Plato's successes and failures were mirrored in the work of his greatest pupil, Aristotle, who thoroughly analyzed Plato's doctrines and formulated replacements of his own. Whereas Plato had located ultimate reality in Ideas or eternal forms, knowable only through reflection and reason, Aristotle saw ultimate reality in physical objects, knowable through experience. Objects were composed of a potential, their matter, and of a reality, their form; thus, a block of marble - matter - has the potential to assume whatever form a sculptor gives it, and a seed or embryo has the potential to grow into a living plant or animal form.

Aristotle established the ultimate grounds of things inductively - that is to say, by a posteriori (a priori knowledge is independent of experience, while a posteriori knowledge is dependent on experience) conclusions from a number of facts to a universal. In the series of works collected under the name of Organon, he sets forth the laws by which the human understanding effects conclusions from the particular to the knowledge of the universal.

Aristotle was at great pains to explain his chosen position and even felt the need to examine and discuss the underlying logical construction of his thought. He wrote a major work on logic in which he described and analyzed the now familiar syllogistic form of argument. Just as he classified logic so he tried to analyze and classify all subjects, from political constitutions to forms of motion, as well the animal kingdom. He collected all knowledge of his time and divided it into new branches of learning - thus organized science began.

Back to People