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BECK index

Isocrates, Aristotle, and Diogenes

Aristotle's Rhetoric
Aristotle's Ethics
Aristotle's Politics


Mentioned by Plato for treating the body as a whole, the traditional founder of scientific medicine, Hippocrates, was born about 460 BC on the island of Cos and died about 377 BC at Larissa. His teacher Herodicas emphasized gymnastics even for cases of fever, but Hippocrates used a gentler approach without harsh measures or drastic drugs. His writings show that he was extremely observant, and he recommended prudence, kindness to all, fairness, and good moral character. He advised physicians not to begin by discussing fees, believing it was better to have to reproach a saved patient for not paying than to extort money from those at death's door. He recommended sometimes giving one's services for nothing to those in need, for where there is the love of humanity there is also love of the art. He found that many patients recovered simply because they were happy with the goodness of the physician. It is good to make the sick well, care for the healthy so as to keep them well, and to take care of oneself so as to do what is right. Hippocrates believed that the physician is only Nature's assistant in the healing process. He paid attention to diet, fresh air, and environmental factors.

The writings attributed to Hippocrates apparently were collected at Cos from early scientific observations by Hippocrates and other physicians of his era. The Hippocratic Oath has had a tremendous influence on the ethics of medical practice from that day to this. Although Hippocrates criticized traditional beliefs that the gods cause illnesses, the oath begins by swearing to the gods of health. In the Hippocratic oath physicians promise to benefit patients and abstain from whatever is harmful, to give no deadly medicine nor give a woman a pessary to induce an abortion. In entering homes to benefit the sick they must abstain from any voluntary mischief including seduction.

Hippocrates recommended that physicians study nature and the whole subject of medicine that shows what people are in relation to food and drink and other occupations with the effects of each. He noted that large quantities of undiluted wine make one feeble, although he occasionally prescribed some wine. General rules often have exceptions. Cheese, for example, is not equally injurious to everyone. The physician should know the effects of fasting or eating various amounts or drinking soups, and so on. His most famous aphorism is the very first one:

Life is short, and art long;
the crisis fleeting; experience perilous, and decision difficult.
The physician must not only be prepared
to do what is right oneself,
but also to make the patient,
the attendants, and externals cooperate.1

Hippocrates also wrote that the noble art of medicine was behind the other arts. To gain a competent knowledge of medicine Hippocrates believed one needs natural ability, instruction, favorable circumstances for study, early learning, love of labor, and leisure.


Isocrates was born in 436 BC before the Peloponnesian War and did not die until after the Greek allies lost their independence to Macedonia at Chaeronea in 338 BC. His father manufactured flutes and was wealthy enough to give his son an outstanding education. Isocrates studied with the famous rhetorician Gorgias in Thessaly. After the Peloponnesian War during which he lost all the money his father gave him, for ten years or so Isocrates wrote speeches for use in the law courts. About 392 BC he began teaching as a sophist, and in spite of his higher fees he claimed he had more students than all the other sophists combined, though he spent most of his wealth on public services to Athens. His students included the Athenian general Timotheus; the orators Isaeus, Lycurgus, and Hypereides; the historians Ephorus and Theopompus; the philosopher Speusippus; and Nicocles who ruled Salamis on Cyprus.

His lawyer speeches were quite persuasive, but he later considered them unworthy of him. His speech for Nicias against Euthynus argued that Euthynus returned only two talents out of the three Nicias had deposited with him. This speech was written shortly after the fall of the oligarchy of Thirty, which is described as a time when it was more dangerous to be wealthy than to engage in wrong-doing, because the oppressive government was seizing their property. In a speech against Callimachus in 402 BC Isocrates argued that the amnesty of the previous year be upheld. In a speech against Lochites for assault and battery Isocrates mentioned that 1500 citizens were put to death without a trial by the Thirty. Isocrates also wrote a speech for the son of the famous Alcibiades, who was being sued because his father had allegedly stolen a team of race-horses probably for the Olympics of 416 BC when Alcibiades entered seven teams and won first, second, and fourth; the extant part of the speech justifies and praises the political career of the controversial Alcibiades.

A speech on banking argues for the son of a wealthy man from the Bosporus, from where Athens got much of its grain. The Athenian banker Pasion is a freed slave, and the case depends on his not allowing his slave to be tortured when questioned, which was the standard practice for slaves' testimony. Refusal to let one's slaves be so interrogated was considered an admission of guilt. In another moving speech the adopted son of Thrasylochus claims his inheritance authorized in the will is valid not only because of the written document but because of his services to the man in undergoing dangers and caring for him when sick, while the illegitimate daughter claiming she should have the inheritance did not care for her father at all.

When Isocrates began to teach professionally, he wrote a short tract against the sophists to differentiate his approach to education from that of other sophists, whose reputation was bad because of their false promises, which led some to prefer indolence to serious study. He wrote they claim to search for the truth but begin by telling lies. They offer the greatest value of virtue, but they only charge three or four minae; yet they do not even trust their students to pay but make them deposit the funds with a third party. They are vigilant about contradictions in words but blind to their own inconsistencies in action. They claim to have knowledge about the future but cannot even say anything insightful about the present. Others profess to teach political discourse but have no interest in the truth. They promise to make their students clever speakers even if they have no natural ability as though it were as simple as learning letters, whereas good speech-making requires knowledge of the subject, style, creativity, and imagination. Isocrates believed such teachers ought to pay out money for lessons.

Isocrates held that formal training can help those with natural aptitude who have practical experience, but to those without ability it can do little more than offer them some self-improvement and more knowledge of the subject. An able student can learn the different kinds of discourse from a teacher, who can expound the principles and set an example of oratory; but those who exhort others to study discourse while neglecting the values of what study affords are merely meddlesome and greedy professors. Those who follow true precepts may move more toward honesty of character than facility in oratory, though Isocrates did not claim to teach right living nor to be able to implant prudence and justice in the depraved, although he believed that the study of political discourse could help stimulate one to form good character.

Isocrates displayed his talent in a piece on the legendary Egyptian leader Busiris in which he criticized Polycrates for making Busiris look bad in his defense of him while making Socrates look good in his accusation against him. Polycrates mentioned how Busiris sacrificed humans, which Isocrates considered atrocious; but his criticizing Socrates for having taught Alcibiades was denied by Isocrates, and if true he would consider it praiseworthy.

In 380 BC Isocrates published his Panegyricus in which he praised the culture of Athens and Greece, suggesting that they stop fighting among themselves and unite in a war against the barbarian Persians. Also in 373 BC he wrote a speech on behalf of the Plataeans asking for Athenian military aid against the Thebans.

The oration to Demonicus by Isocrates is an exhortation to virtue filled with moral precepts. Virtue is better than riches and more useful than noble birth. As the body is developed by physical exercise, the soul may grow by practicing the moral precepts Isocrates recommended. Isocrates applied the golden rule to parents, saying to treat them as one would want to be treated by one's children. The body should be trained by exercises that lead to health rather than strength. One should be thoughtful without violent laughter or presumptuous speech. Everyone agrees on the virtues of modesty, justice, and moderation. One should fear the gods, honor parents, respect friends, and obey the laws. Loving knowledge can lead to mastering knowledge, and wisdom is the most imperishable possession.

Isocrates suggested being pleasant to everyone, but cultivating the best. Practice self-control in everything that is shameful. Using money well is more important than possessing it. Be content with present circumstances, but seek to improve them. Be affable and not proud; avoid drinking parties, or leave them before becoming intoxicated. Isocrates valued culture and recommended gleaning the best from the poets and other writers as a bee visits flowers. The greatest incentive to deliberation is observing the misfortunes that result from lacking it. It is better to retire from a public trust not more wealthy but more esteemed. Honest poverty is better than unjust wealth, because justice outlasts all riches even beyond death. Work hard with one's body and love wisdom with the soul so as to have the strength to carry out resolves seen as good by intelligence.

Isocrates wrote three orations related to the rulers of Salamis on Cyprus. The first one to Nicocles suggested how the new king may rule best. Isocrates advised him to use education to improve his nature, send for the wisest people, and study the best poets and sages. He should not allow the people to do or suffer any outrage, but honor the best and protect everyone's rights. Bad laws and institutions should be changed. He should not show favoritism but be consistent in judging. Isocrates recommended being prepared for war yet peaceful in avoiding unjust aggression. Once again he applied the golden rule to weaker states. Rather than emulating those with the widest dominion, it is better to make use of the power one already has to enjoy happiness with moderate achievements. The king should grant freedom of speech to those with good judgment so that his friends can help him decide, his friends being not those who praise all he does but those who criticize his mistakes. Nicocles should govern himself no less than his subjects by not being a slave to any pleasure or desire so that his moderation will be an example to all. It is more important to pass on a good name to his children than riches, for wealth can never buy a good name. In finding the happy mean it is better to fall short than to go to excess.

