Aristotle’s Philosophy of Law
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Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. at Stagira in northern Greece, the son of Nicomachus, a physician of King Amyntas II of Macedonia. At age seventeen he entered Plato’s Academy in Athens, where he studied for nineteen years. In addition to composing a number of dialogues now lost, he may have then begun work on his Rhetoric. After Plato’s death (348) Aristotle grew alienated from the school and soon after left Athens. He resided at Assos, where he married Pythias, the niece of the philosophically trained tyrant Hermeias, and then lived at Mytilene on Lesbos. In 343 he was invited by King Philip of Macedonia to educate his thirteen-year-old son Alexander. Subsequently, Philip and his successor, Alexander, defeated an alliance of Greek city-states, and most of Greece—including Athens—submitted to Macedonian hegemony while Alexander was conquering the Persian Empire. Aristotle returned to Athens in 335 after the death of Philip and became a metic (resident alien). He founded his school at the Lyceum outside the city and began the most productive stage of his career. He offered lectures on technical philosophy (logic, physics, and metaphysics) in the morning, and on more popular subjects (rhetoric, ethics, and politics) in the evening. He also collected a celebrated library, and with his students compiled descriptions of 158 constitutions. During this period he probably composed most of his greatest treatises, including much of the Politics. After his wife’s death he took a mistress, Herpyllis of Stagira, who gave birth to Nicomachus, after whom the Nicomachean Ethics was named. This work is probably Aristotle’s revision of an earlier work, the Eudemian Ethics, from which three books were reused (Eudemian Ethics, Books IV–VI becoming Nicomachean Ethics, Books V–VII).