Aristotle

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The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.
Piety requires us to honor truth above our friends.

Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotelēs; 384 BC – 7 March 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and a scientist.

Quotes[edit]

Quotations from Aristotle are often cited by Bekker numbers, which are keyed to the original Greek and therefore independent of the translation used.
  • Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.
    • Eudemian Ethics, Book VII, 1238.a20
  • Remember that time slurs over everything, let all deeds fade, blurs all writings and kills all memories. Except are only those which dig into the hearts of men by love.
    • Free translation from the French version of a letter named "The Letter of Aristotle to Alexander on the Policy toward the Cities". Basis for translation: Lettre d’Aristote à Alexandre sur la politique envers les cités, Arabic text edition and translated/edited by Józef Bielawski and Marian Plezia (Warsaw: Polish Academy of Sciences, 1970), page 72.
  • My lectures are published and not published; they will be intelligible to those who heard them, and to none beside.

Parts of Animals[edit]

  • Ἐν πᾶσι γὰρ τοῖς φυσικοῖς ἔνεστί τι θαυμαστόν.
    • In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
    • Book I, 645.a16
  • We should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful.
    • Book I, 645.a21
  • The essential nature (concerning the soul) cannot be corporeal, yet it is also clear that this soul is present in a particular bodily part, and this one of the parts having control over the rest (heart).
    • Parva Naturalia 467.b13–16

Generation of Animals[edit]

  • Nature flies from the infinite, for the infinite is unending or imperfect, and Nature ever seeks an end.
    • Book I, 715.b15
  • Concerning the generation of animals akin to them, as hornets and wasps, the facts in all cases are similar to a certain extent, but are devoid of the extraordinary features which characterize bees; this we should expect, for they have nothing divine about them as the bees have.
    • Book III, 761.a2
  • Just as it sometimes happens that deformed offspring are produced by deformed parents, and sometimes not, so the offspring produced by a female are sometimes female, sometimes not, but male, because the female is as it were a deformed male.
    • Generation of Animals as translated by Arthur Leslie Peck (1943), p. 175

De Anima[edit]

  • Sound is the motion of that which is able to be moved, after the manner in which those things are moved, that rebound from smooth bodies, when any one strikes them. Not every thing... sounds... but it is necessary, that the body which is struck should be equable, that the air may collectively rebound, and be shaken. The differences, however, of bodies which sound, are manifested in the sound, which is in energy; for, as colours are not perceived without light, so neither are the sharp and the flat perceived without sound. But these things are asserted metaphorically, from those which pertain to the touch; for the sharp moves the sense much in a short time, but the flat a little in a long time. The sharp, therefore, is not rapid, and the flat slow; but such a motion is produced of the one, on account of celerity, and of the other on account of slowness, that, also, which is perceived in the touch, appears to be analogous to the acute and obtuse, for the acute, as it were, stings; but the obtuse, as it were, impels: because the one moves in a short, but the other in a long time. Hence it happens that the one is swift but the other slow. Let it therefore be thus determined concerning sound.
    • Book II
  • But voice is a certain sound of that which is animated; for nothing inanimate emits a voice; but they are said to emit a voice from similitude, as a pipe, and a lyre, and such other inanimate things, have extension, modulation, and dialect; for thus it appears, because voice, also, has these.
    • Book II

Physics[edit]

  • The natural way of doing this [seeking scientific knowledge or explanation of fact] is to start from the things which are more knowable and obvious to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more knowable by nature; for the same things are not 'knowable relatively to us' and 'knowable' without qualification. So in the present inquiry we must follow this method and advance from what is more obscure by nature, but clearer to us, towards what is more clear and more knowable by nature. Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused masses, the elements and principles of which became known to us by later analysis...
    • A.1, 184.a16 sqq.

De Cælo[edit]

  • The bodies of which the world is composed are solids, and therefore have three dimensions. Now, three is the most perfect number,—it is the first of numbers, for of one we do not speak as a number, of two we say both, but three is the first number of which we say all. Moreover, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
    • I. 1. as translated by William Whewell and as quoted by Florian Cajori, A History of Physics in its Elementary Branches (1899) as Aristotle's proof that the world is perfect.
  • ...suppose α without weight, but β possessing weight; and let α pass over space γδ, but β in the same time pass over a space γε,—for that which has weight will be carried through the larger space. If now the heavy body be divided in the proportion that space γε bears to γδ, ...and if the whole is carried through the whole space γε, then it must be that a part in the same time would be carried through γδ...
    • Book III Ch. II as quoted by Florian Cajori (1899), as Aristotle's explanation of why bodies fall quicker in exact proportion to their weight.
  • That body is heavier than another which, in an equal bulk, moves downward quicker.