The second oration concerning Nicocles was written for the king to his subjects. Isocrates again urged education and the ability to speak well as the surest sign of good understanding. In this speech the king is communicating to his people so that they will know what he expects of them. He criticized democracies and oligarchies whose rivalries injure the commonwealth. These governments honor those skilled in swaying the crowd, but the monarch claimed he honors those skilled in practice. In war situations monarchy was considered more efficient. Isocrates noted that the gods live under a monarchy. Nicocles claimed that he has ruled so mildly that no one has suffered exile, death, or confiscation of their property during his reign. Isocrates pointed out that courage and cleverness are not always good, but moderation and justice are. The king called on his subjects to be diligent and just, and he asked them to deal with each other as they expect him to deal with them. He warned against political societies and unions as dangerous to a monarchy. The character of the citizens often affected the behavior of the rulers, as depravity has compelled them to be more harsh than they wished. Nicocles concluded with the golden rule again and exhorted them not to practice anything they condemn in words.

A third oration about Cyprus is an encomium to Euagoras, the father of Nicocles. Isocrates praised Euagoras uncritically for taking the throne of Salamis by force and ruling there as a tyrant for about forty years until he was assassinated in 374 BC, though Isocrates did not mention how he died. He considered Euagoras even greater than Cyrus, who had ruled over the Persian empire; Isocrates was the only Greek writer to mention that Cyrus killed his mother's father Astyages. Euagoras gave the Athenian admiral Conon refuge from 405 until 397 BC, enabling a remnant of the Athenian navy to come back after the disastrous Peloponnesian War.

Attempting to surpass a work by his teacher Gorgias, Isocrates wrote an encomium on Helen in which he praised the power of her beauty that caused the Greeks to unite in a victorious war against the Trojans in Asia. He also praised the heroics and wise policies of Theseus. In 368 BC Isocrates wrote to Dionysius I of Syracuse, praising him as the foremost Greek with the greatest power, saying that Athens would surely ally itself with him in any struggle he would make for the welfare of Greece. The lost letter that accompanied the extant introductory letter likely urged Dionysius to take up a Greek crusade against the barbarian Persians.

Two years later Isocrates wrote an oration for Archidamus, the prince of Sparta who had fought well in the losing battle at Leuctra when Sparta lost its hegemony to Thebes. The Thebans had razed Thespiae and Plataea and now proposed to settle their colonists in Messene, which Isocrates considered a violation of the Peace of Antalcidas. What bothered him most though was that this would not restore the true Messenians but the Helots, making these slaves masters. Isocrates believed that justice is most important, which with the grace of the gods secured the Spartan laws; but he did not seem to recognize the rights of the Helots. Many more people were in exile from the Peloponnesian peninsula than ever before, as the whole region was in distress. Isocrates had Archidamus recommend they send their parents, wives, and children to Sicily, Cyrene, and Asia Minor so that the men could fight and plunder their enemies by land and sea. For if they let the Helots settle on their borders and permitted Messene to flourish undisturbed the derision at the hands of their foes would be worse than suffering annihilation. In this speech by Isocrates Archidamus told the Spartans to take up the war, for it is disgraceful to tolerate freedom of speech to slaves when before they did not even grant equal speech to free men.

Ten years later Isocrates wrote a letter to Archidamus, now king of Sparta, urging him to reconcile the Greeks, stopping their wars with each other so that they could end the insolence of the Persians.

At the end of the terrible Social War in 355 BC when peace was being negotiated, Isocrates, over 80 years old, wrote an oration addressed to the Athenian assembly entitled On the Peace and called On the Confederacy by Aristotle. The important question of war and peace was to be decided. Isocrates criticized the flatterers who had brought ruin to their public affairs; yet they had blindly followed them into war expecting to recover their lost power, while counselors of peace advised being content with what they had rather than crave possessions contrary to justice. Many who possess great fortunes madly risk what they have grasping for more. Apparently the Athenian assembly had not been willing to listen to anyone who disagreed with their desires, and so Isocrates wrote this speech for the reading public, asking that both sides be given an unbiased hearing. Those favoring peace have never caused misfortune, while those espousing war plunged them into many disasters. Only the most reckless orators were given freedom of speech in the assembly.

Isocrates recommended making peace not only with Chians, Rhodians, Byzantines, and Coans, but with all humanity in the agreement (Peace of Antalcidas) made thirty years before with the king of Persia and the Lacedaemonians that recognized independence of the Greeks and removed foreign garrisons. Isocrates acknowledged that this appeared to give Thebans the advantage of keeping Thespiae and Plataea, but he promised to persuade them that injustice is not an advantage but results in disasters. He suggested that the blessings of security, abundance, and the esteem of others are better than the loss of these in war which makes them poor and gives them a bad name. In peace they will be freed from war-taxes and other burdens and be able to cultivate their fields and sail the seas safely. The city's revenues will double; commerce will thrive; and they will have all humanity as allies. Others will withdraw from Athenian territory because of the advantages of supporting the power of Athens to secure their own realms. They must realize that peace is better than meddling, justice better than injustice, and attending to one's own business better than coveting the possessions of others.

Wars had cost them great expense and reaped hatreds from interfering; but when they had been just and aided those who were oppressed without coveting their possessions, they were willingly given hegemony. Nothing contributes more to material gain and a good reputation than virtue. Those who unjustly seize what belongs to others are like animals lured by bait who find themselves in a desperate situation. Isocrates accused the warmongers of accepting bribes and the assembly of appointing generals who were guilty of this capital crime. As a physician treats ills, an unpopular speech that reproaches sins is needed to cure ignorant souls. Foreigners would think the Athenians mad if they were to come and see them claiming to follow their ancestors, who fought the barbarians to free Greeks, when they are now bringing Asians to fight Greeks in their homes. Now Athens seemed to be waging war against the whole world, paying lawless and violent mercenaries to attack their allies.

Isocrates blamed the empire of the sea for plunging them into disorders that overthrew the democratic government. He argued that empire is neither just nor capable of being maintained nor advantageous. When the Lacedaemonians held hegemony, the Athenians denounced it as wrong and waged war against them until they got their independence back. Thus it is not just for the stronger to rule the weaker. Even ten thousand talents could not help Athens maintain her empire. How could they possibly acquire one now in their current poverty? They ought to commend those who admonish them and reveal their evil policies with their consequent disasters.

The Peloponnesian War that resulted from Athenian imperialism would have ended in their slavery if the Lacedaemonians had not been more friendly than their former allies. Yet Athens, while not even in control of its own territory, had tried to extend its power to Italy, Sicily, and Carthage. In the Decelean war in Attica they lost 10,000 hoplite soldiers, in Sicily 40,000 men and 240 ships, and in the Hellespont 200 ships. The great Athenian houses that had survived the tyrannies of the sixth century BC and the Persian Invasions were wiped out under the coveted empire, because they desired not just to rule but to dominate in order to provide pleasures for themselves from the labors of others. Those who seek such despotic power must suffer the disasters that result from that, and Athens suffered the distress of a siege.

Imperialism ruined Athens, and then it quickly ruined previously virtuous Sparta too. As soon as they gained the power, the Lacedaemonians plotted against Thebes and the king of Persia, drove the Chians into exile, and set up despotic regimes throughout the Greek world. Their arrogance soon led to the end of their supremacy by land and sea. The meddling of Athens in her empire had caused cities to become partisans of Sparta; then Spartan hegemony made them side with Athens again. Does not such power cause a state to make war on all their citizens, suspect their friends, hate those who have not wronged them, and hire mercenaries?

Now they believe the Thebans are in a bad way because they oppress their neighbors, but does not Athens do the same? Rich Thessaly has been reduced to poverty, but stony Megara continues to thrive even though it is surrounded by warlike cities. Isocrates concluded that arrogance caused misfortunes, but moderation is the source of blessings. States, like individuals, should shun vice and practice virtue even more, because there is no escape from their consequences in death. Peace and justice will make all Greeks happy and prosperous, and no one will dare oppress them. Everyone will seek their friendship and alliance when they are just and powerful, not taking from others but willing and able to help. In the midst of injustice and madness let Athens be the first to adopt a sane policy and champion the freedom of Greeks as their saviors, not their destroyers. They must cease from wars and abhor all despotic rule and imperial power, when they reflect on the disasters that result from them. Isocrates concluded by urging those younger to speak and write to turn states that would oppress others into the paths of virtue and justice so that the conditions of learning and culture may improve.

In the same year as the peace concluding the Social War Isocrates also wrote an oration called Areopagiticus in which he discussed the public safety and social issues. He noted that riches and power often lead to folly, whereas poverty tends to encourage prudence and moderation. Once again Athens by paying mercenaries has gained the hatred of Greeks and the enmity of the Persian king that previously led to disaster. Isocrates believed their democracy has been corrupted, and he advised going back to the institutions founded by Solon and reformed by Cleisthenes after the Peisistratid tyranny. They governed by electing the best to be officials rather than relying upon a more democratic random lottery. The people should be the masters of the state and punish those who rule badly. Isocrates exalted the oversight of the conservative Areopagus, whose powers were greatly weakened by Ephialtes a century before. Isocrates condemned oligarchies and special privileges while commending equal rights and democracy.

