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Aristotle's Way

How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life

By Edith Hall
13-minute read
Audio available
Aristotle's Way by Edith Hall

Aristotle’s Way (2018) is a study of Aristotle, philosopher and polymath of Ancient Greece – but it’s not a scholarly guide to a historical artifact. Aristotle is simply far too alive to be relegated to that category. Friendship, happiness, talking, thinking, and living well were Aristotle’s great concerns. And what he had to say about those topics remains every bit as relevant today as it was when he first started exploring them some 2,500 years ago. 

  • Old-school self-helpers 
  • Miserabilists ready for some happiness 
  • Job-hunters struggling with their cover letters

Edith Hall is one of Britain’s foremost classicists and a professor at King’s College London. She was the first woman to have been awarded the Erasmus Medal of the European Academy, and also holds an honorary doctorate from Athens University. Hall is the author of Introducing the Ancient Greeks

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Aristotle's Way

How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life

By Edith Hall
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Aristotle's Way by Edith Hall
Synopsis

Aristotle’s Way (2018) is a study of Aristotle, philosopher and polymath of Ancient Greece – but it’s not a scholarly guide to a historical artifact. Aristotle is simply far too alive to be relegated to that category. Friendship, happiness, talking, thinking, and living well were Aristotle’s great concerns. And what he had to say about those topics remains every bit as relevant today as it was when he first started exploring them some 2,500 years ago. 

Key idea 1 of 8

Aristotle had a turbulent life and only produced the work for which he is remembered during his final 12 years.

It is easier to list the subjects Aristotle didn’t write about than the subjects he did. What is “being?” Why do animals behave the way they do? What’s the best political system? How do you live well? These are just some of the questions Aristotle attempted to answer. 

Each of those attempts helped lay the foundations for a scholarly discipline. Without Aristotle, it is hard to imagine the development of metaphysics, zoology, political philosophy, or ethics. 

Sure, this is an intimidating résumé, but late bloomers, take heart! All the work he is known for was produced late in life. 

But before we jump into some of the intricacies of his work, let’s pose a different question. Just who was this extraordinarily prolific and influential person?

The key message in this blink is: Aristotle had a turbulent life and only produced the work for which he is remembered during his final 12 years. 

Aristotle was born in 348 BCE in Stageira, a city-state in northern Greece. His childhood was disrupted in his thirteenth year when both his father and mother died. This was a time of great turbulence in the Greek-speaking world, and Aristotle was uprooted by the increasing military strife. 

At the age of 17, he arrived in Athens, Ancient Greece’s center of learning and culture. There, he enrolled in Plato’s Academy, the first university in the Western world. Aristotle spent the next two decades learning from Plato, the greatest philosopher of his day. 

When Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and moved to a small kingdom in today’s Anatolia. He lived mainly in the cities of Atarneus and Assos. He married Pythias, the daughter of the kingdom’s ruler, Hermias. During this happy period, he spent a great deal of time studying the wildlife on the island of Lesbos. 

Then, in 343 BCE, everything changed. Philip II, the king of Macedonia, summoned Aristotle to teach his youngest son, Alexander, later known as Alexander the Great. Aristotle appears to have found court life, with all its intrigue and treachery, distasteful. After Philip was assassinated and Alexander became king, Aristotle returned to Athens. 

There he spent the final 12 years of his life. It was an extraordinarily productive period. Every work for which he is remembered, not to mention the 130 texts that have been lost, was written during this golden period. 

The philosopher Robert J. Anderson wrote, “There is no ancient thinker who can speak more directly to the concerns and anxieties of contemporary life” than Aristotle. Anderson was right, as we’ll find out in the following blinks.

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