Metaphysics[edit]

  • All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer sight to almost everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.
    • Book I, 980.a21: Opening paragraph of Metaphysics
    • Variant: All men by nature desire knowledge...
    • The first sentence is in the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2005), 21:10.
  • πάντων γὰρ ὅσα πλείω μέρη ἔχει καὶ μὴ ἔστιν οἷον σωρὸς τὸ πᾶν
    • ... the totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something besides the parts ...
    • Book VIII, 1045a.8–10
    • Cf. Euclid, Elements, Book I, Common Notion 5: "Καὶ τὸ ὅλον τοῦ μέρους μεῖζον [And the whole is greater than the part.]."
  • If, then, God is always in that good state in which we sometimes are, this compels our wonder; and if in a better this compels it yet more. And God is in a better state. And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God's self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal.
    • Book XII, 1072.b24
  • Those who assert that the mathematical sciences say nothing of the beautiful or the good are in error. For these sciences say and prove a great deal about them; if they do not expressly mention them, but prove attributes which are their results or definitions, it is not true that they tell us nothing about them. The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree.
    • Book XIII, 1078.a33

Nicomachean Ethics[edit]

  • If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.
    • Book I, 1094.a18
  • It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.
    • Book I, 1094.b24
  • The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.
    • Book I, 1096.a5
  • Piety requires us to honor truth above our friends.
    • Book I, 1096.a16
  • For just as for a flute-player, a sculptor, or an artist, and, in general, for all things that have a function or activity, the good and the well is thought to reside in the function, so would it seem to be for man, if he has a function.
    • Book I, 1097.b25
  • If ... we state the function of man to be a certain kind of life, and this to be an activity or actions of the soul implying a rational principle, and the function of a good man to be the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the appropriate excellence ... human good turns out to be activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the best and most complete.
    • Book I, 1098.a13
  • One swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.
    • Book I, 1098.a18
  • For some identify happiness with virtue, some with practical wisdom, others with a kind of philosophic wisdom, others with these, or one of these, accompanied by pleasure or not without pleasure; while others include also external prosperity. Now ... it is not probable that these should be entirely mistaken, but rather that they should be right in at least some one respect or even in most respects.
    • Book I, 1098.b23
  • For pleasure is a state of soul, and to each man that which he is said to be a lover of is pleasant.... Now for most men their pleasures are in conflict with one another because these are not by nature pleasant, but the lovers of what is noble find pleasant the things that are by nature pleasant; and virtuous actions are such... Happiness then is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world, and these attributes are not severed as in the inscription at Delos: Most noble is that which is justest, and best is health; but pleasantest is it to win what we love.
    • Book I, 1099.a6
  • Everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature as good as it can be, and similarly everything that depends on art or any rational cause, and especially if it depends on the best of all causes. To entrust to chance what is greatest and most noble would be a very defective arrangement.
    • Book I, 1099.b22: Quoted in Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2005), 21:8.
  • The truly good and wise man will bear all kinds of fortune in a seemly way, and will always act in the noblest manner that the circumstances allow.
    • Book I, 1101.a
  • May not we then confidently pronounce that man happy who realizes complete goodness in action, and is adequately furnished with external goods? Or should we add, that he must also be destined to go on living not for any casual period but throughout a complete lifetime in the same manner, and to die accordingly, because the future is hidden from us, and we conceive happiness as an end, something utterly and absolutely final and complete? If this is so, we shall pronounce those of the living who possess and are destined to go on possessing the good things we have specified to be supremely blessed, though on the human scale of bliss.
    • Book I, 1101.a10
  • For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.
    • Book II, 1103.a33: Cited in: Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2005), 21:9.
  • For legislators make the citizens good by forming habits in them, and this is the wish of every legislator, and those who do not effect it miss their mark, and it is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one.
    • Book II, 1103.b4
  • .... In a word, acts of any kind produce habits or characters of the same kind. Hence we ought to make sure that our acts are of a certain kind; for the resulting character varies as they vary. It makes no small difference, therefore, whether a man be trained in his youth up in this way or that, but a great difference, or rather all the difference.
    • Book II, 1103.b
  • It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good. But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do.
    • Book II, 1105.b9
  • Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited ... and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult—to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.
    • Book II, 1106.b28
  • The vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate.
    • Book II, 1107.a4
    • Variant: Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue finds and chooses the mean.
  • In cases of this sort, let us say adultery, rightness and wrongness do not depend on committing it with the right woman at the right time and in the right manner, but the mere fact of committing such action at all is to do wrong.
    • Book II, 1107.a15
  • οὕτω δὲ καὶ τὸ μὲν ὀργισθῆναι παντὸς καὶ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ τὸ δοῦναι ἀργύριον καὶ δαπανῆσαι· τὸ δ᾽ ᾧ καὶ ὅσον καὶ ὅτε καὶ οὗ ἕνεκα καὶ ὥς, οὐκέτι παντὸς οὐδὲ ῥᾴδιον
    • Any one can get angry — that is easy — or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy.
    • Book II, 1109.a27.
    • Variant translation: Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.
      • As quoted in The Child: At Home and School (1944) by Edith M. Leonard, Lillian E. Miles, and Catherine S. Van der Kar, p. 203
  • We must as second best, as people say, take the least of the evils.
    • Book II, 1109.a34
  • Therefore only an utterly senseless person can fail to know that our characters are the result of our conduct.
    • Book III, 5.12
    • Variant: Now not to know that it is from the exercise of activities on particular objects that states of character are produced is the mark of a thoroughly senseless person.
  • Change in all things is sweet.
    • Book VII, 14
    • Remark: While this quote is known as Aristotle's, he did not proposed as his own saying, but as a citation from the other author. The full text is: But 'change in all things is sweet', as the poet says, because of some vice.
  • ἄνευ γὰρ φίλων οὐδεὶς ἕλοιτ᾽ ἂν ζῆν, ἔχων τὰ λοιπὰ ἀγαθὰ πάντα
    • Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.
    • Book VIII, 1155.a5
  • When people are friends, they have no need of justice, but when they are just, they need friendship in addition.
    • Book VIII, 1155.a26
  • The best friend is he that, when he wishes a person's good, wishes it for that person's own sake.
    • Book IX, 1168.b1
    • Variants: My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.
      The best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.
  • After these matters we ought perhaps next to discuss pleasure. For it is thought to be most intimately connected with our human nature, which is the reason why in educating the young we steer them by the rudders of pleasure and pain; it is thought, too, that to enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on virtue of character. For these things extend right through life, with a weight and power of their own in respect both to virtue and to the happy life, since men choose what is pleasant and avoid what is painful; and such things, it will be thought, we should least of all omit to discuss, especially since they admit of much dispute.
    • Book X, 1172.a17
  • And happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace.
    • Book X, 1177.b4
  • Now the activity of the practical virtues is exhibited in political or military affairs, but the actions concerned with these seem to be unleisurely. Warlike actions are completely so (for no one chooses to be at war, or provokes war, for the sake of being at war; any one would seem absolutely murderous if he were to make enemies of his friends in order to bring about battle and slaughter); but the action of the statesman is also unleisurely, and-apart from the political action itself-aims at despotic power and honours, or at all events happiness, for him and his fellow citizens-a happiness different from political action, and evidently sought as being different. So if among virtuous actions political and military actions are distinguished by nobility and greatness, and these are unleisurely and aim at an end and are not desirable for their own sake, but the activity of reason, which is contemplative, seems both to be superior in serious worth and to aim at no end beyond itself, and to have its pleasure proper to itself (and this augments the activity), and the self-sufficiency, leisureliness, unweariedness (so far as this is possible for man), and all the other attributes ascribed to the supremely happy man are evidently those connected with this activity, it follows that this will be the complete happiness of man, if it be allowed a complete term of life.
    • Book X, 1177.b6