The richest 1200 Athenians paid heavy taxes and were often required to fit out a trireme for war. A person assigned this task could challenge another citizen he thought had more wealth to take over this duty or exchange property with him. Isocrates lost such a challenge in the only trial of his long life. In response to this experience Isocrates wrote his Antidosis, defending himself as though he were on trial for his life like Socrates. Although this trial was a fiction, he declared that he wrote the truth. Once more he applied the golden rule to judges, who ought to judge others as they would expect others to judge them. Isocrates wrote that he has endeavored not to offend others nor to seek revenge in court but to settle disputes by conferring as friends. His discourses were not about private conflicts but concerned affairs of state and all Greece, suitable for Pan-Hellenic conferences. He presented the evidence of his previous writings. He defended at length the behavior of the famous general Timotheus who had been one of his students, praising him for respecting the rights of those he conquered in war. Isocrates having a weak voice did not speak in public, hold office, or serve on juries, allowing those more needy to receive that dole.

Isocrates noted the importance of education to the fortune of the state, and he warned against letting the sycophants control it. He recommended the study of discourse as well as gymnastics. He believed that everyone acts for the sake of pleasure, gain, or honor, and he found that the study of philosophy, by which he meant the liberal arts in general, was the best way to achieve these ends.

In 346 BC when he was 90 years old, Isocrates wrote a discourse to Philip, king of Macedonia, who had just concluded a ten-year war with Athens over control of Amphipolis. Isocrates opposed the war as bad for both sides, arguing that it was to the advantage of Macedonia for Athens to possess Amphipolis but not for Athens to acquire it. He tried to persuade Philip that friendship with Athens was worth more than the revenues of Amphipolis, while he hoped that Athens would learn not to plant colonies in areas of conflict. By surrendering this territory Philip would still hold the power in the region while gaining the good will of Athens with hostages to guarantee their friendship. The peace was concluded before Isocrates finished his discourse, and he approved it.

Once again Isocrates urged all the Greeks to make peace with each other and launch a campaign against the barbarians in Asia. Isocrates believed that Philip, having the highest position and power in Greece, was the one to lead this effort. If he could reconcile Argos, Lacedaemon, Thebes, and Athens to take a sane view, all the other Greeks would follow. He hoped that friendly acts would help them forget past wrongs. Isocrates criticized those who were jealous of Philip and who found peace a state of war against their selfish interests. King Agesilaus of Sparta had tried to invade the Persian empire after the Peloponnesian War but failed because he had not first settled the quarrels among Greeks, and many resented the oligarchies Sparta set up at that time. Even if Philip did not conquer all of Persia, at least he could liberate the Greeks on the coast of Asia. Knowing Philip already had power and wealth, Isocrates appealed to his desire for honor and lasting fame.

Four years later in a letter Isocrates again asked Philip to lead a Greek expedition against Persia, and finally after the battle of Chaeronea when he was 98, Isocrates wrote his last letter urging Philip to bring all the Greeks into concord and take up the conquest his son Alexander would soon accomplish. Isocrates had also written a short letter to young Alexander in 342 BC warning him against disputation and encouraging his study of rhetoric; this was probably about the time that Aristotle began to tutor the Macedonian prince.

In his last oration started when he was 94 and delayed by three years of illness before he finished it at 97 Isocrates praised Athens and criticized the aggressive ways of Sparta. In one long sentence Isocrates summed up much of his life's endeavor.

Yet all know that most orators harangue not on behalf of the state
but for what they themselves expect to gain,
while I and mine not only abstain
more than others from public funds
but also expend more than we can afford
from our private means on the needs of the state;
still they know these are either wrangling among themselves
in the assemblies over deposits of money
or insulting the allies
or falsely charging any of the rest who chances,
while I have led the way in discourses
exhorting the Greeks to agree with each other
and to strategize against the barbarians,
urging us all to unite in colonizing a country
so vast and vulnerable that those who have heard about it agree,
if we are sensible and stop the manias against each other
that we could quickly occupy it without effort and risk,
and that this territory will easily accommodate
all those among us in need of the necessities of life.2

Isocrates described as educated those who manage well their daily circumstances with accurate judgment that is expedient; who are decent and honorable with all they meet, tolerating what is unpleasant or offensive while being as agreeable and reasonable as possible; who are not overcome by misfortunes but bear them bravely; and finally who are not spoiled by successes and do not desert their true selves or become arrogant, but hold steadfastly to their intelligence. Isocrates did justify Athens doing injustice as sensible when faced with the alternative of suffering injustice from Sparta. Isocrates recommended listening to what people say and watching what they do. When they do wrong, one should censure them and guard against their ways; for things are only good or bad because of how they are used.


In Stagira, a Greek colony near the Macedonian border, in 384 BC was born Aristotle. His father Nicomachus was court physician to Amyntas III, king of Macedonia and father of Philip II. Thus Aristotle was probably educated by his father as advised in the Hippocratic oath until his father died. When he was 17, Aristotle began studying in Plato's Academy and remained there for twenty years until Plato died. Plato called Aristotle the "mind of the school." When Plato read aloud the Phaedo, Aristotle was the only one to stay to hear the whole dialog. Unfortunately the popular dialogs Aristotle wrote on the immortality of the soul and spiritual subjects did not survive. Aristotle wrote an inscription for an altar to Plato that called him "a man whom it is not right for the bad even to praise."

When Plato's nephew Speusippus became head of the Academy in 347 BC, Aristotle and Xenocrates started a philosophical school at Assus where Hermeias, a former slave and banker, was ruling the Troad. Aristotle married the niece of Hermeias, and after her death he had a son Nicomachus by Herpyllis. Hermeias fell under the control of the Persians, and after refusing to betray his friends under torture, he was killed. In his grief Aristotle wrote an elegy about his friend, who had died for the beauty of goodness. In 345 BC Aristotle went with his friend Theophrastus to Mytilene on Lesbos, where his interest shifted from politics to biology.

Three years later Aristotle returned to the Macedonian court at Pella to tutor Philip's son Alexander, who was 13 then. In 340 BC when Philip went to war against Byzantium, Alexander ruled as regent, giving Aristotle more time for his own studies at Stagira, now restored for him after Philip had destroyed it in the Olynthian war. Aristotle introduced his nephew Callisthenes to Alexander but warned him to be careful of what he said. Though Alexander later took Callisthenes to Asia where he collected research materials, Callisthenes was eventually suspected by Alexander of plotting against him with Hermolaus; he was confined to an iron cage in which he became infested with vermin before being thrown to a lion.

When Philip died in 336 BC, Aristotle returned to Athens, where Xenocrates was now in charge of the Academy. In the garden of the Lyceum Aristotle established his Peripatetic (so named because Aristotle lectured while "walking around") school with maps and a large library. According to Diogenes Laertius all of Aristotle's writings came to 445,270 lines, but the surviving ones seem to be mostly his lectures. When Alexander died in 323 BC and Athens led the revolt, Aristotle's friendship with Macedonian viceroy Antipater caused him to be charged with impiety for the elegy that had called Hermeias divine. Aristotle fled to his mother's property in Chalcis, saying he would not let Athenians offend twice against philosophy. Alone there he wrote Antipater that he had become fonder of myths; he died the next year of a stomach illness. In his will Aristotle made provisions for his family, Herpyllis, and his slaves, some of whom he freed. Aristotle's close friend Theophrastus took over his school at the Lyceum.

The biography of Aristotle by Diogenes Laertius recorded some of his remarks. When asked what people gained by lying, Aristotle commented that when they speak the truth they are not believed. Reproached for giving charity to a bad man, Aristotle said that he pitied the man, not his character. The three things he found indispensable to education were natural endowment, study, and constant practice. He believed the difference between being educated and uneducated is as much as between the living and the dead. He said education is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and the best provision for old age. Aristotle believed that teachers who educate children deserve more honor than their parents, for parents give them life but teachers a good life. Asked what a friend is, Aristotle replied, "A single soul dwelling in two bodies."3 When asked how we should behave toward friends, he answered with the golden rule: as we wish them to behave toward us. He believed that philosophy enabled him to do without being ordered what some are constrained to do by fear of the law. Aristotle found that the end of love is not merely intercourse but also philosophy.

Aristotle's analysis of human knowledge is an amazing and comprehensive accomplishment, and the influence of his ideas on western civilization has been immense. He first divided it into theoretical, practical, and productive knowledge. The theoretical includes philosophy, physics, and mathematics; the practical ethics and politics; and the productive the arts and rhetoric. Propositions he divided into ethical, physical, and logical. Preliminary to the study of all subjects is the analytical study of thought and language now called logic, which he called an instrument of philosophy. Aristotle analyzed simple expressions into the ten categories of substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, state, action, and affection. Aristotle made a detailed analysis of syllogisms and logical fallacies. He analyzed deductive reasoning in the Prior Analytics and inductive reasoning or scientific thought in the Posterior Analytics.

