Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction

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Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction

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Philosophy (Ancient)


by: Jonathan Barnes

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Author attempts a unified presentation of Aristotle's work, but method of quoting often from Aristotle's work makes reading difficult ast the writing is choppy. The learner does understand that reading Aristotle's work is even more unpleasant than reading this book. A better example of a short introduction that is done successfully is "Plato" by R.M. Hare.The quality of the content in the book is good; just the organization that makes Aristotle's work seem disjointed and the presentation that makes the book dull.

Author conveys the story of Aristotle's life briefly, and then discusses his contributions in various areas of intellectual life. The first and great impulse of Aristotle is the desire to know this book makes it clear how Aristotle for over one thousand years was "the master of all those who know". Aristotle seemed to take interest in every area of study (he WAS a polymath), and his research in the physical world were for centuries at the forefront of human knowledge. This book lets us know the Aristotelian view of the world scientifically was "exploded' by the scientific revolution. No one teaches Aristotle's biology or physics today, and no one uses his methods.However, in other areas, such as ethics and aesthetics his ideas still have a power and voice. The love of knowledge in Aristotle as the author makes clear was combined with his understanding of the human being as "social animals". Therefore no matter how high a value he placed on the contemplative life (and this as the key to eudaemonia or happiness in Aristotle's thought) he understand the social, and political aspect of life as human necessity. Barnes outlines Aristotle's political theory, his perhaps too optimistic a view of the role of the state, his exclusion of whole human groups which we today consider rightfully entitled to participate in the ruling of society.
Barnes too makes an interesting analysis of the written style of Aristotle's work, taking it to be dry, factual, and without the poetic and imaginative elegance of Aristotle's great teacher, Plato. He shows how for Aristotle the chief value is in the transmitting of knowledge and that language is thus treated not as an end in itself, but as instrument.
One cannot help noting the great irony in Aristotle's story. He who loved knowledge so much and was so devoted to its accumulation and dissemination, nonetheless fostered countless misconceptions. There are many who believe his Physics held Mankind back for generations.
Nonetheless taken all in all, aside from his enormous historical role, Aristotle stands as a figure a great example of one fundamental human value , the quest for and love of knowledge and learning ... and that we still have much to learn from Aristotle.

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Aristotle on Wikipedia

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