Politics[edit]

If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.
The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
Full text online on Wikisource
  • Nature does nothing uselessly.
    • Book I, 1253.a8
  • Further, the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part; for example, if the whole body be destroyed, there will be no foot or hand, except in an equivocal sense, as we might speak of a stone hand; for when destroyed the hand will be no better than that. But things are defined by their working and power; and we ought not to say that they are the same when they no longer have their proper quality, but only that they have the same name.
    • Book I, Part II
  • The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole.
    • Book I, Part II
  • He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.
    • Book I, 1253.a27
  • Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.
    • Book I, 1253.a31
  • Money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.
    • Book I, 1258.b4
  • Men ... are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody's friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause — the wickedness of human nature.
    • Book II, 1263.b15
  • One would have thought that it was even more necessary to limit population than property; and that the limit should be fixed by calculating the chances of mortality in the children, and of sterility in married persons. The neglect of this subject, which in existing states is so common, is a never-failing cause of poverty among the citizens; and poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
  • It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.
    • Book II, 1267.b4
  • Again, men in general desire the good, and not merely what their fathers had.
    • Book II, 1269.a4
  • Even when laws have been written down, they ought not always to remain unaltered.
    • Book II, 1269.a9
  • That judges of important causes should hold office for life is a disputable thing, for the mind grows old as well as the body.
    • Book II, 1270.b39
  • They should rule who are able to rule best.
    • Book II, 1273.b5
  • The good citizen need not of necessity possess the virtue which makes a good man.
    • Book III, 1276.b34
  • A state is not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime and for the sake of exchange.... Political society exists for the sake of noble actions, and not of mere companionship.
    • Book III, 1280.b30–1281.a3
  • If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.
    • Book IV, 1291.b34
  • Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions.
    • Book V, 1302.a29
  • Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms.
    • Book V, 1311.a11
  • A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
    • Book V,1314.b39
  • The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
    • Book VI, 1317.a40
  • Happiness, whether consisting in pleasure or virtue, or both, is more often found with those who are highly cultivated in their minds and in their character, and have only a moderate share of external goods, than among those who possess external goods to a useless extent but are deficient in higher qualities.
    • Book VII, 1323.b1
  • But that the unequal should be given to equals, and the unlike to those who are like, is contrary to nature, and nothing which is contrary to nature is good.
    • Book VII 3.5, 1325.b
  • Those who live in a cold climate and in [northern] Europe are full of spirit, but wanting in intelligence and skill; and therefore they keep their freedom, but have no political organization, and are incapable of ruling over others. Whereas the natives of Asia are intelligent and inventive, but they are wanting in spirit, and therefore they are always in a state of subjection and slavery. But the Hellenic race, which is situated between them, is likewise intermediate in character, being high-spirited and also intelligent. Hence it continues free, and is the best governed of any nation, and, if it could be formed into one state, would be able to rule the world.
  • Let us then enunciate the functions of a state and we shall easily elicit what we want: First there must be food; secondly, arts, for life requires many instruments; thirdly, there must be arms, for the members of a community have need of them, and in their own hands, too, in order to maintain authority both against disobedient subjects and against external assailants....
    • Book VII, 1328.b4
  • The appropriate age for marriage is around eighteen for girls and thirty-seven for men.
    • Book VII, 1335.a27
  • It is not easy to determine the nature of music, or why any one should have a knowledge of it.
    • Book VIII, Part V
  • There can be no doubt that children should be taught those useful things which are really necessary, but not all things, for occupations are divided into liberal and illiberal; and to young children should be imparted only such kinds of knowledge as will be useful to them without vulgarizing them. And any occupation, art, or science which makes the body, or soul, or mind of the freeman less fit for the practice or exercise of virtue is vulgar; wherefore we call those arts vulgar which tend to deform the body, and likewise all paid employments, for they absorb and degrade the mind. There are also some liberal arts quite proper for a freeman to acquire, but only in a certain degree, and if he attend to them too closely, in order to attain perfection in them, the same evil effects will follow.

