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History of Philosophy II

Plato and Aristotle


Michal Zvarík

The coursebook presents Plato and Aristotle as the two most significant and groundbreaking thinkers of European thought from the era of classical Greek philosophy. The author provides prefatory orientation in the labyrinth of their complex thought and sketches their metaphysics, problems of knowledge and ethics. He departs from the fact that both thinkers are similar in striving to overcome problems of their period by localizing the human being into a hierarchical order of beings, which obliges in questions of the possibility of knowledge as well as of the right conduct.


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71 1. Life Aristotle, the most signifi cant of Plato’s students, was born in 384 BC in the Macedonian city of Stagira, for this reason he is often referred to as The Stagirian. His father, Nikomachos, worked as a royal Macedonian phy- sician; therefore, Aristotle himself had many connec- tions in the Macedonian royal court. From a political and social point of view, it was a period of constant battles between the Greek cities. The disputes exhausted the towns and helped Macedonia rise to power. Therefore due to his birthplace, Aristotle’s life was accompanied with political turbulence that directly concerned him. At the age of seventeen or eighteen, a  young Aristo- tle came to Athens and joined Plato’s Academy where he remained for twenty years. During that time, he acquired the reputation of being a profound thinker. In the meantime, Phillip II’s rise to power in Macedonia 72 caused a lot of discomfort in Athens, so Aristotle decided to leave the Academy. After his departure from Athens, he dedicated himself to diverse exploration and on the island of Lesbos he met Theophrastus, who became his friend and successor. In 343 BC, or 342 BC, Phillip II invited him to Macedonia to tutor his son Alexander, the future Alexander the Great, which of course, provoked mostly exaggerated speculation about his infl uence on Alexander’s intentions to conquer. Aristotle’s politi- cal thoughts were primarily based on the notion of the Greek polis, which is of restricted size and is supposed to create...

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