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Aristotle's Lessons from the Past

“Aristotle gave us a universe whose laws are invariant and capable of being discovered by observation and reason.” 

In ancient times, nature had been explained as the actions of the gods. The early Greek philosophers questioned the role of the gods as the cause of events and by the fifth century B.C. the Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, had separated philosophy from theology.

But, if the gods were not the cause of events, what was?  Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) thought the principles governing nature could be found within nature and could be discovered using careful observation and reasoning.  His reasoning followed a pattern familiar to students today as the scientific method: a statement of the problem, the definition of terms, a review of what he and other scholars thought, a comparison of the ideas to  observations , and finally what could be concluded.

Aristotle thought all things should be open to examination and subject to reason and he applied his methods to many areas of human knowledge. Aristotle made major contributions to biology, physics, philosophy, ethics, logic, poetics, education, and citizenship that are still valuable today. (Durant and Ross, 1949) Most importantly, Aristotle gave us a universe whose laws are invariant and capable of being discovered by observation and reason. May posts on this site honor Aristotle and his method.

1. Durant, Will. The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Great Philosophers of the Western World. 5th ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949

2. Ross, W. D. Aristotle. 5th ed. London: Methuen & Co. LTD. 1949

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