Economics[edit]

  • For well-being and health, again, the homestead should be airy in summer, and sunny in winter. A homestead possessing these qualities would be longer than it is deep; and its main front would face the south.
    • 1345.a20, Economics (Oeconomica), Greek Texts and Translations, Perseus under PhiloLogic.

Posterior Analytics[edit]

  • Knowledge of the fact differs from knowledge of the reason for the fact.
    • I. 13, 78.a22
  • The premisses of demonstrative knowledge must be true, primary, immediate, more knowable than and prior to the conclusion, which is further related to them as effect to cause... The premisses must be the cause of the conclusion, more knowable than it, and prior to it; its causes, since we posses scientific knowledge of a thing only when we know its cause; prior, in order to be causes; antecedently known, this antecedent knowledge being not our mere understanding of the meaning, but knowledge of the fact as well. Now 'prior' and 'more knowable' are ambiguous terms, for there is a difference between what is prior and more knowable in the order of being and what is prior and knowable to man. I mean that objects nearer to sense are prior and more knowable to man; objects without qualification prior and more knowable are those further from sense. Now the most universal causes are furthest from sense and particular causes are nearest to sense, and they are thus exactly opposed to each other.
    • I. 2, 71.b9 sqq
  • We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [all things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses—in short from fewer premisses; for... given that all these are equally well known, where they are fewer knowledge will be more speedily acquired, and that is a desideratum. The argument implied in our contention that demonstration from fewer assumptions is superior may be set out in universal form...

Rhetoric[edit]

  • It is absurd to hold that a man ought to be ashamed of being unable to defend himself with his limbs but not of being unable to defend himself with speech and reason, when the use of reason is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs.
    • Book I, 1355.b1
  • Evils draw men together.
    • Book I, 1362.b39: Quoting a proverb
  • Thus every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite.
    • Book I, 1369.a5
    • Variant: All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion and desire
  • The young have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things—and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning.... All their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything; they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.
    • Book II, 1389.a31
  • Wit is well-bred insolence.
    • Book II, 1389.b11
  • It is simplicity that makes the uneducated more effective than the educated when addressing popular audiences.
    • Book II, 1395.b27

Poetics[edit]

  • A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action ... with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions.
    • 1449.b24
  • A whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end.
    • 1450.b26
  • διὸ καὶ φιλοσοφώτερον καὶ σπουδαιότερον ποίησις ἱστορίας ἐστίν: ἡ μὲν γὰρ ποίησις μᾶλλον τὰ καθόλου, ἡ δ᾽ ἱστορία τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστον λέγει.
    • Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.
    • 1451.b6
  • Poetry demands a man with a special gift for it, or else one with a touch of madness in him.
    • 1455.a33
  • But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.
    • 1459.a4
  • Homer has taught all other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.
    • 1460.a19
    • Variant: It is Homer who has chiefly taught other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.
  • For the purposes of poetry a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility.
    • 1461.b11

Lives of Eminent Philosophers[edit]

Assertions attributed to Aristotle in Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius
  • The roots of education ... are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
  • Hope ... is a waking dream.
  • I have gained this by philosophy ... I do without being ordered what some are constrained to do by their fear of the law.
  • Liars ... when they speak the truth they are not believed.
  • To the query, "What is a friend?" his reply was "A single soul dwelling in two bodies."
    • Variants: Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
      A true friend is one soul in two bodies.
      Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
      What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.


