Aristotle was an ancient Greek
philosopher and scientist releasing a number of books for both professions. He
was born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidice which is located in northern Greece.
His father, Nicomachus, died when he was young so the philosopher/scientist
lived under the care of a guardian. At the age of 18, he joined Plato’s Academy
in Athens and stayed there for a long time until the age of 37. He created an
impressive variety of writings on topics like; physics, metaphysics, poetry,
theater, music, logic, biology, politics, and government. Such knowledge and
amount of writing lead him to establish a library in Lyceum and also a
Peripatetic school of philosophy. He died in 322 B.C.E in Euboea in central
Greece. One of his great ideas was the one of matter, what are these ideas of
matter as stated by Aristotle? With his principals of nature, the four causes,
and help he used from Democritus points he developed his idea of matter.
A modern definition of matter is the
substance with inertia and that it occupies physical space. Modern physics
suggest that matter consists of various types of particles, these have a mass
and size. Examples of this material matter are electrons, the proton, and the
neutron. Matter can exist in several states know as phases. Matter according to
Aristotle is something else, he said matter and form combine to make a
substance and that without form, matter would have no properties or activity at
all. He supports this by using the substance theory and the four causes.
The substance theory by Aristotle
states that the substances are everything in this universe. That means that
everything in the universe is composed of substances and not atoms. Aristotle
used this and “accidents” to explain how the world works. Then there were the
four causes, by Aristotle that can be summarized to a material cause, what is
something made of or composed of? Efficient cause, what brings something about?
Formal cause, what are the characteristics of the object? And Final cause, what
is the purpose of its existence? These components together are what he used to
base his theory on matter. That is, he didn’t really see the material fundamentals
or the structure, he was more concerned in the purpose or function of the
object. Popular belief says that the fourth cause was the most significant one,
final cause because it is the one he explains it the best in his books or
writings. The final cause, in other words, gives the object full life,
basically what the object does, what it is meant to do or developed to do so. So
to conclude on the four causes the purpose for Aristotle is the object itself,
and not something which we might decide the use of it or the purpose for it.
Even if we don’t know what the main purpose of the object is Aristotle believed
it had its own intrinsic purpose, his view for this is not only for objects and
substances but also the universe.
argues that every physical object is a compound of matter and form. He
introduces his notion of this in his book Physics.
He states that form is the determinant structure which gives everything
their attributes. Then matter, as mentioned before is the substrate out of all
physical things are made of. This theory goes by the name of hylomorphism which
explains all actual things or substances in the terms form and matter. He uses
several examples to explain this theory, like for example, and consider a
plant. The plant is a material substance which means it has matter and form.
The form, in this case, is the arrangement. As the plant matures internal
growth happens, it gains nutrients from the soil and removes wastes. The matter
is determined by the plant so that the activities and properties appear.
Aristotle was not the only
philosopher at his time, not at all, he was interested in Democritus’s
philosophy. Democritus developed the idea that the end point of all division
was an atom. This basic matter particle was thought to be indestructible. In contrast,
Aristotle opposed the atomic theory developed by Democritus. He believed that
instead of matter being made of tiny particles (atoms) that they were all
fundamentally air, fire, water, and earth. These theories differ a lot,
Democritus believed that the atom did exist and that is was the smallest unit
of matter. Aristotle, on the other hand, did not, he argued against the
existence of the atom. In the end, Aristotle’s theory has been proven incorrect
and Democritus has been proved correct. Both theories were developed around the
same time which was around 400 and 300 B.C. during the era of ancient Greek
In conclusion, Aristotle’s philosophy
continues to be relevant in studies today. Which is so hard to believe since it
was so long ago, but even then at his time people believed in what he believed
in. he is credited with the earliest study of formal logic. His philosophy
impacted political thoughts in many ways, people’s views of his philosophy
comes from the easy understanding of it. However Christian church did not
believe him or his ideas. He is considered one of the great foundation figures
of both philosophy and natural science.