Monday 11 April 2016

Aristotle's Attempt to Pursue Happiness

I've always had a problem with the way Aristotle’s thought is taught. At my uni in 1981 all his historical context, natural science and radical potential were removed. He was presented in the anachronistic guise of an Oxford Analytical Philosopher with a dash of Utilitarianism and a sprinkle of Philosophy of Mind.

I’m writing a book which argues that Aristotle did more to create the inner contours of all our minds than any other individual in history.  Being intuitively convinced that life experiences and material environments affect intellectual theories, this week I went with our 17-year-old daughter Sarah Poynder and two Greek friends to visit all eight places in which we know Aristotle resided.

Stageira, his birthplace in 384 BCE, was a small, dazzlingly beautiful city-state in northern Greece where his father was a doctor. Stageira was trying—but failed—to remain independent of the expansionist Macedonian monster to its west.
Camerawomen Christina and Sarah in Academy

Aristotle spent twenty years at Plato’s Academy in Athens from the age of 17. His nicknames there were ‘The Mind’ and ‘The Reader’.  His entire philosophical system fundamentally disagrees with Plato’s.

Awesome:   Assos Doric Temple of Athena + VIEW
When Plato died in 348 BCE Aristotle was not appointed Head of the Academy. A philosophical friend called Hermias, who ruled Assos on the coast of what is now Turkey, invited him to stay. Assos is a cliff-top city with a breath-taking temple of Athena.

With Sarah and Aristotle at Lake where he Studied Cuttlefish
Two years later Assos, an independent realm, came under pressure from the Persians. Hermias was tortured to death by them. Aristotle, who had married Hermias’ daughter, sped off to Lesbos and did natural science, probably with his friend, the botanist Theophrastus of Eressos.

Pella. As Impressive as Philip Wanted it to be
After three years Aristotle was summoned by Philip II the One-Eyed of Macedon to his gargantuan court in Pella to teach the court teenagers including the young Alexander to think.
Aristotle's daily walking path in Mieza

Plutarch says Philip built Aristotle a school to do this in at Mieza, a heartbreakingly lovely Macedonian glade, sacred to the nymphs.

    The assassination of Philip and the departure of Alexander to Asia at last allowed Aristotle to return to Athens and set up his Lyceum where he spent 12 golden years. He wrote 150 books, gave specialist and general public lectures, supervised research and collected books. 

 But when Alexander died, anti-Macedonian feeling at Athens meant Aristotle had to pack his bags one more time. He died on his mother's family estate at Chalkis, beside (some said by drowning in) the churning waters caused by the mysterious Euripos tides.

Admiral Constantinides explains Euripos Tides
One way you can read all of Aristotle’s sensible, grown-up, rational, humane ethical philosophy (and before everybody yells, yes I DO know what he said about slaves and women) is as a response to the extreme personalities, militarist cultures, autocratic tyrants, wild debauchery, frequent murders and court intrigues and paranoias he had experienced directly.

Tidal waves of Chalkis where Aristotle is said to have drowned himself 
Our journeys between Lesbos and Turkey, at this particular time, deserve another whole blog, which will be posted in a couple of days. A short film of the entire Aristotle biopic is also in preparation and will be posted online. And now I’m going to have an ouzo in the Gloucestershire rain and summon my inner Aristotle to help me reflectively infer general principles from the empirical data I have recently collected.

Assos, Turkey: Leonidas, Sarah, Self and Murat
THANKS TO EVERYONE, most ESPECIALLY DR LEONIDAS PAPADOPOLOUOS, CHRISTINA PAPAGEORGIOU and Murat Başkurt, but for hospitality, transport, company and expert advice also to the entire Papadopoulos family in Thessaloniki, Eleni Fanarioutou, Rear-Admiral Simeon Constantinidis, George Plakoutsis, HMA John Kittmer, David Bates, Bess Kittmer-Bates, Richard Poynder, Prof. Roddy Beaton, Prof. Walter Puchner, Prof. Peggy Reynolds and Lucy Reynolds.

No comments:

Post a Comment