Disputed[edit]

  • Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas.
    • Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.
    • Variant: Plato is my friend, but the truth is more my friend.
    • A similar statement was attributed to Aristotle in antiquityː "Φίλος μὲν Σωκράτης, ἀλλὰ φιλτέρα ἀλήθεια." ["Socrates is a friend, but truth is a greater."] — Ammonius Hermiae, Life of Aristotle (as translated in Dictionary of Quotations (1906) by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 527). The variant mentioned above may possibly be derived from a reduction of a statement known to have been made by Isaac Newton, who at the head of notes he titled Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae (Certain Philosophical Questions) wrote in Latin: "Amicus Plato— amicus Aristoteles— magis amica veritas" which translates to: "Plato is my friend— Aristotle is my friend— but my greatest friend is truth." (c. 1664)
    • Another possible origin of the "dear is Plato" statement is in the Nicomachean Ethics; the Ross translation (of 1096.a11–1096.a16) provides: "We had perhaps better consider the universal good and discuss thoroughly what is meant by it, although such an inquiry is made an uphill one by the fact that the Forms have been introduced by friends of our own. Yet it would perhaps be thought to be better, indeed to be our duty, for the sake of maintaining the truth even to destroy what touches us closely, especially as we are philosophers; for, while both are dear, piety requires us to honour truth above our friends."
      Note that the last clause, when quoted by itself loses the connection to "the friends" who introduced "the Forms", Plato above all. Therefore the misattribution could be the result of the "quote" actually being a paraphrase which identifies Plato where Aristotle only alludes to him circumspectly.
    • According to the notes in Plato: Republic Book X, edited by John Ferguson, p. 71, «the familiar 'amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas' is found in Cervantes' Don Quixote II 8 and cannot be traced further back. Cf. Roger Bacon Op. mai. I vii, 'amicus est Socrates, magister meus, sed magis est amica veritas'. For the opposite view, see Cicero, T.D. I 17,39, 'errare mehercule malo cum Platone . . . quam cum istis vera sentire'.»
  • The single harmony produced by all the heavenly bodies singing and dancing together springs from one source and ends by achieving one purpose, and has rightly bestowed the name not of "disordered" but of "ordered universe" upon the whole.
  • Man is a goal-seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for goals.
    • Attributed to Aristotle in Bernhoff A. Dahl, Optimize Your Life!, Trionics International Inc., 2005, p. 111.


Misattributed[edit]

  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
    • Variant: We are what we repeatedly do, therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.
    • Source: Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers (1926) [Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books, 1991, ISBN 0-671-73916-6] Ch. II: Aristotle and Greek Science; part VII: Ethics and the Nature of Happiness: "Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; 'these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions'; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit: 'the good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life... for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy'" (p. 76). The quoted phrases within the quotation are from the Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, 4; Book I, 7. The misattribution is from taking Durant's summation of Aristotle's ideas as being the words of Aristotle himself.
  • We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts not breaths; // In feelings, not in figures on a dial. // We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives // Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
    • This is actually from the poem "We live in deeds..." by Philip James Bailey. This explains the strange pattern of capitalization.
  • The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.
    • This first appears in 1974 in an explanation of Aristotle's politics in Time magazine, before being condensed to an epigram as "Aristotle's Axiom" in Peter's People (1979) by Laurence J. Peter
  • There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.
    • Source: Elbert Hubbard, John North Willys: "Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing, and you'll never be criticized."
  • Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.
    • Widely attributed since the mid to late 19th century, this apparently derives from a gloss or commentary on the following passage from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (c. 325 BC), Book 1, Ch. XI (Bekker No. 1100.b13–14):
      • ὅμως δὲ καὶ ἐν τούτοις διαλάμπει τὸ καλόν, ἐπειδὰν φέρῃ τις εὐκόλως πολλὰς καὶ μεγάλας ἀτυχίας, μὴ δι᾽ ἀναλγησίαν, ἀλλὰ γεννάδας ὢν καὶ μεγαλόψυχος. εἰ δ᾽ εἰσὶν αἱ ἐνέργειαι κύριαι τῆς ζωῆς, καθάπερ εἴπομεν, οὐδεὶς ἂν γένοιτο τῶν μακαρίων ἄθλιος
        • But nevertheless, even in these [misfortunes], nobility of the soul is conspicuous, when a man bears and digests many and great misfortunes, not from insensibility, but because he is high spirited and magnanimous. But if the energies are the things that constitute the bliss or the misery of life, as we said, no happy man can ever become miserable.
          • A New Translation of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle (1835), 3rd. ed., Oxford: J. Vincent. p. 30
        • Nevertheless even under these [misfortunes] the force of nobility shines out, when a man bears calmly many great disasters, not from insensibility, but because he is generous and of a great soul. Setting happiness then, as we do, not in the outward surroundings of man, but in his inward state, we may fairly say that no one who has attained to the bliss of virtue will ever justly become an object of pity or contempt.
          • St. George William Joseph Stock, Lectures in the Lyceum or Aristotle's ethics for English readers (1897), p. 47
  • Those who can do, those who know teach.
    • This and many similar quotes with the same general meaning are misattributed to Aristotle as a result of Twitter attribution decay. The original source of the quote remains anonymous. The oldest reference resides in the works of George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) "Maxims for Revolutionists", where he claims that “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”.