Aristotle believed that all people by nature desire to know. A sign of one who knows is that that person can teach, while the person of experience without knowledge cannot. He defined wisdom as knowledge of principles and causes. In his Physics and Metaphysics Aristotle discussed the material and formal causes Plato used and also the efficient and final causes. The material cause explains what something is made of (out of which), the formal cause how it is made (into which), the efficient cause who made it (by which), and the final cause why it is made (for which purpose). For Aristotle the final cause or purpose of anything analyzes the metaphysical cause which is studied in teleology. Aristotle also perceived God in the beginning as well as the end as the prime mover and in the present as completely actual in contrast to the concept of potential. Aristotle also gave many lectures on the sciences of astronomy, meteorology, and biology. Aristotle analyzed the faculties of the soul as nutritive, perceptive, and intelligent, and he also discussed memory, sleep, dreams, and aging. At the Lyceum 158 Greek constitutions were gathered, and Aristotle's work On the Athenian Constitution has been useful in understanding the history of Athenian politics.

Although Aristotle agreed with his teacher Plato that poetry and drama are imitations, he disagreed in finding redeeming value for these arts and did not wish to censor or ban them. In his Poetics he noted that tragedy tends to portray those who are better and comedy those worse than people of the present day. Humans are the most imitative animal, delight in imitating, and learn much this way. Aristotle believed that learning is the greatest pleasure and is not just for philosophers but for all humanity. Thus the imitative arts are not just entertaining but educational as well. Aristotle found that tragedy aroused the emotions of pity and fear in order to accomplish a purification of those feelings. The six elements of a play he analyzed are the plot (story), character, theme (thought), language, spectacle, and music. The plot, like a fable, conveys meaning; characters portray moral qualities, and thought enunciates general truths. In a tragedy a good man must not be seen passing from happiness to misery or a bad man from misery to happiness, because these are morally repugnant nor does the falling of an extremely bad person from happiness to misery arouse pity or fear. In tragedy a person of intermediate character suffers misfortune not from vice or depravity but from an error of judgment. Aristotle held that moral goodness could be shown in any personage, even in women and slaves.

Aristotle's Rhetoric

Aristotle defined rhetoric as the art of persuasion. Rhetoric can arouse emotions which may not be related to the essential facts; thus many courts forbid discussion of what is not essential to the case, because it is not right to pervert the jury by moving them to anger or envy or pity. To the argument that rhetoric can be used unjustly, Aristotle answered that this is true of any art and of all good things except virtue. Aristotle described the three modes of persuasion as the personal character of the speaker, the frame of mind of the audience, and the argument of the speech. First, people of good character are more readily believed than others. Second, when the audience is pleased, their judgments are affected. Third, the speech may prove the truth by reasoning. Thus the abilities needed to persuade are logical reasoning, understanding human character and goodness, and understanding emotions. Statements can be persuasive because they are self-evident or by using the inductive reasoning of examples or deductive syllogisms.

Aristotle divided oratory into three parts. Persuading members of the assembly about a future action is political; convincing jurors about a past action is forensic; and winning a speaking contest is ceremonial. Political speakers argue to do or not do something; forensic speakers prosecute or defend someone; and ceremonial orators either praise or censure. In political oratory the debate is whether the proposal is good or harmful; trial lawyers argue over what is just or unjust; and display oratory deals with honor and shame. Political speakers in arguing for what is expedient may ignore whether it is just or not. Litigants may not deny that something has happened or that it has caused harm, but they will not admit their client is guilty of injustice. Rhetorical propositions may be complete proofs, probabilities, or signs.

Political oratory combines logic and the ethical branch of politics. Aristotle described the five main subjects of political oratory as ways and means, war and peace, national defense, trade, and legislation. Thus the speaker should know the following: the state's sources of revenue and its expenditures; the military strength of the country and its enemies; the means and installations of defense; the needs and sources of the food supply and imports and exports, making sure his country does not offend strong states and trading partners; the constitution and the laws of the state, internal developments, and in knowing the customs of other states history is useful.

One must know the aim of life which is happiness defined as prosperity combined with virtue, independence, security, pleasure, and the good condition of one's body and property. Aristotle noted that half of life among the Lacedaemonians is spoiled, because the state of the women is bad. Doing good means preserving life and the good things of life, namely health, wealth, and friends. Good is what is chosen for itself or for the sake of something else, such as the virtues of the soul: justice, courage, moderation, magnanimity, etc. Faculties of speech and action as well as arts and sciences are also productive of what is good. The political speaker will argue relatively that good will be increased and harm decreased. Knowing the form of government, the political speaker will appeal to the interests of the rulers. The end of democracy is freedom, of oligarchy wealth, of aristocracy education and institutions, and of tyranny protection of the tyrant.

In prosecution and defense Aristotle discussed the incentives to wrong-doing, the state of mind of wrong-doers, and the kind of people and condition of those who do wrong. Aristotle defined wrong-doing as injury voluntarily inflicted contrary to law. Law may be specific written laws or universal laws based on unwritten principles. The causes of wrong actions are vice and lack of self-control, and the wrong reflects a fault in one's character. Such actions may be due to habits or desires. Rational desires are for some wish; irrational desires come from appetites and anger. Aristotle differentiated revenge from punishment: punishment is inflicted for the sake of the person punished, but revenge is to satisfy the punisher's feelings. Irrational desires are for food, drink, or sex. Rational desires are for pleasure, what one consciously believes is good, and may be for revenge, winning, reputation, friends, change, learning, and so on.

The state of mind of wrong-doers is that they believe the thing can be done by them either without being found out, or believing they could escape punishment if found out, or that it would be worth the punishment. Wrong is also done to people who have what the person wants, who are accessible or in a place safe from being caught or prosecuted, or who are not likely to fight back or prosecute, or those who are vulnerable, or those considered enemies or wrong themselves. Aristotle divided unjust actions into those that affected the community and those affecting individuals. The victim must suffer actual harm and against one's will. Criminal guilt depends on a deliberate purpose. Aristotle recommended equity as follows:

Equity bids us be merciful to the weakness of human nature;
to think less about the laws
than about the person who framed them,
and less about what one said than about what one meant;
not to consider the actions of the accused
so much as the intentions,
nor this or that detail so much as the whole story;
to ask not what a person is now
but what one has always or usually been.
It bids us remember benefits rather than injuries,
and benefits received rather than benefits conferred;
to be patient when we are wronged;
to settle a dispute by negotiation and not by force;
to prefer arbitration to litigation---
for an arbitrator goes by the equity of a case,
a judge by the strict law,
and arbitration was invented with the express purpose
of securing full power for equity.4

Aristotle described the unskilled means of persuasion as laws, witnesses, contracts, torture, and oaths. One may argue that the written law is unjust and must give way to a higher principle. Aristotle considered testimony under torture as unreliable because tough people can endure the pain, while cowards may speak falsely to avoid it.

Aristotle noted that the character of the speaker is particularly important in political oratory, while the mood of the jury is more significant in lawsuits. The orator may inspire confidence with good sense, good moral character, and goodwill. Aristotle defined emotions as those feelings attended by pleasure or pain that change people so as to affect their judgments. Anger is a pleasurable impulse accompanied by pain directed for conspicuous revenge because of what concerns oneself or one's friends. Anger can be used in slighting as in contempt, spite, and insolence. People vexed by others, sickness, poverty, love, thirst or unsatisfied desires are easily aroused to anger against those who slight their distress. An orator may manipulate the listeners into a frame of mind disposed to anger toward the adversaries. The opposite of anger is becoming calm, which may be caused by the object of anger admitting fault and being sorry. Aristotle discussed friendship and differentiated hatred from anger, the latter being colder and more lasting. Fear is defined as a pain due to a mental picture or expectation of some evil in the future.

Aristotle defined shame as pain or disturbance in regard to bad things which seem likely to discredit one such as cowardice, licentiousness, greed, meanness, begging, flattery, effeminacy, and boastfulness. People feel shame before those whose opinions matter to them. Kindness is helpfulness toward someone in need for the sake of the person helped, not for any advantage or a return. Pity is a feeling of pain caused by some evil which befalls one who does not deserve it and which we believe might befall us or our friends. We pity most those we know or who are close to us or like us. We feel indignation at unmerited prosperity. The negative expressions of these are delight in others' misfortunes and envy of any prosperity; such feelings can be used to neutralize an appeal to pity. The positive expression of this is emulation, which takes steps to secure the good which envy may try to stop someone from enjoying.

The types of human character Aristotle discussed are the young, the old, those in their prime, those of noble birth, the wealthy, and the powerful. The young have strong passions, are hot-tempered, love victory, but don't yet love money, not yet having learned what it is to be without it. The youthful trust others easily, because they have not yet been cheated much; they are hopeful, confident, and seek what is noble. Their mistakes tend to be from doing things excessively and vehemently. The elderly have the opposite characteristics; tending to do too little, they can be cynical and small-minded, because they have been humbled by life. They are less generous because life has taught them how difficult it is to get money and how easy it is to lose it. They care more about what is useful than what is noble, and their passions are weak and often concentrated on the love of gain. Aristotle believed that those in their prime have the best qualities of the young and old in moderation. Those of good birth are ambitious; the wealthy are arrogant, luxurious, and ostentatious; the powerful are ambitious, dignified, and made serious by their responsibilities.

