In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Aristotle

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Lexica and Indexes
  • Life and Teaching
  • Influence
  • Bibliographies
  • Complete Works

Classics Aristotle
Carlo Natali, Gaia Bagnati
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0351


Aristotle (384–322 BCE) was a younger disciple and colleague of Plato. They are the two most famous and important ancient philosophers, and Aristotle is the only Platonic disciple whose works have been transmitted to us. The relationship between the two thinkers is complex: they share some basic ideas but the disciple is a strong critic of some aspects of his master’s thought, a fact not unusual in the relationships between master and disciple. He agrees with Plato on a rejection of materialism in favor of the idea that our world is the result of a formal structure that can be formulated in rational and scientific definitions. On the other hand, he thinks that sensible moving entities contain in themselves their forms and because of that they can be the object of scientific knowledge, i.e., a universal and deductible knowledge and not only of a true unstable opinion as Plato maintained. They also are the real substances. From this basic difference many oppositions between Aristotle and his master derive. In the history of philosophy Aristotle suffered a complex destiny, different from Plato’s continuous success. In some periods he was neglected, for instance in the Hellenistic period and from the 18th century until the main part of 19th century. In other periods he achieved great fame, for instance in later Antiquity, in the Middle Ages from the 13th century, and also in our own time. The authors would like to thank warmly Professor Iain MacPherson for revising their far-from-perfect English.

General Overviews

Jaeger 1934 offers a general presentation of Aristotle’s philosophy in an evolutionary perspective. Among the most diffused general presentations by a single author there are Ross 1955, Ackrill 1981, and Barnes 1982. Irwin 1988 is an ample study on many parts of Aristotle’s work in a very distinctive interpretation. There are also useful companions by multiple authors such as Barnes 1995. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is another source, available online.

  • Ackrill, J. 1981. Aristotle the philosopher. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A very concise work; well-presented.

  • Barnes, J. 1982. Aristotle. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A short presentation of the most interesting logical and scientific aspects of Aristotle’s thinking.

  • Barnes, J. 1995. The Cambridge companion to Aristotle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Though published in 1995, this is still the best companion available.

  • Irwin, T. 1988. Aristotle’s first principles. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Starting from the assumption that the method of Aristotle’s treatise is mainly dialectical, the author distinguishes between a normal dialectic and a strong dialectic. The second one has a foundational value. Irwin traces the two forms of dialectics in Aristotle’s metaphysics, psychology, and practical philosophy.

  • Jaeger, W. 1934. Aristotle: Fundamentals of the history of his development. Translated by R. Robinson. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Original version: Aristoteles. Grundlegung einer Geschichte seiner Entwicklung (Berlin, 1923). The different sections of the Metaphysics reflect the progressive development of Aristotle’s thinking from a Platonist position to a more independent philosophy. This development is traced also in other important Aristotelian treatises. Jaeger’s’ evolutionary perspective is now considered by many scholars to be outdated.

  • Ross, W. D. 1955. Aristotle. London: Routledge.

    A standard work, very clear and precise, a little dated. Originally published in 1923.

  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

    With a general section on Aristotle by Ch. Shields, and many sections on general and specific topics by J. Lennox, R. Smith, Ch. Rapp, A. Falcon, and other distinguished scholars.

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