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Aristotle and Science

Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 BC) agrees with Plato: we are defined by reason, but we also belong to the animal kingdom. While Plato seeks to understand the otherworldly, Aristotle wants to understand the world of the here and now. Plato seeks knowledge through reason alone, but Aristotle relies as much on his senses as he does on reason in his pursuit of knowledge.[1]

Aristotle does not accept Plato’s view of the earthly world. Aristotle was as much a protonatural scientist as a philosopher, and in the painting “The School of Athens” by Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520), his open palm toward the ground reminds Plato of the world around him. Plato is pointing upward to the transcendental, higher reality of forms. Aristotle didn’t believe that Plato’s otherworldly place of forms existed. The forms are in the physical world.

Aristotle engaged in a relentless quest for knowledge. He studied philosophy, politics, zoology, biology, literary theory, art, and many other fields. While he may seem modern, his world view is anthropocentric.

  • [1] Further reading: The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (Barnes 1995).
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