Aristotle analyzed the inductive arguments using examples and the syllogistic reasoning he called enthymeme, in which he included the use of maxims which display the moral character of the speaker. He noted that the uneducated, arguing from common knowledge and drawing obvious conclusions, often are more persuasive than the educated who argue from general principles. Unlike dialectic, rhetorical arguments can be based on probabilities as well as on certainties. Aristotle also described how arguments may be refuted by using counter-syllogisms and objections. Speeches need an introduction, must state the case, and prove it. Prejudices must be removed; interrogation can be used; and the conclusion tends to end in short sentences.

Aristotle's Ethics

Aristotle's main ethical work, Nicomachaen Ethics, was named after his son Nicomachus, who probably edited it from the lecture course. Aristotle began with the Socratic premise that every art and investigation, even every practical pursuit, seems to aim at some good. All things aim for what is good, although not all activities are ends in themselves, many being means to other ends. The ultimate end must not only be good but the best. To secure the good for one person is an achievement; to secure the good of a state or nation is nobler and divine. Political science aims at what is fine and just. To criticize this subject one needs a comprehensive education and experience of life and conduct which the young lack. The young are also more likely to be ruled by their feelings rather than knowledge, but those who regulate their desires and actions by reason can benefit from this study. Most people believe that the best thing they seek in all actions is happiness, conceived as a good life or doing well.

Aristotle noted the view of Plato that there is a universal good, which is the cause of all specific goods, though he dismissed it because it is predicable in all categories, which seems to me to be more an argument that it is universal. Aristotle noted that the ideal good does not seem to be practical in pursuing specific goods, but in my view he did not take into account the value of praying for the highest good or best. Aristotle also criticized Socrates for saying that virtue is knowledge, though I believe Socrates meant a form of wisdom that included action as well as thought. For Aristotle virtue is a form of goodness and, as a pattern of right actions, is related to habit.

Many identify the good with pleasure and are content with a life of enjoyment. Beyond this, Aristotle found those who value honor and virtue in the political life, but he admitted that a miserable life with virtue is hardly happy. Aristotle also mentioned the life of contemplation but postponed its discussion. He considered the life of money-making constrained, because wealth is only good as a means. Aristotle found that human good is the exercise of human faculties, especially reason, according to the best virtues which, when done over a lifetime, results in happiness. Aristotle repeated the Platonic division of goods between the soul, the body, and the property of the body, and he emphasized the active exercise of the functions of the soul according to virtue for happiness. Aristotle believed that virtuous actions are also pleasant or not painful, though he acknowledged that happiness does seem to require external prosperity as well. However, he did not base judgment on fortune, because it does not determine if we do well or not but is only an accessory. The virtuous person is more likely to be happy permanently. Even with reverses of fortune nobility can shine through such circumstances when a good person bears it with grace and not out of insensitivity. Happiness is not merely a potential good but actual.

Aristotle defined virtue as the excellence of the soul, and happiness is the virtuous activity of the soul. In the moderate, self-controlled and courageous, everything is in harmony with the voice of reason. Aristotle differentiated intellectual virtues from ethical virtues. Intellectual virtues are developed by teaching; ethical virtues are formed by habit (ethos). Virtues are not implanted in us by nature nor are they contrary to nature, for we are equipped by nature to receive them and can develop them by habitual practice. Thus we become just by acting justly, self-controlled by controlling ourselves, and courageous by acting bravely. Others may become undisciplined and short-tempered by acting in those ways. Thus habits developed in childhood make a considerable difference. Aristotle noted that the purpose of this study is not to know what virtue is but to become good; thus we must act according to right reason.

Aristotle observed that ethical qualities are destroyed by defect and by excess. Just as too much or too little food destroys health, the same applies to courage and moderation. The one who fears everything becomes a coward, while the one who fears nothing acts recklessly. Whoever revels in every pleasure is undisciplined, while those who avoid every pleasure are insensitive. Virtuous behavior is reinforcing. Abstaining from pleasures results in moderation, and the practice of moderation helps one to abstain from pleasures. Enduring fear makes one courageous, and acting bravely makes one more able to endure fear. These pleasures and pains test virtue, which can be developed or destroyed by whether it is practiced or not. Yet avoiding pleasures and enduring pains must be of the right kind done at the right time and place and in the right manner.

Choice is determined by what is noble, beneficial, and pleasurable and their opposites of what is base, harmful, and painful. Ethical action requires knowledge of what one is doing, choice to act that way and for its own sake, and the action must spring from one's character; of these three factors Aristotle believed that knowledge was the least important. He criticized those who do not act virtuously but take refuge in argument, thinking that by philosophical discussion they will become good; he compared them to sick people, who listen to their doctor but fail to do what is prescribed.

Virtues are related to emotions, but Aristotle noted that we are not blamed or praised for our emotions, as we are for virtues and vices. Also emotions like anger and fear do not involve choice, as the virtues do. We are "moved" by emotions but are "disposed" by virtues and vices to act in certain ways. Virtues cause abilities to function well in the right ways and circumstances. There are many ways to go wrong by either extreme of lack or excess, but the mean is what the prudent person determines. Such emotions as spite, shamelessness, and envy have no mean and are simply base, just as some actions are bad such as adultery, theft, and murder. Such bad actions do not have a right time or manner.

Aristotle found generosity to be a virtuous mean between extravagance and stinginess; magnificence is a mean between gaudy vulgarity and niggardliness; high-mindedness is a mean between vanity and small-mindedness; sincerity is a mean between boasting and self-depreciation; wittiness is a mean between buffoonery and boorishness; gentleness is a mean between being short-tempered and apathetic; friendliness is a mean between flattery and quarrelsomeness; modesty is a mean between being abashed and shameless; and just indignation is a mean between envy and spite. In a similar ethical work, Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle also listed justice as a mean between profit and loss; liberality is a mean between prodigality and meanness; dignity is a mean between subservience and stubbornness; hardiness is a mean between luxury and endurance; and wisdom is a mean between rascality and simpleness. Aristotle advised us to watch the errors we are most attracted to personally, pleasure being the most difficult to judge without bias.

Voluntary actions are praised or blamed, while involuntary actions may be pardoned or pitied. Actions done under constraint or because of ignorance are considered involuntary. Actions done out of fear of a greater evil, such as threat from a tyrant or throwing away cargo from a ship during a storm, are mixed in regard to voluntariness. Such actions are voluntary, because the agent is choosing, though they are somewhat involuntary in that no one would choose them for their own sake. Some call actions impelled by appetites and passions involuntary, but Aristotle asked if it is right to consider base actions involuntary while saying that virtuous actions are voluntary; that he felt would be absurd.

Choice is critical in ethics, and our character is determined by choosing good or evil. We deliberate about things which are within our power and can be realized in action. The ends are most important but usually obvious; so we tend to deliberate most about the means to find what is easiest and best. Since the end is based on a wish and the means are determined by deliberation and choice, the resulting actions are voluntary. We may wish for an end such as health or wisdom, but to achieve them we must act in a practical way. Thus virtue and vice depend on our own actions. Private individuals and public officials chastise and punish evildoers unless they have acted under constraint or due to some ignorance for which they are not responsible. If the individual is responsible for one's ignorance, the penalty may be even greater, such as in laws regarding drunkenness.

Aristotle defined justice as what is lawful and fair in not taking more than one's share. Justice is considered the highest virtue, because it relates to others as well as oneself. Fairness in distribution is described as what each one deserves and is usually based on equality, although for Aristotle unequals should not receive equal treatment. He found that distribution depends on the philosophy of government: democrats value freedom, oligarchs wealth and noble birth, and aristocrats excellence or virtue. Justice can also be rectification in correcting what is unequal or wrong. To go for justice is to go to a judge, who acts as mediator to help find the median or fair result. Pythagoreans believed in reciprocity, which implied suffering that which one has done to another. Reciprocal action holds the state together, though requiting evil with evil does not seem as good to me as requiting good with good. Many Greek cities worshiped Graces (Charites), because they believed in doing and returning favors. To balance goods by a single standard, coins were invented as currency to facilitate equal exchanges.

Aristotle apparently did not see the injustice of slavery but considered slaves as property and children as dependent until they are mature. No one wishes to be harmed or suffer injustice voluntarily; but the uncontrolled may act against their own wishes for what is ethically good, for the uncontrolled do what they believe they should not do. Aristotle defined the equitable as a form of justice. The equitable may rectify the law when the law falls short of universal justice.

Since right reason is what determines the virtuous mean to be practiced, Aristotle analyzed intellectual virtue. He divided the intellectual faculty into the scientific part that relates to unchanging truth and the calculative faculty that works with changing circumstances. The three psychological elements that control truth and action are sense perception, intelligence, and desire. He further divided the faculties into art or skill (techne), science or knowledge (episteme), prudence or practical wisdom (phronesis), wisdom or theoretical knowledge (sophia), and intelligence or intuition (nous). Things which change include action and production. Production depends on art and skill guided by reason. Scientific knowledge can be learned and taught. The prudent person has the ability to deliberate. The task of intelligence is to apprehend fundamental principles and demonstrate certain truths. Theoretical wisdom combines scientific knowledge and apprehended intuition.

