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Aristotle's Philosophy of Man's Nature and the Government

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Aristotle's Philosophy of Man's Nature and the Government

Ancient Greek philosophers pursued after the essential causes and principles of the universe. They tried to explain objects that could not be recognized by senses such as gods and elements. Among them was Aristotle; he lived from 384 to 322 B.C.E. He was a student of Plato (427 to 322 B.C.E.) but not his disciple. He was a teacher of Alexander the Great (356 to 323 B.C.E.). Aristotle looked at the above mentioned issues from another angle. He was more realistic than Plato who sought knowledge through reasoning. Aristotle applied logical reasoning to experience. His writings covered many subjects, included man's nature and government.

The ancient Greeks advocated that the soul was the basis of living things. They treated the soul as a separate element, which they fused together with the body without explaining in what way the two could be related. Aristotle gave an account of soul and its relation to the body. He applied the difference between form and matter. He defined soul as, "the form of a natural body having life potentially within it" (qtd in Lear). Aristotle claimed that soul was the nature of living objects. According to him, soul did not have any existence separate from the body because it did not survive the death of the body. Hence, the soul holds both actuality and potentiality; it is the ultimate basis of the body. Aristotle believed that the matter of anything must be understood in relation to the form. He stated that the matter "itself [had] certain organization" (Lear). For instance, matter, according to Aristotle, consisted of objects such as liver, bones, hands, and lungs structured by a principle into human form.

Aristotle argued that mind is a unique part of the soul which is the living strength of the body. He pointed out that mind singled out a man as a logical individual with the ability to be aware of and distinguish self from other animals because he could understand his nature.

He believed in teleology; that is man's nature is to fulfill what he is expected to be. For instance, an acorn is supposed to be an oak tree. He used the principles of potentiality and actuality to clarify how a form changes from one stage to the other. Aristotle believed that the final stages of a human life are for a person to recognize his form to the fullest potential and he would achieve happiness. He suggested that, "if a man can recognize his desires to live a distinctively human life, and satisfy his organized desires [his soul will] be considered a happy life" (Lear).

Aristotle proposed that the orderliness of needs which makes a man to live a happy life is virtue. In Ancient Greek, "virtue meant excellence" (Lear). Virtue according to Aristotle, were "stable states of the soul which enabled a person to make the right decision [to act in accordance to the circumstances]" (Lear). Kraut states that Aristotle recognized two kinds of virtues: virtues of mind or intelligence and ethical virtues or virtues of personality. He believed that men were born with the ability to become fairly virtuous and wise. He maintained that virtues are invested in man because of habits, and nothing by nature.

According to Aristotle, when a child is growing up,

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