good answer of why he beat, why he beat it out of Athens. He said, and you can quote me on this. He said, I leave Athens, lest the Athenians sin twice against philosophy. The they'd already killed one great philosopher, Socrates. He didn't want it on their record that they killed a second great philosopher, namely Aristotle. So he went into exile. He went back to Asia minor, but he only bought himself about one more year of time because he died of. And the descriptions do seem to be consistent with some kind of colon cancer, perhaps. So Aristotle died one year after Alexander the Great. Aristotle died in 322 B.C., but he died bravely, we're told. He showed a great deal of courage in the face of great suffering. Aristotle willed his library to a friend named Theophrastus. You don't need to remember that name. That's the first name. Today, in this course, you don't need to remember Theophrastus. Now, let me explain Aristotle's library. Aristotle's library, of course, would contain copies of all of the manuscripts that he had used in his own personal research and study. But they also included what in many cases were the only copies of his own writings.


[00:07:08] Now, let me explain for you what an Aristotelian writing was like. You see, what we call the writings of Aristotle were either his own lecture notes from which he lectured or the lecture notes taken by his students. Notice Alex here the faithfulness with which Alex or look at here. You're taking great notes, copious notes. I often wonder whether my fame in the future, prior to the tribulation period, whether what if my fame depended totally and exclusively upon the notes that you have taken in this course? What will future generations think of me? Scares me to death. Scares me to death. Okay, Now he gave so that. Listen, this is another reason why Aristotle is so boring to read. This is like reading his lecture notes. Let me tell you, if you suffer from insomnia, all you need to do is buy the complete edition of Aristotle at about 7:00 at night. You know, put your head on a pillow, lie down on your sofa, and start reading all the history of elephants. 10 minutes you'll be gone. Be the best sleep you've ever had. Now, my books, even though my books are two sense in a sense, lecture notes. They're dynamic. They're exciting. You can't fall asleep reading my stuff. So that's a difference between Aristotle and me. Theophrastus had control of Aristotle's library. And you know what he did? He lost it. He buried it in a cave and then forgot where he buried it. Can you imagine that happening to my stuff? No more. Amazon.com. We're in the tribulation period. One of you has all of my books. You put it in a cave and then you forget it. Probably an empiricist. Okay. About 100 years later, they notice how close we came to losing all of Aristotle's writings.


[00:09:24] That close? Somehow somebody stumbled on that cave. The writings were then turned over to a guy in Rome named Andronicus of Rhodes, who then took on the task of editing and re-editing and putting all of Aristotle's stuff into one package. And that's how we have the writings of Aristotle today.