Practical wisdom includes ethics and politics, which is divided into legislative and judicial deliberations. Prudence requires understanding that results in good judgment. Another quality (gnome) translated good sense involves sympathetic understanding and forgiveness in knowing what is fair and equitable. Aristotle reminded us that prudent actions are acquired more by habit than by knowledge.

Aristotle distinguished vice from being uncontrolled and from brutishness. The opposites of these are virtue, self-control or more precisely inner control, and superhuman virtue, which goes beyond the normal human range as brutishness falls below it. Aristotle considered excessive folly, cowardice, indulgence, and ill-temper brutish or morbid. If being self-controlled means having strong and base appetites, the moderate person will not be self-controlled nor the self-controlled be moderate, for the moderate person does not have to strain for control. The opposite of the moderate person, the undisciplined, believe in pursuing pleasures of the moment and choose them, while the uncontrolled do not think they should but pursue them nonetheless. The undisciplined feel no regret since they are choosing the pleasures, but the uncontrolled always feel regret. Aristotle considered inner control of great ethical value and being uncontrolled as bad.

Friendship (philia) for Aristotle involved all human relationships with any affection including marriage and family and business associations. He believed friendship is an indispensable good, because no one would want to live without any friends. The best works are done for one's friends. Nature implants friendship in parents even of other species. Concord is valuable in society, which does its best to expel faction, the enemy of concord. Aristotle found that we love what is good, pleasant, and useful. Most people don't really love what is truly good, but what appears to be good to them. In friendship there is goodwill for each other. Older people tend to pursue the beneficial more than pleasure, which is sought more by the young. The best friendship is between good people who wish each other's good because they are good; this friendship tends to last longest. Friendship does not occur quickly, though the wish to be friends can come quickly. Friendships based on pleasure can last quite a while as long as they continue to be pleasant, but those that are useful tend to dissolve when the advantage ceases. Friendships of the good imply mutual trust and the assurance that neither will ever wrong the other. Thus in this way Aristotle noted in the Eudemian Ethics that friendship and justice are nearly the same.

Friendship is based on equality, and this is sometimes achieved by compensating for different factors by proportionate affection. Most people wish to receive affection more than give it, though friendship is giving affection more than receiving it. Friendships based on opposites, such as the rich and poor, the learned and ignorant, are useful, because they supply what their friend lacks. Friends share things in common, and this is the basis of community. Aristotle held that there can be no friendship with a slave as a slave, but there can be friendship with the human being who happens to be a slave. Parents love their children, because they have produced them; thus the mother tends to feel more affection than the father. A good friend will not complain about giving more than one receives, but a friend concerned with usefulness will. Thus friendships based on character last longer. One must love oneself as well as one's friend, as loving a friend is loving another self. One must make effort to avoid vice and be good in order to be a good friend. Goodwill alone tends to lack the intensity and desire of friendship; yet goodwill can arise in the moment and be toward anyone and everyone.

Some believe that benefactors care more about their beneficiaries than the reverse the way debtors avoid their creditors, but Aristotle argued that those who do good care more about those they are helping because of the joy it brings. The base are selfish in doing everything for their own sake; the good also love themselves best but differ in that they love others as they love themselves. One cannot love others well without loving the best part of oneself which is the sovereign element of intelligence. Thus the good will love this part of themselves in order to be able to do noble actions and benefit others, while the wicked do not really love themselves, because by following base emotions they harm themselves. Some argue that the happiest, self-sufficient people do not need friends, but Aristotle held that good people need friends to whom they can do good, especially in misfortune. Humans are social beings and need to live with others.

Life is good and pleasant, because it is desired by all, especially the good and happy. Aristotle foreshadowed the insights of Descartes and Berkeley when he wrote that in thinking we perceive that we think, which means that we must exist, since existence is perceiving or thinking. This perceiving that we are living is pleasant; for existence is good, and perceiving this goodness is pleasant. The ethically good person has the same attitude toward oneself as toward one's friend, since a friend is another self. Thus one's friend's existence is desirable too, and so to be happy one needs good friends. Although one may have many friends who are virtuous, it is practical to have only a few intimate friends, nor can one really be in love with more than one person according to Aristotle. Friends are most needed in bad fortune, but it is more noble to have friends in good fortune. One wishes to pursue activities with one's friends, and so best friends live together.

Aristotle found that not all pleasures are desirable, though he observed that drawing such distinctions is not a strong point for most people. Pleasure is valuable though in making judgment more perceptive and execution more accurate, for those who enjoy a particular activity tend to become good at it. A pleasurable activity can draw one's attention from some other activity, and pain from an activity can also destroy it. Pleasures from ethically good activities are good, while those from base activities are bad. For Aristotle pleasures of the mind are superior to those of the senses. What is real and true is determined best by the good person. Virtuous actions that perform noble and good deeds are desirable for their own sake and are most happy. Pleasant amusements are also sought for their own sake, but for Aristotle it is childish to exert serious efforts for amusements.

The highest virtue relates to the highest part of ourselves, which is intelligence. Intelligent activity can be performed more continuously and easily than any other kind of action. The wise person requires the necessities of life but, unlike the just and courageous persons, does not need anyone else to exercise the intellect in study, and the wiser one is the more one can do it by oneself. As intelligence is the most divine quality, the life guided by intelligence is more divine. This highest and best controlling part of us is our true self and acts according to virtue. Thus for Aristotle contemplative activity surpasses all others in bliss. One still needs external goods to live as a human, but the wise will not possess them in excess. Those who cultivate intelligence best are most beloved of the gods and presumably happiest.

Most people though are not guided by goodness and nobility, but they are swayed by fear of punishment more than shame of disgrace. Influenced by emotions, they pursue pleasures and avoid pains. Aristotle asked how could such people be transformed by argument. Some argue that people are good by nature, others by habit, and others by teaching. Nature is beyond our power. Teaching is not effective in all cases, because the listener must first be conditioned by appropriate habits. To give the right training from the beginning, one must be brought up under the right laws, which also can regulate the actions of adults. Law has the power to compel; while people resent those who oppose their impulses, the law is not as invidious. Thus anyone who wants to make people better ought to study legislation, and so Aristotle turned next to politics and governmental constitutions.

Aristotle's Politics

Many of Aristotle's prejudices came out in his Politics. He believed that barbarians and slaves are identical and that the Greeks ought to rule over both. He also quoted Homer for the long-standing practice that men ought to have the power of law over children and wives. Aristotle believed that humans are political animals and only a sub-human like the war-mad man of Homer has no family, no morals, and no home. Wickedness that is armed is the hardest to handle. Justice is the essential basis of political association. Aristotle was aware that some people believed there is no difference in the nature of slaves and that as a form of rule based on force it is wrong. Aristotle considered property and tools essential to a minimum standard of wealth and the good life. He included tamed animals and slaves as tools and the master's property. He believed that some by nature should rule and others serve. When the mind rules over the body, a person is in a good state; when the body rules over the mind, one is in a bad condition. He believed that as the mind is to rule the emotions, so too men are to rule over women.

Aristotle said that where the discrepancy among people is the same as that between people and animals, then the inferior ought to be slave to the superior. However, I don't believe it is at all clear, as he said it is, that such a discrepancy among humans exists in nature, although it may have seemed to exist within his society. Again Aristotle mentioned those versed in law who protested legal slavery as contrary to law, which should restrain such violence. They held there is no justification for overpowering others by violence to make them property. Others believed that the stronger should rule; they said enslavement by war is right, though often the war may have been unjust. Aristotle hoped for mutual affection between masters and slaves, but he found this did not occur when the slavery arose from the use of such force. The original means of getting slaves was by raiding and hunting. Aristotle held that plants exist for the sake of animals, and animals for the sake of humans. War, of which hunting was a part, was a way of acquiring property, and he justified its use against men. Aristotle noted that rule over slaves is different from the rule over free and equal persons which constitutes the government of a state.

Aristotle noted that money-making is one pursuit that can have no limit. He criticized excessive commercial trade and was particularly against charging interest for the loan of money as most contrary to nature. He observed that a monopoly was a way of making money, and that it is used by governments as well as private interests. He reported how the Sicilian tyrant Dionysius expelled a citizen for monopolizing iron as detrimental to the country. Aristotle, mistakenly I believe, found no deliberative faculty in slaves and observed that it was inoperative in women and undeveloped in children. These observations were undoubtedly due to social conditions. However, he did believe that these faculties should be developed by education in women and children so that they could become good.

