Aristotle and Christian Theology
384 BC – Aristotle is born in Stagira in Thrace, near
Father is court physician to King Amyntas, grandfather
of Alexander the Great
367 BC – Aristotle comes to Athens to study at Plato’s
Plato refers to Aristotle as the Nous of the Academy
Aristotle builds an impressive personal library, Plato
refers to Aristotle’s home as the “house of the reader”
Aristotle said to have hinted that “wisdom would not die
And Plato said to have referred to his student as a foal
that kicks his mother after draining her dry.
347 BC – Plato dies. After 20 years of study, Aristotle
leaves Athens, travels to Asia Minor and marries.
342 BC – Aristotle has stayed in touch with friends in
Macedonia via Facebook. Receives 140 character Tweet
from Phillip inquiring if he would be interested in
returning to Macedonia for a sweet job.
Alexander’s Three Tutors
1) Leonidas, a kinsman of Olympias
Training was like Marine bootcamp
As an adult Alexander’s endurance was almost
Referred to Alexander as Achilles
Fed the stories Olympias had told Alexander about his
Conception of Alexander
Olympias – a priestess of Dionysus
Adept at trancelike state of possession
In trance is impregnated by celestial fire
Philip sees her snuggling with a snake while asleep and
is told by Oracle of Delphi that he has witnessed her
sleeping with a god and that it will cost him an eye
342 BC – Aristotle returns to
Macedonia to tutor Alexander
philosopher of his
Childhood friend of
Aristotle tutored Alexander, for 5 years until Phillip
dies and Alexander assumes the throne.
Alexander goes on to conquer the world
Alexander had his men collect flora and fauna from
every region of the world and send to Aristotle
Led to Aristotle having the first zoo
Aristotle tutors Alexander for 5 years until Phillip
dies and Alexander assumes the throne.
336 BC Aristotle leaves Macedonia
334 BC Aristotle establishes his own university, the
Named the Lyceum, as it was adjacent to the temple to the god Apollo
Lyceus -- protector of the flock against the wolf [lycos].
Morning serious lectures - - Evening public lectures
Students had their meals with Aristotle
Peripatetic style of teaching
323 BC Alexander the Great dies, Aristotle leaves
Athens “lest Athens sin twice against philosophy”
Demosthenes had kept the independent minded
Athenians stirred up about their Macedonian
Conquered by Phillip
Forced to stay in Corinthian League (remember Thebes?)
322 BC Aristotle Dies
Aristotle’s Library Is Buried
After his death Theophrastus buries Aristotle’s library
in an effort to preserve it.
Lost and forgotten for about 100 years and then it is
dug up, bad shape, a definitive edition of his collected
works eventually put together from fragments and his
student’s lecture notes.
Some ancient historians credit him with having
written a thousand books (probably an exaggeration)
We have about 30
Important But Difficult
Many, if not most, of his writings are dense and not all
Arabian philosopher Avicenna said that he had read
Aristotle’s Metaphysics 40 times without
Collected by the later Peripatetics under the title of
On the Heavens
Growth and Decay
On the Soul
The Parts of Animals
The Movement of Animals
The Generation of Animals
How is he able to write so diversely?
It should be noted that his works are full of errors and
He believed that everything could be explained in as a
consequence of four causes . . .
• Everything can be explained as a consequence of
1. Material cause – what is it made of?
2. Formal cause – what kind of thing is it? What is its
essence, its “ness”.
3. Efficient cause – what produced it?
4. Final cause – what is its purpose?
What are the Four Causes?
A Statue of Socrates
Material Cause: Marble
Formal Cause: Statueness of Socrates
Efficient Cause: Sculptor
Final Cause: To honor Socrates
Material Cause: Fabric
Formal Cause: Shirtness
Efficient Cause: Shirt Maker
Final Cause: To keep someone warm.
Material Cause: Real or synthetic hair
Formal Cause: Wigness
Efficient Cause: Wig Maker
Final Cause: To make someone look and/or
Ancient Philosophy & Four Causes
First book of Metaphysics explains all philosophy prior
to Aristotle in terms of the four causes.
“I am the first to recognize all four causes.”
Can you refute Aristotle?
Aristotle’s Doctrine of Substances
Substance – for Aristotle anything that exists
Every substance is composed of two things
Hule = matter
Morphe = form
What makes wood a chair rather than a bat?
Some Contributions of Aristotle
Law of Non-Contradiction
Opponent of Plato’s Dualism
Unmoved First Mover
The key component of Aristotelian logic is the
Major premise – a general truth, or observation
Minor premise – a particular fact, or specific
Conclusion – an inference implied by the two premises
The classic example of the syllogism:
Major premise: All men are mortal.
Minor premise: Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.
In other words, what applies to all members of a group
applies to each and everymember.
Law of Non-Contradiction
More than just a law of thought it is a law of being
Contrary properties cannot belong to the same thing, at
the same time, and in the same sense.
A cannot be both B and –B at the same time and in the
A proposition cannot be both True and False at the same
time and in the same sense
You assume the law of non-contradiction every time
you take an action, think a thought, or speak a
You would have to presuppose the law to try to
Aristotle said that if the law of contradiction does not
exist then there is no difference between coming to
hear me speak, and taking a dose of Hemlock.
A Cannot Be Not-A For Christians
Without the law of contradiction (1) significant
thinking is impossible, (2) significant action is
impossible, (3) significant speech is impossible
No difference between sin and non-sin
Words may have a number of meanings but not an
infinite number of meanings. There may be chair
sense 1, chair sense 2, chair sense 3, but a chair is not a
Don’t Christians break the Law of Non-Contradiction
in the doctrine of the Trinity?
Aquinas – According, Contrary, Beyond human reason
Trinity, Hypostatic Union, Election
Aristotle vs. Plato
doctrine of two worlds
Body and soul
The Rhetorical Triangle
When you engage in rhetoric, you
are related to the audience and
your subject. A well-balanced
Possible Distortion: argument gives attention to all
Abstraction three points of the triangle,
establishing your authority
Subject (ethos), drawing the audience
emotionally (pathos), and doing
justice to the facts (logos).
However, if you give too much
emphasis to facts, you can fall into
a kind of distortion: making the
subject seem cold and abstract. If
you lean too much toward the
audience, you can start to create
Ethos Pathos propaganda. And if you put to
much emphasis on your own
Possible Distortion: Possible Distortion: character and values, you will
Egotism Propaganda seem egotistical.