Approx. 330 BCE

Where does one even begin? Student to Plato, instructor to Alexander the Great, and the first in the western tradition to develop a truly comprehensive philosophy of the world. Science, logic, physics, theology, morality, aesthetics – if you are tracing the history of knowledge you are going to confront and be humbled by Aristotle, full stop.

Aristotle sought to explain the everything, the universal, the fullness of the natural world, human existence, and the physical properties of the universe. Where his master, Plato, began from the premise that everything existing was only a pale imitation of its metaphysical essence, Aristotle reversed the process, looking for answers to the universal by the study of the real-world particular. Not a materialist, in the sense that we use the term; but certainly the basis for materialism and for the scientific method that would develop in later centuries.

A giant is Aristotle, such that he was so well-regarded, his insight and wisdom so profound that approaching two thousand years later – well into the Renaissance – he remained the definitive authority on vast fields of knowledge – the correctness or incorrectness of his theories notwithstanding. And even in so short a summary it bears repeating – still today, if you are studying pretty much anything in depth you’re gonna have to deal with Aristotle. And you’re gonna be humbled.