Aristotle compared several forms of government starting with those recommended by Plato. He believed that having wives and children in common was unworkable. He found too much emphasis on unity in Plato's Republic. It is easier for a family to have unity, but a state is based on cooperative self-sufficiency, which requires more specialization and less unity. He noticed a logical error in the concept of having all things in common, because in practice everyone could not use all things; thus it was an impossible situation. In common ownership there would be less respect for property, because people are more careful with their own possessions. They only care for public property in so far as it affects them. Similarly with children, no one would care much about any of them. He suggested sarcastically that perhaps having children in common might be better for the farming class, because with less affection between them they would be less likely to revolt.

Aristotle did believe in friendly feelings in cities as a safeguard against strife, but he thought that by sharing wives and children the feelings of affection would be lukewarm and watered down without any sense of what is one's own that one loves specially. Also he predicted that the transfers from one class to another because of different natures would not be conducive to brotherhood but would lead to problems and crime. He also criticized Plato's communistic system for taking away the incentives of work by equalizing income; he believed that private ownership worked much better, though he suggested the right use of property can be communal if the lawgiver makes the citizens disposed to this. Ownership is pleasurable and natural; selfishness is only condemned when it is excessive. Greed is bad, but everyone likes to have their bit of property. There is also the pleasure of giving and helping others. In the communal system there would be no self-restraint in sexual passion and no liberality with money.

The complaints that people have about broken contracts and the undue influence of the wealthy arise from the defects of character, and there are even more such disputes in shared ownership. A state that becomes too unified could be much worse like a monotone without variety and harmony. The plurality of a state can develop unity through education, which is a much better method for training character than regulating property. Aristotle suspected that Plato's farmers, who would have to pay rent, would be more troublesome than the Helots and slaves they knew. He considered women doing the same work as men futile, since men do not do housework, once again showing his social conditioning.

Aristotle also criticized Plato's Laws for relying too much on virtue without being liberal. Both are needed, because virtue alone is too hard, and liberality alone is too easy. He thought that leaving the number of births unrestricted would lead to poverty, discontent, and crime. Equality of wealth would not put an end to stealing, and the upper class, discontent with equality, would want more. Aristotle's suggestion was that the upper class should not wish to get more (He did not say how - presumably by education.), and the inferior should not be able to because they are weaker though not downtrodden.

Aristotle agreed with the Spartan custom that citizens should be free of all menial tasks, but he found that Spartan women indulged in every luxury and license. He criticized Spartan inequality of property and noted that the number of full citizens had fallen below one thousand. He seemed to like Cretan government better although it wasn't much different, and he disliked the importance of money in Carthage. He credited Charondas as being the first to make perjury an indictable offense.

The constitution for Aristotle is the way of organizing the people living in the state. Citizens are those who participate in the legal, political, and administrative judgment and authority of the state. Citizenship was usually based on birth and often on some property standard. In democratic constitutions the people are supreme, in oligarchies the few. Constitutions that aim at the common good are right and those aiming only at the good of the rulers are deviations and wrong. The deviation of a monarchy is a tyranny, of an aristocracy an oligarchy, and of what he called a polity a democracy. Democratic concepts of justice are based on equality, oligarchic on superiority. Aristotle noted that people generally are bad judges where their own interests are involved. The state is more than an investment to provide a living but is to make life worth while; it is more than a community living in the same place promoting the exchange of goods and services; it ought to promote living well a full and satisfying life that includes culture, civic associations, and religion.

The majority by taking and distributing the possessions of the few can destroy a state just as much as can a tyrant, nor is it just for the wealthy few to rule by plunder. Aristotle's fourth alternative is that the good should govern, and the fifth is rule by the best person. He also observed that the many collectively may rule better than any single person, as a feast in which many contribute is better than one given at one person's expense. In addition to birth and property Aristotle considered the virtues of justice and military prowess to be needed. Justice means equality and fairness for all, but for Aristotle apparently that meant only all citizens, not all the people.

Aristotle delineated four kinds of constitutional kingship as (1) the old heroic monarchy in which the king's duty was defined as judge, military commander, and religious head; (2) the hereditary despotic monarchy of barbarians that was considered legal; (3) an elected dictator; and (4) the Lacedaemonian dual kingship which was a hereditary generalship for life. A fifth kind was unrestricted control of everything, though that is not constitutional monarchy but tyranny. Aristotle asked whether rule by the best person is better or by the best laws. Laws can only enunciate principles, while a human has feelings and can give sounder counsel in individual cases; but laws must be laid down to guard against personal whims. Many judges are less corruptible than one judge and less likely to have a warped view. Based on his observation of history, Aristotle believed that hereditary succession was harmful, although sometimes a good family can rule well.

Aristotle defined the constitution as the arrangement for distributing offices of power and for determining the sovereignty and its ends. Laws prescribe the rules by which the rulers rule and transgressors of the laws are restrained. He listed five classes: (1) farmers who make up the bulk of the people; (2) urban workers; (3) commercial traders; (4) hired laborers; and (5) defenders in war. Aristotle then added a class of well-to-do, who serve with their possessions, and a class of government employees. Democracies can limit citizenship by property and by birth; they can be ruled by law, or the people can be made sovereign without law. When there are no laws, there is no constitution. Oligarchies can restrict offices to those with property of differing amounts or can be ruled by hereditary officers with or without laws. Aristotle noted that the majority principle may be used among the oligarchies as well as in the democracies, as a majority of those participating determines policy.

In looking for the virtuous mean Aristotle, hoping for an aristocratic polity, recommended a combination of democracy and oligarchy, preferring oligarchic selection to choosing officials by lot while favoring the democratic freedom from property qualification. In framing laws he suggested giving the middle class the greatest consideration, for he believed it would be unlikely for the rich and poor to make common cause against them. In analyzing revolutions he found that those bent on equality may revolt if they believe they have less, and those wanting superiority revolt if they are not getting more. Other motives include profit and dignity, and the origins of disorders are cruelty, fear, excessive power, contemptuous attitudes, disproportionate aggrandizement, and the nonviolent methods of lobbying and intrigue.

Those bent on profiting themselves may be cruel and oppressive. Dignity is affected when people see others honored and themselves degraded. Criminals fearing punishment may revolt. A small power group may become excessive. The larger class may have contempt for the oligarchs, or in democracies the upper classes may have contempt for the disorder and inefficiency. In a democracy a disproportionate growth of the number of poor may become unstable, or too much increase of wealth among the rich may lead to a strong power-group. Lobbying can change the constitution without violence which may be done overtly, because of lack of vigilance, or so gradually that it is not noticed. From history Aristotle also found that the most potent cause of revolution in democracies was the unprincipled character of popular leaders who often by malicious prosecutions against property-owners caused them to join forces.

Governments are stabilized by loyalty to the established constitution, capacity for the work, and the virtues of goodness and honesty. Tyrants tend to have a guard of foreign mercenaries rather than a citizen guard, and they maintain their power by making sure the people have no minds of their own, do not trust each other, and have no means of carrying out anything. Aristotle gave several examples of tyrannical policies.

The foundation of democratic constitutions is liberty in which the poor have more sovereign power than the propertied class, for being more numerous they are the prevailing majority. Aristotle also described this society as under the "live as you like" principle. The features of democracy include elections in which all citizens are eligible for office, some offices filled by lot, little or no property qualification for office, limited terms for office-holders, juries chosen from all the citizens, a sovereign assembly or council, and pay for serving on juries, the assembly, council, and in offices. Aristotle felt that an agricultural democracy was best, because farmers kept busy, rarely attended the assembly, and did not lack necessities. Aristotle suggested that money from fines go for sacred purposes so that people won't fine too much to gain funds for the government. Guarding prisoners is unpleasant work, and they need to be well-paid so that they can be accountable and not have a free hand to disregard the laws. Aristotle summarized the services of government as "religion, defense, income and expenditure, trade, the town and harbor, the countryside, legal administration, registration of contracts, prisons and the execution of judgment, auditing and review of accounts, examination of the holders of office, and finally discussion and decision on the affairs of the nation."5

Aristotle found that those who value wealth wanted the city to be prosperous, those who value power wanted it to rule over extensive dominions, and those who value virtue wanted the city to excel in justice and goodness. He criticized Sparta and Crete for designing their educational systems for war and military power as do the Scythians, Persians, Thracians, and Celts. In Carthage, Macedonia, and Iberia soldiers were honored with some distinction for having killed an enemy. Aristotle attributed the fall of Sparta to its militaristic system, and he could not applaud lawgivers who train their people to acquire power and rule over their neighbors. For Aristotle military training should be only for defense against subjection, to win leadership in order to benefit others but not to dominate, and in order to be master over the slaves. Military states, he found, generally fight wars and survive; but once they have established an empire, they decline, because they are not educated for peace.

He believed it was just to serve only someone who was superior in virtue and in the ability to perform good actions. If happiness is doing well, then the active life is better both for the individual and the whole community. Aristotle listed the necessities as food, handicrafts and their tools, arms, wealth, religion, and most essential is a method of arriving at decisions. For Aristotle slaves were necessary for the agricultural work so that the citizens could handle the civic and military duties as well as religious functions as they got older. This class distinction he traced back to the earliest civilizations in Egypt and Crete. Although all creatures live by nature and some by habit, Aristotle believed that only humans use reason, which can enable one to do many things contrary to nature, and habit when one is convinced it is a better course. People do not object to letting older people rule more, because they hope to earn their chance to rule also.

