On Man in the Universe: Metaphysics, Parts of Animals, Ethics, Politics, Poetics

On Man in the Universe: Metaphysics, Parts of Animals, Ethics, Politics, Poetics

On Man in the Universe: Metaphysics, Parts of Animals, Ethics, Politics, Poetics

On Man in the Universe: Metaphysics, Parts of Animals, Ethics, Politics, Poetics

Excerpt

Everyone who knows anything about Plato knows that he had a pupil called Aristotle, who in time became almost, if not quite, as famous a philosopher as his master. They may know too that Aristotle in his turn had a pupil known as Alexander the Great, who, when hardly out of boyhood, became one of the world's most illustrious conquerors and empire-builders. An extraordinary line of men that little Greek corner of the earth could produce in the fourth century before Christ! But pupils do not always follow respectfully along the paths marked out for them by their teachers. Aristotle set up a school at Athens to rival and for long periods outshine Plato's. Alexander's empire spelled the downfall of the small, independent city-state that to Aristotle was the only possible form of civilized political community. For that empire was a vast conglomeration of races and kingdoms that stretched from Greece away eastward until it reached the mythical region of India, beyond the rising sun. In it the free Greek cities, to which Aristotle pinned his hopes for human progress, lost their pride and their liberties, never fully to get them back.

The story of Aristotle (384-322) is intertwined all through with the events going on in the half Greek, half barbarian country of Macedonia, to the north of Greece proper, and the adjacent shores of the Aegean Sea. He was not, like Socrates and Plato, an Athenian born. His father was a Greek physician at the court of the Macedonian king. As a boy he seems to have lived in an atmosphere of biological science and may even have been trained with a view to following his father's profession. At seventeen, however, his father being dead, he left his home country and went south to Athens, the capital of Greek culture, to enter the Academy of Plato and learn . . .

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