Quotes about Aristotle[edit]

  • Robert [Grosseteste] became much interested in science and scientific method... He was conscious of the dual approach by means of induction and deduction (resolution and composition); i.e., from the empirical knowledge one proceeds to probable general principles, and from these as premises one them derives conclusions which constitute verifications or falsifications of the principles. This approach to science was not that far removed from Aristotle...
  • [Aristotle] totally misrepresents Plato's doctrine of "Ideas." ... It is also pertinent to inquire, what is the difference between the "formal cause" of Aristotle and the archetypal ideas of Plato? ... Yet Aristotle is forever congratulating himself that he alone has properly treated the "formal" and the "final cause"!
    • Benjamin Franklin Cocker, in Christianity and Greek philosophy (1870), p. 299
  • According to Aristotle, scientific investigation and explanation was a twofold process, the first inductive and the second deductive. The investigator must begin with what was prior in the order of knowing, that is, with the facts observed through the senses, and he must ascend through induction to generalizations or universal forms or causes which were most remote from sensory experience, yet causing that experience and therefore prior in the order of nature. [Footnote:] The idea that the order of demonstration was the order of nature came from Plato. Aristotle said that the order of discovery was the reverse of the order of demonstration.
    • A.C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science (1953)
  • The model of scientific knowledge, in which effects could be shown to follow necessarily from their causes as conclusions from premises, Aristotle held to be mathematics, and where mathematics could be used in the natural sciences their conclusions were also exact and necessary. ...Of the inductive process by which the investigator passed from sensory experience of particular facts or connexions to a grasp of the prior demonstrative principles that explained them, Aristotle gave a clear psychological account. The final stage in the process was the sudden act by which the intuitive reason or νοῦς, after a number of experiences of facts, grasped the universal or theory explaining them, or penetrated to knowledge of the substance causing and connecting them.
    • A.C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science (1953) citing Posterior Analytics i. I, 184a26 sqq
  • It is pretty definitely settled, among men competent to form a judgment, that Aristotle was the best educated man that ever walked on the surface of this earth. He is still, as he was in Dante's time, the "master of those that know." It is, therefore, not without reason that we look to him, not only as the best exponent of ancient education, but as one of the worthiest guides and examples in education generally. That we may not lose the advantage of his example, it will be well, before we consider his educational theories, to cast a glance at his life, the process of his development, and his work.
    • Thomas Davidson, in Aristotle and Ancient Educational Ideals (1892), p. 154
  • John Philoponus (c. 490-570) of Alexandria... refuted Aristotle's theory that the velocities of falling bodies in a given medium are proportional to their weight, making the observation that "if one lets fall simultaneously from the same height two bodies differing greatly in weight, one will find that the ratio of the times of their motion does not correspond to the ratios of their weights, but the difference in time is a very small one." ...He also criticized Aristotle's antiperistasis theory of projectile motion, which states that the air displaced by the object flows back to push it from behind. Instead Philoponus concluded that "some incorporeal kinetic power is imparted by the thrower to the object thrown" and that "if an arrow or a stone is projected by force in a void, the same will happen much more easily, nothing being necessary except the thrower." This is the famous "impetus theory," which was revived in medieval Islam and again in fourteenth century Europe, giving rise to the beginning of modern dynamics.
    • John Freely, Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)
  • We have in our age new accidents and observations, and such, that I question not in the least, but if Aristotle were now alive, they would make him change his opinion; which may be easily collected from the very manner of his discoursing: For when he writeth that he e­steemeth the Heavens inalterable, &c. because no new thing was seen to be begot therein, or any old to be dissolved, he seems im­plicitely to hint unto us, that when he should see any such accident, he would hold the contrary; and confront, as indeed it is meet, sensible experiments to natural reason: for had he not made any reckoning of the senses, he would not then from the not seeing of any sensible mutation, have argued immutability.
  • Aristotle... justly reproves Democritus for saying, that if no medium were interposed, a pismire would be visible in the heavens; asserting, on the contrary, that if vacuity alone intervened, nothing possibly could be seen, because all vision is performed by changes or motions in the organ of sight; and all such changes or motions imply an interposed medium. Between the perceptions of the eye and of the ear there is a striking analogy. Bodies are only visible by their colour; and colour is only perceptible in light; and unless different motions were excited by light in the eye, colour and the distinctions of colour would no more be visible, than, independently of different vibrations communicated to the ear, sound, and the distinctions of sound, would be audible. When the vibrations in a given time are many, the sensation of sharpness or shrillness follows; when the vibrations are, in the same time, comparatively few, the sensation of flatness is the result: but the first sound does not excite many vibrations because it is shrill or sharp, but it is sharp because it excites many vibrations; and the second sound does not excite few vibrations because it is flat or grave, but it is grave because it excites few vibrations.