Along with courage and steadfastness for work, Aristotle believed that we need intellectual ability for cultivated leisure as well as honesty and restraint at all times, especially in peace. Thus Aristotle turned to education and agreed with Plato on many things such as the importance of play for children and having inspectors to choose children's stories and censoring unseemly talk; but he disagreed in letting children cry so that they could exercise their lungs. He recognized the need to control population and approved of abortion before the embryo has acquired life and sensation. He did not approve of extra-marital sex with persons of either sex. Aristotle did not believe that children should view comedies until they are old enough to drink. He thought education for the citizens ought to be a national concern, and he considered degrading occupations or work for money as deleterious to the body's condition. In addition to reading and writing and gymnastics, Aristotle was also very particular about the kind of music that ought to be taught. Children should not be allowed to view art that is not truly ethical.

A work by Aristotle or his followers on economics or household management is about the relationship between a man and a woman as the most natural of all relationships that in humans can be based on mutual help, goodwill, and cooperation. Parents take care of their children when they are young and weak, and later the children can care for the parents when they become old and weak. Aristotle believed that women are better fitted for quiet employments requiring patience, while men are more active and stronger. The mother nurtures the children, and the father educates them. The man should not do wrong to the woman, such as by associating with other women, while women should not importune their husbands nor be restless during their absences. This book also discusses the proper treatment of slaves. To develop trust one should not allow them to be insolent nor mistreat them. Aristotle recommended setting the prize of freedom as an incentive for good work with a definite time when it can be attained, and he also advised frequent inspections of workers or stewards and developing good habits of management without procrastination.

The second book of the Oeconomica cites numerous historical examples of how devious rulers raised money to pay their soldiers. The third book only survived in Latin translations of the 13th century and is about the relationship between husband and wife. A good wife is responsible for administering the internal functions of the home, the husband the external concerns, although the wife is expected to obey her husband. Virtue is emphasized, and it is noted that only a great soul can handle troubles and wrongs without committing a base act. Correctly reared children will grow up to be virtuous, but parents who are not just will find them rebelling. Aristotle praised fidelity and warned the husband against promiscuity as well as the wife, for it is a shame to have children outside of marriage. The husband who learns how to master himself can then teach his wife to follow his example. Aristotle saw no greater blessing on earth than a husband and wife ruling their home in harmony of mind and will. After each other their duties extend to their children, their friends, and their estate. By treating their entire household as a common possession they can vie with each other to see who can contribute the most to the common welfare and excel in virtue.


The line of Cynic philosophers goes back to a disciple of Socrates named Antisthenes, who emulated his hardihood and disregard of feeling. Antisthenes, who was about twenty years younger than Socrates and about twenty years older than Plato, lived in the Peiraeus and walked the five miles each day to hear Socrates. He considered the most necessary part of learning getting rid of having anything to unlearn. He said it was a royal privilege to do good and be called evil. He pointed to Heracles and Cyrus to show that pain could be a good thing. Antisthenes said he would rather be mad than feel pleasure. He had few students because he used a silver rod to eject them, and he criticized them the way a physician treats a patient. He preferred crows who eat the dead to flatterers who devour the living. He believed those who would be immortal ought to live justly and piously, and states are doomed when they cannot distinguish the good from the bad. Antisthenes criticized Plato for his pride. He maintained that virtue had to do with actions not words. The wise are guided by virtue and not by laws of the state. The good deserve to be loved, and virtue cannot be taken away and is the same for men and women.

Diogenes lived to be over eighty and died about the same time as Alexander in 323 BC. Diogenes was the son of a banker in Sinope, and both were banished for adulterating the coinage, which Diogenes admitted later. In Athens Antisthenes tried to discourage Diogenes, but Diogenes persisted by offering his head to the staff of Antisthenes saying, "Strike, for you will find no wood hard enough to keep me away from you, so long as I think you've something to say."6 Antisthenes then accepted him as a pupil, and Diogenes began a simple life. Wandering and begging for his food, Diogenes used any place he could find for eating, sleeping, conversing, or any other purpose. He found that the Athenians had provided him with places to live in the portico of Zeus and the hall of the processions. To inure himself to hardship he would roll in hot sand in the summer and embrace snow-covered statues in the winter. Diogenes found that despising pleasure itself could be most pleasurable once one was accustomed to it. When begging charity in his poverty, Diogenes asked them to give to him if they have given to anyone else; or if they had not, to begin with him. The love of money he called the mother-city of all evils.

Diogenes scorned the school of Euclides as cholic, Plato's lectures as a waste of time, and Dionysian performances as peep-shows for fools. Demogogues he called lackeys of the mob. When he observed philosophers and physicians, he called humans the most intelligent animal; but seeing diviners puffed up by wealth, he thought no animal more silly. Once Diogenes trampled on the carpets of Plato, saying he was trampling on his pride; but Plato replied that Diogenes had a different kind of pride. When Plato was applauded for defining humans as featherless bipeds, Diogenes plucked a fowl and took it to Plato's lecture room as "Plato's person." Diogenes mocked Plato's ideas of tablehood and cuphood, and he considered himself a Socrates gone mad.

One day Diogenes lit a lamp and went around saying he was seeking a person, a story that later became a search for an honest person. Diogenes wondered at the grammarians who investigate the ills of Odysseus but are ignorant of their own, or the musicians who tune their lyres but leave the dispositions of their souls discordant, or at orators who make a fuss about justice in their speeches but never practice it, or the avaricious who criticize money while being so fond of it. He got angry at those who sacrificed to the gods for health and feasted to their own health's detriment. One day when a child drank out of his hands, he threw away his cup, because a child had surpassed him in plainness of living. He reasoned that all things belong to the gods; the wise are friends of the gods; since friends have all things in common, all things belong to the wise. Diogenes opposed fortune with courage, convention with nature, and passion with reason. When someone complained that he was not adapted to the study of philosophy, Diogenes asked why he lived, if he did not care to live well. Diogenes held that education is a controlling grace to the young, consolation to the old, wealth to the poor, and an ornament to the rich. Diogenes believed that the most beautiful thing in the world is freedom of speech.

When Athenians urged him to become initiated so that he would enjoy a special privilege in the other world, Diogenes thought it ludicrous that this could cause those of no account to live in the Isles of the Blessed. Observing a religious purification, he asked the priest if he knew that he could no more get rid of errors of conduct by sprinkling than he could so correct errors of grammar. He reproached people for praying for what they thought was good instead of what is truly good. Diogenes often insisted that the gods had given humans everything they need to live easily, but they wanted honeycakes and ointments and other such things. When he saw temple officials leading away someone for stealing a bowl that belonged to the treasurers, Diogenes commented that the great thieves were leading away the little thief.

When strangers asked to see Demosthenes, Diogenes pointed him out with his middle finger and called him the demagogue of Athens. He noted how much difference a finger could make in human attitudes. After the battle of Charonea, Diogenes was taken and dragged off to Philip, who asked him who he was. Diogenes replied that he was a spy on his insatiable greed, for which he was admired and set free. Alexander said that if he had not been Alexander he would have liked to have been Diogenes. When Diogenes was sunning himself in the Craneum, Alexander came and stood over him saying that he could have anything he wished. Diogenes simply asked Alexander to move out of his sunlight. Alexander said that he was Alexander the great king, and he said that he was Diogenes the hound. Asked why he was called that, Diogenes replied that he fawned on those who gave him anything, yelped at those who refused, and put his teeth into rascals. Asked where he was from one time, Diogenes said that he was a citizen of the world, perhaps the first use of the term "cosmopolitan." He believed that the only true commonwealth is as wide as the universe, and he advocated the community of wives with no marriage other than consenting union by persuasion. Children thus would also be held in common.

When Diogenes was captured and put up for sale as a slave and was asked what he could do, he said he could govern people and told the crier to announce for someone who wanted to purchase a master for himself. He told the Corinthian Xeniades who bought him that he must obey him as though he were a physician, and he educated his children. Xeniades entrusted his whole house to him and said that a good spirit had entered his house. Finally Diogenes died either from eating raw octopus, being bitten by a dog, or from holding his breath.


1. Hippocrates, Aphorisms, tr. Francis Adams, 1:1.
2. Isocrates, Panathenaicus, tr. George Norlin 12-14.
3. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, tr. R. D. Hicks, 5:20.
4. Aristotle, Rhetoric, tr. W. R. Roberts, 1:13, 1373b.
5. Aristotle, Politics, tr. J. A. Sinclair, 6:8.
6. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, tr. R. D. Hicks, 6:21.

Copyright � 1998 by Sanderson Beck

Greek Culture to 500 BC
Greek Politics and Wars 500-360 BC
Greek Theatre
Socrates, Xenophon, and Plato
Isocrates, Aristotle, and Diogenes
Philip, Demosthenes, and Alexander

Chronological Index

BECK index



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