Aristotle was born in Estagira, in Thrace, the year 384-3 a. C., according to Diogenes Laercio, who tells us that he was the son of Nicómaco and Efestiada.
His father practiced medicine in the court of King Amintas (II) of Macedonia, “for the sake of medicine and friendship”, which has been tried to associate with the subsequent naturalistic interest of Aristotle.
Diogenes Laertius describes Aristotle as “the most legitimate disciple of Plato, and with a stammering voice … who had thin legs and small eyes, who wore precious dresses and rings, and who cut his beard and hair.” (Lives of illustrious philosophers, book V, 1).
Aristotle at the Academy
Little do we know of the education received by Aristotle in his youth, although it must have been that of the young Greeks of his time.
At seventeen years, the 368 a. C., moved to Athens where he joined the Academy of Plato where he would remain for twenty years.
Despite some anecdotes that echo an alleged confrontation between Plato and Aristotle.
It is unlikely that such a confrontation could have occurred, given that all the references we have from Aristotle to Plato show a great respect and admiration for the teacher, despite the theoretical discrepancies that led to their doctrinal separation.
The fact that contemporary criticism has revealed the historical, evolutionary nature of the Aristotelian work makes this hypothesis even more unsustainable.
We know that Aristotle went through a deeply platonic phase before developing his own philosophical conceptions.
Assuming as its own, for example, the theory of the Ideas of Plato, before having proceeded to its criticism, as clearly manifested in the Aristotelian dialogue “Eudemo”, one of his works of youth.
At the death of Plato, in – 347, Speusipus, nephew of Plato, took over the direction of the Academy, either by direct appointment of this or by decision of his classmates.
Printing an orientation of mystical-religious character to the activities of the Academy, which was not liked by Aristotle, who abandoned it (either for this reason, or for feeling frustrated at not being appointed himself as director, as they maintain other biographers).
Aristotle after the abandonment of the Academy
Aristotle went then, in the company of Xenocrates, to Assos, where the tyrant Hermias reigned (with whom, it seems, they formed a deep friendship), founding there a section of the Academy that he himself directed for three years.
It was there that he probably began to develop his own opinions contrary to the theory of Ideas.
Of this time it is, in effect, his work “On the philosophy”, in which they appear the first critical elements of the theory of the Ideas. Also there it contracted marriage with Pythia, adoptive daughter or niece of Hermias, with which took a happy life until the death of this one.
It is unknown when this event took place, but we know that Aristotle after the death of Pythia lived with Herpilis, with whom he had a son named Nicomachus.
Three years later, in 345-4, he moved to Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, entering there probably in connection with Theophrastus, who would later be the most outstanding disciple and follower of the work of Aristotle.
There he continued with his philosophical activity until in the year 343-2 he was called by Philip of Macedonia to take charge of the education of his son Alexander, the future Alexander the Great, who was then thirteen years old.
Probably this commission was due more to the friendship and kinship with Hermias, an ally of Philip, and recently killed by a trap set by the Persians, than the past of his family in the court of Macedonia.
There he remained seven or eight years, until 336-5, when Alexander ascended the throne, then Aristotle returning to Athens.
Return to Athens and creation of the Lyceum
Once in Athens, in 335, he founded his own school, the Lyceum, a philosophical community in the style of the Platonic, named for being located within an area dedicated to Apollo Likeios.
In addition to the building itself, it had a garden and a promenade (peripates), of which the Aristotelians will be called peripatetics, either because Aristotle taught his teachings while walking.
This is mentioned by Diogenes Laercio (“… he took a place to walk in the Lyceum, and walking there until the time of the athletes’ anointing, he philosophized with his disciples, and this trip was called peripatetic”), or because, simply, these teachings were taught on the walk.
According to tradition, the order of activities in the Lyceum was strongly established. Dedicating the mornings to the most difficult questions of philosophical character, reserved for the disciples.
Afternoons to the lessons of rhetoric and dialectic, among which a wider public could be found.
Throughout this period, Alexander the Great carried out his military campaigns which have as one of his consequences the unification of the Hellas, with the consequent loss of political autonomy of the city-states, among which Athens was counted.
The fact that Aristotle had been his preceptor, as well as his friendship and kinship with Hermias, will make him a character not pleasant to many Athenians.
At the death of Alexander, in the year 323, feeling threatened by the growing anti-Macedonian feelings, Aristotle will leave Athens and retire to Chalcis (“so that the Athenians will not sin against philosophy again”, they say he said, in clear reference to the condemnation of Socrates) to a property of his deceased mother, on the island of Euboea, where he was originally from. There will die Aristotle, 322 a. C., of a stomach disease.