Aristotelianism: Wikis


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Aristotle, by Francesco Hayez

Aristotelianism (pronounced /ɛərɨstəˈtiːljənɨzəm/) is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. Aristotelianism is understood by its proponents as critically developing Plato’s theories.[1] Most particularly, Aristotelianism brings Plato’s ideals down to Earth as goals and goods internal to natural species that are realized in activity. This is the characteristically Aristotelian idea of teleology, and the practicality of the approach is embodied in Nichomachean Ethics as the Aristotelian virtue of phronesis.[citation needed] The philosophy itself is sometimes contrasted by critics with the rationalism and idealism of Plato.



Preserved by Aristotle's followers in the Peripatetic school, and elaborated by other ancient commentators on Aristotle, Aristotelianism began its modern history with its reception by Islamic, Jewish and Christian philosophers. The most famous of these philosophers are Averroes, Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas. Averroism was particularly influential in reconciling Aristotelianism with the Islamic and Jewish faiths, while Aquinas argued that the truth in Aristotle’s philosophy is complemented and completed by the truth revealed in the Christian tradition. Aquinas further established the foundations of metaphysics by offering an account of key issues surrounding existence which were not addressed fully by his predecessors. The Roman Catholic Church has reasserted a Thomistic Aristotelianism since the 1870s.

After retreating under criticism from modern natural philosophers, the distinctively Aristotelian idea of teleology was transmitted through Wolff and Kant to Hegel, who applied it to history as a totality. Although this project was criticized by Trendelenburg and Brentano as un-Aristotelian, Hegel’s influence is now often said to be responsible for an important Aristotelian influence upon Marx.[2] Postmodernists, in contrast, reject Aristotelianism’s claim to reveal important theoretical truths.[3] In this, they follow Heidegger’s critique of Aristotle as the greatest source of the entire tradition of Western philosophy. Recent Aristotelian ethical and ‘practical’ philosophy, such as that of Gadamer and McDowell, is often premised upon a rejection of Aristotelianism’s traditional metaphysical or theoretical philosophy. From this viewpoint, the early modern tradition of political republicanism, which views the res publica, public sphere or state as constituted by its citizens’ virtuous activity, can appear thoroughly Aristotelian.

Contemporary Aristotelianism

The most famous contemporary Aristotelian philosopher is Alasdair MacIntyre. Especially famous for helping to revive virtue ethics in his book After Virtue, MacIntyre revises Aristotelianism with the argument that the highest temporal goods, which are internal to human beings, are actualized through participation in social practices. He opposes Aristotelianism to the managerial institutions of capitalism and its state, and to rival traditions—including the philosophies of Hume and Nietzsche—that reject its idea of essentially human goods and virtues and instead legitimate capitalism. Therefore, on MacIntyre’s account, Aristotelianism is not identical with Western philosophy as a whole; rather, it is "the best theory so far, [including] the best theory so far about what makes a particular theory the best one."[4] Politically and socially, it has been characterized as a newly 'revolutionary Aristotelianism'. This may be contrasted with the more conventional, apolitical and effectively conservative uses of Aristotle by, for example, Gadamer and McDowell.[5] Other important contemporary Aristotelian theorists include Fred D. Miller, Jr.[6] in politics and Rosalind Hursthouse in ethics.[7]

See also


  1. ^ For contrasting examples of this, see Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy (trans. P. Christopher Smith), Yale University Press, 1986, and Lloyd P. Gerson, Aristotle and Other Platonists, Cornell University Press, 2005.
  2. ^ For example, George E. McCarthy (ed.), Marx and Aristotle: Nineteenth-Century German Social Theory and Classical Antiquity, Although many disagree Rowman & Littlefield, 1992.
  3. ^ For example, Ted Sadler, Heidegger and Aristotle: The Question of Being, Athlone, 1996.
  4. ^ Alasdair MacIntyre, 'An Interview with Giovanna Borradori', in Kelvin Knight (ed.), The MacIntyre Reader, Polity Press / University of Notre Dame Press, 1998, p. 264.
  5. ^ Kelvin Knight, Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre, Polity Press, 2007.
  6. ^ Fred D. Miller, Jr., Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's Politics, Oxford University Press, 1997.
  7. ^ Rosalind Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics, Oxford University Press, 1999.

Further reading

  • Chappell, Timothy (ed.), Values and Virtues: Aristotelianism in Contemporary Ethics, Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Ferrarin, Alfredo, Hegel and Aristotle, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Kenny, Anthony, Essays on the Aristotelian Tradition, Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Knight, Kelvin, Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre, Polity Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0745619767.
  • Knight, Kelvin & Paul Blackledge (eds.), Revolutionary Aristotelianism: Ethics, Resistance and Utopia, Lucius & Lucius (Stuttgart, Germany), 2008.
  • Lobkowicz, Nicholas, Theory and Practice: History of a Concept from Aristotle to Marx, University of Notre Dame Press, 1967.
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, University of Notre Dame Press, 1984 / Duckworth, 1985 (2nd edn.).
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, University of Notre Dame Press / Duckworth, 1988.
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition, University of Notre Dame Press / Duckworth, 1990.
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair, ‘The Theses on Feuerbach: A Road Not Taken’, in Kelvin Knight (ed.), The MacIntyre Reader, University of Notre Dame Press / Polity Press, 1998.
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair, Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues, Open Court / Duckworth, 1999.
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair, ‘Natural Law as Subversive: The Case of Aquinas’ and ‘Rival Aristotles: 1. Aristotle Against Some Renaissance Aristotelians; 2. Aristotle Against Some Modern Aristotelians’, in MacIntyre, Ethics and Politics: Selected Essays volume 2, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Moraux, Paul, Der Aristotelismus bei den Griechen, Von Andronikos bis Alexander von Aphrodisias: Vol. I: Die Renaissance des Aristotelismus im I. Jh.v. Chr. (1973); Vol. II: Der Aristotelismus im I. und II. Jh.n. Chr. (1984); Vol. III: Alexander von Aphrodisias (2001) - Edited by Jürgen Wiesner, with a chapter on Ethics by Robert W. Sharples.
  • Riedel, Manfred (ed.), Rehabilitierung der praktischen Philosophie, Rombach, volume 1, 1972; volume 2, 1974.
  • Ritter, Joachim, Metaphysik und Politik: Studien zu Aristoteles und Hegel, Suhrkamp, 1977.
  • Schrenk, Lawrence P. (ed.), Aristotle in Late Antiquity, Catholic University of America Press, 1994.
  • Sharples, R. W. (ed.), Whose Aristotle? Whose Aristotelianism?, Ashgate, 2001.
  • Shute, Richard, On the History of the Process by Which the Aristotelian Writings Arrived at Their Present Form, Arno Press, 1976 (originally 1888).
  • Sorabji, Richard (ed.), Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and Their Influence, Duckworth, 1990.
  • Stocks, John Leofric, Aristotelianism, Harrap, 1925.
  • Veatch, Henry B., Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics, Indiana University Press, 1962.

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Proper noun




  1. (philosophy) The philosophical system of Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) and his followers.



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