    • John Gillies, Aristotle's Ethics: Comprising His Practical Philosophy (1893)
  • On the authority of Aristotle... motion in the planetary world was somehow directed by the more perfect motion in higher spheres, and so on, up to the outermost sphere of fixed stars, indistinguishable from the prime mover. This implied a refined animistic and pantheistic world view, incomparably more rational than the ancient world views of Babylonians and Egyptians, among others, but a world view, nonetheless, hardly compatible with the idea of "inertial motion" which is implied in Buridan's concept of "impetus"... a momentous breaking point... which was to bear fruit... in the hands, first of Copernicus and then of Newton.
    • Julio A. Gonzalo, The Intelligible Universe: An Overview of the Last Thirteen Billion Years (2008) 2nd edn
  • Unfortunately... the philosophy of Aristotle laid it down as a principle, that the celestial motions were regulated by laws proper to themselves, and bearing no affinity to those which prevail on earth. By thus drawing a broad and impassable line of separation between celestial and terrestrial mechanics, it placed the former altogether out of the pale of experimental research, while it at the same time impeded the progress of the latter by the assumption of principles respecting natural and unnatural motions, hastily adopted from the most superficial and cursory and remark, undeserving even the name of observation. Astronomy therefore continued for ages a science of mere record, in which theory had no part, except in so far as it attempted to conciliate the inequalities of the celestial motions with that assumed law of uniform circular revolution which was alone considered consistent with the perfection of the heavenly mechanism.
  • In the old philosophy, a curious conjunction of ethical and physical prejudices had led to the notion that there was something ethically bad and physically obstructive about matter. Aristotle attributes all irregularities and apparent dysteleologies in nature to the disobedience, or sluggish yielding, of matter to the shaping and guiding influence of those reasons and causes which were hypostatised in his ideal 'Forms.'
  • Aristotle was the first accurate critic and truest judge — nay, the greatest philosopher the world ever had; for he noted the vices of all knowledges, in all creatures, and out of many men's perfections in a science he formed still one Art.
    • Ben Jonson, The works of Ben Jonson, Vol. 9 (1816), p. 240
  • Most expositions of Aristotle's doctrines, when they have not been dictated by a spirit of virulent detraction, or unsympathetic indifference, have carefully suppressed all, or nearly all, the absurdities, and only retained what seemed plausible and consistent. But in this procedure their historical significance disappears.
  • Aristotle... seems utterly destitute of any sense of the Ineffable. There is no quality more noticeable in him than his unhesitating confidence in the adequacy of the human mind to comprehend the universe... He never seems to be visited by misgivings as to the compass of human faculty, because his unhesitating mind is destitute of awe. He has no abiding consciousness of the fact deeply impressed on other minds, that the circle of the Knowable is extremely limited; and that beyond it lies a vast mystery... impenetrable. Hence the existence of Evil is no perplexity to his soul; it is accepted as a simple fact. Instead of being troubled by it, saddened by it, he quietly explains it as the consequence of Nature not having correctly written her meaning. This mystery which has darkened so many sensitive meditative minds with anguish he considered to be only bad orthography.
    • George Henry Lewes, Aristotle: a Chapter from the History of Science (1864)
  • Roger Bacon expressed a feeling which afterwards moved many minds, when he said that if he had the power he would burn all the works of the Stagirite, since the study of them was not simply loss of time, but multiplication of ignorance. Yet in spite of this outbreak every page is studded with citations from Aristotle, of whom he everywhere speaks in the highest admiration.
  • Aristotle forever, but Truth even for longer than that.
  • Aristotle, that histrionic mountebank, who from behind a Greek mask has so long bewitched the Church of Christ, that most cunning juggler of souls, who, if he had not been accredited as human blood and bone, we should have been justified in maintaining to be the veritable devil.
    • Martin Luther, in a letter to John Stuart Blackie, 1516. In Four Phases of Morals (1871)
  • Aristotle sees no difference between the falling of a leaf or a stone and the death of the good and noble people in the ship; nor does he distinguish between the destruction of a multitude of ants by an ox depositing on them his excrement and the death of worshippers killed by the fall of the house when its foundations give way. In short, the opinion of Aristotle is this: Everything is the result of management which is constant, which does not come to an end and does not change any of its properties, as e.g., the heavenly beings, and everything which continues according to a certain rule... But that which is not constant, and does not follow a certain rule... is due to chance and not to management; it is in no relation to Divine Providence. Aristotle holds that it is even impossible to ascribe to Providence that management of these things. ...It is the belief of those who turned away from our Law and said: "God hath forsaken the earth." (Ezek. ix. 9)
