End of Europe's Middle Ages


A page from a medieval copy of Aristotle's Opera Logica

Aristotelianism is the thought of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (284-322 B.C.E). A student of Plato, Aristotle was influenced by Plato's philosophy in his manner of thinking as he often dealt with similar problems though he developed unique solutions.

The central aspect of Aristotle's philosophy was the problem of knowledge. For knowledge to be true it must by unchangeable. The unchanging element must also be true of the object of one's knowledge. Aristotle then, as Plato had before him, divided the universe into two phenomena, Form and Matter. Matter is made up of the observable, things that can be sensed and quantified. Form contains the abstract and the unobservable, for example souls or knowledge. Form and Matter are different from but indispensable to each other. From them the universe evolved, and it is they that give it purpose, harmony and direction. Of theological importance is his idea that there is an original Form, the logical first cause and prime mover of the universe, and that he considered the universe eternal, not created at some point in time.

Aristotle's interests were diverse. He wrote on politics, ethics, physics, biology, psychology, and logic. In politics, he was interested in the formal development of the state. He thought that a well structured political system would give mankind the best environment for advancement. Within his ideal state, man could indulge in thought, contemplation and the pursuit of knowledge. These activities were important if man was to separate himself from animals.

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The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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