Chances are you probably haven’t really brushed up too much on your philosophy since your college days, if you ever studied it to begin with. But some people discount, without quite understanding, the contributions early philosophy made to thought and logical thinking in western civilization. To this end, we will today be looking at the contributions of possibly the most influential of the Greek philosophers, Aristotle.
Nearly everyone is familiar with Aristotle as a philosopher, and many people are at least peripherally acquainted with his works. Prominent among his writings were treatises on drama, poetry, physics, the soul, human ethics, and the nature of politics, to name a few. But none of his writings truly equal his greatest influence, which was the first systematized way of thinking introduced in the western world. Aristotle, through his commonly used logical devices of extrapolating conclusions from provable statements, classifying people and things according to their characteristics, and analysis of the truth of statements on the basis of related evidence, became one of the first people to truly introduce a logical and organized way of thinking. This, especially in terms of its later influence on other philosophers and, by extension, early scientists, is almost unarguably Aristotle’s finest achievement.
Aristotle was also in part responsible for popularizing the concept of a well rounded intellectual. He, much like the far later Renaissance Men, who were greatly influenced by Aristotle and his writings, explored with equal vigor the realms of natural phenomena, human nature, high art, and the interplay of social trends within the Greek society of his time. While much of this was inherited from his predecessors Socrates and Plato, Aristotle expanded his thought and writings to include a little bit of almost everything, thus providing the first real model for the intellectual ideal of a man educated to a certain degree in all fields of study.
While he may not have been correct in many of his conclusions, Aristotle’s influence is undeniable. To many, he is just another dull philosopher that they vaguely recall from some college course or other. But if you have the chance, and a little bit of time to devote to his writings (for he was not, by any means, brief), he is well worth a read, if only to explore the logical system of thought laid out in his works that shaped the thought of academics for centuries afterward.