  • When I saw that Moses’ version of the Genesis of the world did not fit sufficiently in many ways with Aristotle and the rest of the philosophers, I began to have doubts about the truth of all philosophers and started to investigate the secrets of nature.
    • Gerardus Mercator, Evangelicæ Historiæ: Quadripartita Monas Sive Harmonia Quatuor Evangelistarum ("Harmonization of the Gospels") (1592), dedicatory letter. Quoted in Jean Van Raemdonck, Gerard Mercator: sa vie et ses oeuvres (1869), p. 25, footnote 2
  • It appears to me that there can be no question, that Aristotle stands forth, not only as the greatest figure in antiquity, but as the greatest intellect that has ever appeared upon the face of this earth.
    • George J. Romanes, as quoted in "The most important question in the world.": Is mankind advancing? (1910), p. 38
  • Aristotle, as a philosopher, is in many ways very different from all his predecessors. He is the first to write like a professor: his treatises are systematic, his discussions are divided into heads, he is a professional teacher, not an inspired prophet. His work is critical, careful, pedestrian, without any trace of Bacchic enthusiasm. The Orphic elements in Plato are watered down in Aristotle, and mixed with a strong dose of common sense; where he is Platonic, one feels that his natural temperament has been overpowered by the teaching to which he has been subjected. He is not passionate, or in any profound sense religious. The errors of his predecessors were the glorious errors of youth attempting the impossible; his errors are those of age which cannot free itself of habitual prejudices. He is best in detail and in criticism; he fails in large construction, for lack of fundamental clarity and Titanic fire.
  • Aristotelian doctrines are wholly false, with the exception of the formal theory of the syllogism, which is unimportant. Any person in the present day who wishes to learn logic will be wasting his time if he reads Aristotle or any of his disciples. Nonetheless, Aristotle’s logical writings show great ability, and would have been useful to mankind if they had appeared at a time when intellectual originality was still active. Unfortunately, they appeared at the very end of the creative period of Greek thought, and therefore came to be accepted as authoritative. By the time that logical originality revived, a reign of two thousand years had made Aristotle very difficult to dethrone. Throughout modern times, practically every advance in science, in logic, or in philosophy has had to be made in the teeth of opposition from Aristotle’s disciples.
  • Aristotle is the last Greek philosopher who faces the world cheerfully; after him, all have, in one form or another, a philosophy of retreat.
  • Aristotle, so far as I know, was the first man to proclaim explicitly that man is a rational animal. His reason for this view was one which does not now seem very impressive; it was, that some people can do sums.
    • Bertrand Russell, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish", in Unpopular Essays (1950), p. 71
  • Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted.
    • Bertrand Russell, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish", Unpopular Essays (1950).
  • To modern educated people, it seems obvious that matters of fact are to be ascertained by observation, not by consulting ancient authorities. But this is an entirely modern conception, which hardly existed before the seventeenth century. Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths. He said also that children would be healthier if conceived when the wind is in the north. One gathers that the two Mrs. Aristotles both had to run out and look at the weathercock every evening before going to bed. He states that a man bitten by a mad dog will not go mad, but any other animal will (Hiss. Am., 704a); that the bite of the shrewmouse is dangerous to horses, especially if the mouse is pregnant (ibid., 604.b); that elephants suffering from insomnia can be cured by rubbing their shoulders with salt, olive oil, and warm water (ibid., 605.a); and so on and so on. Nevertheless, classical dons, who have never observed any animal except the cat and the dog, continue to praise Aristotle for his fidelity to observation.
  • Aristotle, who foresaw so many things, never dreamed of the social truth. Cuvier, whose sagacity is so highly lauded, was constrained to yield homage to the genius of Aristotle in Natural History; for myself, who am at this date in full possession of social truth, in politics Aristotle only inspires me with profound pity.
    • Jules Sandeau, in Money-Bags and Titles: A Hit at the Follies of the Age (1850), Ch. XVIII, p. 185 (said by Timoleon to his father Levrault).
  • Aristotle especially, both by speculation and observation... reached something like the modern idea of a succession of higher organizations from lower, and made the fruitful suggestion of "a perfecting principle" in Nature. With the coming in of Christian theology this tendency toward a yet truer theory of evolution was mainly stopped, but the old crude view remained...

Sources[edit]

The quotations above may have come from these or other translations:

  • The Works of Aristotle. Ed. W. David Ross. 12 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908.
  • The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1984.
    • A revised edition of Ross's compilation of translations. Much more compact.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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