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 Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil    Tue 11 Feb 2014, 11:37

Do philosophers make good teachers? (One thinks of  L and H with 'Another fine mess you have got us into.')

Not being an admirer of Alexander - resulting in many spats on the BBC MB - and developing another thread drawn from the Plato weave, perhaps this early relationship  could do with  an airing. That Aristotle believed and surely instilled in  his pupil belief in Hellenic superiority of the sort that smacks of early fascism is observation enough to get an interesting dialogue going here.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil    Mon 17 Feb 2014, 10:17

I know very little about Aristotle, other than that he was a great polymath and that, if Plato could be described as the mystic, Aristotle was more the scientist - but that is probably far too simplistic a comment.

I read this earlier. It's a quotation from the poet Coleridge - rather extreme, but I suppose he could have a point.

"Every man is born an Aristotelian or a Platonist. I don't think it possible that anyone born an Aristotelian can (Coleridge's emphasis) become a Platonist, and I am sure no born Platonist can ever change into an Aristotelian. They are the two classes of men beside which it is next to impossible to conceive a third."

I also know Martin Luther absolutely hated Aristotle. Richard Marius, in his biography of Luther, says this:

"Luther's introduction to university teaching was bitter. Before he took his doctorate, he had to teach Aristotle's ethics. The experience filled him with frustration and later with fury against the Greek philosopher. His later life was coloured by this animosity. it became an obsession with him, and later he translated his hatred of Aristotle into a hatred of Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of the scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages...His hatred of Aristotle became hatred of reason itself when reason contradicted Christian views of faith, life and death...Aristotle with his explanations of everything under the sun was to Luther a charlatan, a huckster of the intellect, offering a worthless tonic to cure a deadly sickness."

Aristotle, Plato's pupil, a "huckster of the intellect"?  Shocked  Surely not?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil    Tue 18 Feb 2014, 14:22

No one seems interested in Aristotle and Alexander, Priscilla - what a shame.

Every student of Eng. Lit. - in the old days at least -  had to know something about Aristotle's Poetics. You had to write at least one essay on Aristotle's contribution to literary theory - usually to show you had some grasp of his ideas about tragedy and the tragic hero.

Willy Loman, in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, was supposed to be a tragic hero for our times. Miller apparently set out to prove that a tragic hero did not have to be an Aristotelian tragic hero. I was never convinced by Willy. Don't think Aristotle would have been, either.

I wonder what Aristotle would make of the idea that today tragedy isn't possible? "Today farce is the only thing possible. A corpse is no help at all. Why not accept this? - Farce can still be fine art."

PS Did Alexander ever comment on Aristotle as teacher? Some say he was poisoned by his old master, but that's surely nonsense?
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PostSubject: Re: Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil    Tue 18 Feb 2014, 22:22

Aristotle may have been in the queue. It is quite extraordinary really how few pupils are actually extinguished by their teachers - in deed not mind. Sad to say most of my precious ref books were drenched in an August cloud burst whilst awaiting unpacking...... no damage in recent rain. Will spend some time on this later but currently preparing for a house full visitors..  At the time Miller wrote perhaps tradegy was farce in the eye of the beholder; currently it seems to be milked for empathy and sharing. Now I shall be mulling over tradegy - and response to it for days when I ought be trying to think what to feed people. Thanks a bundle, Temps.
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PostSubject: Re: Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil    Wed 19 Feb 2014, 08:51

Temp wrote:
PS Did Alexander ever comment on Aristotle as teacher?

Yes - he told Aristonous of Pella that Aristotle was doubtless a wise teacher but he wouldn't trust him to lead anyone beyond the garden wall. Geography wasn't Aristotle's strong point apparently and absolutely nothing he'd told Alexander about what to expect beyond the Persian border turned out to be true.
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PostSubject: Re: Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil    Wed 19 Feb 2014, 11:20

I wonder what Alexander would have posted on RateMyTeacher.com about Aristotle - "easiness", "clarity", "helpfulness" and all that  - plus "overall quality"?

Having a pupil who regularly claimed that his dad was Zeus-Ammon must have been immensely irritating.

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PostSubject: Re: Aristotle and Alexander: Philosopher and pupil    Mon 24 Feb 2014, 09:40

Aristotle's personal tutelage of Alexander is debatable regarding both its extent and its effect. He was employed by the Macedonian court and in that role would have been something of a dogsbody in the duties he was expected to fulfil - it is very likely given his status at the time that he would have been more an administrator and librarian than a "hands on" teacher. What is generally agreed however is that one is on to something of a loser when one tries to detect Aristotelean philosophy in the actions and attributed words of his so-called pupil. He certainly encouraged his pupils (including Ptolemy and Cassander, two more kings who would embark on eastern campaigns) to regard the Persians as inferior and the Greeks as top dog, but in doing so he was hardly representing a view in any way different from how the Greeks commonly saw themselves generally at the time.

As head of the Macedonian Academy he was far more likely to have been employed primarily as a figurehead of sorts, the idea being to elevate the status of this regional kingdom which had ambitions to be recognised as the equal of its neighbours to the south and which had as yet not overcome Greek antipathy towards this view. It also suited Aristotle to be running an academy, even if it was in the court of these half-foreign upstarts, as he felt at the time that he had signally failed to garner the respect he deserved in Athens, indeed he had suffered some personal antagonsim there.  This had led him to quitting the capital and spending some years before his Macedonian appointment engaged in somewhat peripathetic philosophical pursuits - mainly botany in fact - which kept him at a safe distance from the rest of the philosophical community in the city state. By assuming the position in Macedon and nailing his colours to Philip's mast he was well poised later therefore to re-enter Athenian society and start up his own academy, the Lyceum, which gained automatic prestige and patronage from the off thanks to this rather overtly political move on its founder's part.

Cicero, when writing about the skills of the orator, cites Aristotle as an exemplar. Coming from Cicero this also meant that he was praising Aristotle for his political acumen. In the course of doing so he casually mentions that this was not a skill Alexander had apparently learned from his teacher, for all his greatness, and many since Cicero have shared this doubt regarding just how much of a tutor Aristotle had been to the boy, or how much of a student Alexander had been for that matter too, whoever had taught him.
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