- (3) Rhetorical:—
- τέχνης τῆς Θεοδέκτου συναγωγή: The Theodectea (cited in the Preface to the Rhetoric to Alexander (chap. i.)), and as τὰ Θεοδέκτεια in the Rhetoric (iii. 9, 1410 b 2).
- τεχνῶν συναγωγή: A historical collection of arts of rhetoric.
Difficult as it is to determine when Aristotle wrote all these various works, some of them indicate their dates. Gryllus, celebrated in the dialogue on rhetoric, was Xenophon’s son who fell at Mantineia in 362; and Eudemus of Cyprus, lamented in the dialogue on soul, died in Sicily in 352. These then were probably written before Plato died in 347; and so probably were most of the dialogues, precisely because they were imitations of the dialogues of Plato. Among the didactic writings, the περὶ τὰγαθοῦ would probably belong to the same time, because it was Aristotle’s report of Plato’s lectures. On the other hand, the two political works, if written for Alexander, would be after 343-342 when Philip made Aristotle his tutor. So probably were the rhetorical works, especially the Theodectea; since both politics and oratory were the subjects which the father wanted the tutor to teach his son, and, when Alexander came to Phaselis, he is said by Plutarch (Alexander, 17) to have decorated the statue of Theodectes in honour of his association with the man through Aristotle and philosophy. On the whole, then, it seems as if Aristotle began with dialogues during his second period under Plato, but gradually came to prefer writing didactic works, especially in the third period after Plato’s death, and in connexion with Alexander.
These early writings show clearly how Aristotle came to depart from Plato. In the first place as regards style, though the Stagirite pupil Aristotle could never rival his Attic master in literary form, yet he did a signal service to philosophy in gradually passing from the vague generalities of the dialogue to the scientific precision of the didactic treatise. The philosophy of Plato is dialogue trying to become science; that of Aristotle science retaining traces of dialectic. Secondly as regards subject-matter, even in his early writings Aristotle tends to widen the scope of philosophic inquiry, so as not only to embrace metaphysics and politics, but also to encourage rhetoric and poetics, which Plato tended to discourage or limit. Thirdly as regards doctrines, the surpassing interest of these early writings is that they show the pupil partly agreeing, partly disagreeing, with his master. The Eudemus and Protrepticus are with Plato; the dialogues on Philosophy and the treatise on Forms are against Plato.
The Eudemus, on the soul (Fragmenta, 37 seq.), must have been in style and thought the most Platonic of all the Aristotelian writings. Plato’s theory of the soul and its immortality was not the ordinary Greek view derived from Homer, who regarded the body as the self, the soul as a shade having a future state but an obscure existence, and stamped that view on the hearts of his countrymen, and affected Aristotle himself. After Homer there had come to Greece the new view that the soul is more real than the body, that it is imprisoned in the carcase as a prison-house, that it is capable of enjoying a happier life freed from the body, and that it can transmigrate from body to body. This strange, exotic, ascetic view was adopted by some philosophers, and especially by the Pythagoreans, and so transmitted to Plato. Aristotle in the Eudemus, written about 352, when he was thirty-two, also believed in it. Accordingly, the soul of Eudemus, when it left his body, is said to be returning home: the soul is made subject to the casting of lots, and in coming from the other world to this it is supposed to forget its former visions: but its disembodied life is regarded as its natural life in a better world. The Eudemus also contained a celebrated passage, preserved by Plutarch (Consolat. ad Apoll. 27; Fragm. 44). Here we can read the young Aristotle, writing in the form of the dialogue like Plato, avoiding hiatus like Isocrates, and justifying the praises accorded to his style by Cicero, Quintilian and Dionysius. It shows how nearly the pupil could imitate his master’s dialogues, and still more how exactly he at first embraced his master’s doctrines. It makes Silenus, captured by Midas, say that the best of all things is not to have been born, and the next best, having been born, to die as soon as possible. Nothing could be more like Plato’s Phaedo, or more unlike Aristotle’s later work on the Soul, which entirely rejects transmigration and allows the next life to sink into the background.
Hardly less Platonic is the Protrepticus (Fragm. 50 seq.), an exhortation to philosophy which, according to Zeno the Stoic, was studied by his master Crates. It is an exhortation, whose point is that the chief good is philosophy, the contemplation of the universe by divine and immortal intellect. This is indeed a doctrine of Platonic ethics from which Aristotle in his later days never swerved. But in the Protrepticus he goes on to say that seeming goods, such as strength, size, beauty, honours, opinions, are mere illusion (σκιαγραφία), worthless and ridiculous, as we should know if we had Lyncean eyes to compare them with the vision of the eternal. This indifference to goods of body and estate is quite Platonic, but is very different from Aristotle’s later ethical doctrine that such goods, though not the essence, are nevertheless necessary conditions of happiness. Finally, in the spirit of Plato’s Phaedo and the dialogue Eudemus, the Protrepticus holds that the soul is bound to the sentient members of the body as prisoners in Etruria are bound face to face with corpses; whereas the later view of the De Anima is that the soul is the vital principle of the body and the body the necessary organ of the soul.
Thus we find that at first, under the influence of his master, Aristotle held somewhat ascetic views on soul and body and on goods of body and estate, entirely opposed both in psychology and in ethics to the moderate doctrines of his later writings. This perhaps is one reason why Cicero, who had Aristotle’s early writings, saw no difference between the Academy and the Peripatetics (Acad. Post, i. 4, 17-18).
On the other hand, the dialogue on Philosophy (περὶ φιλοσοφίας, Fragm. 1 seq.) strikingly exhibits the origin of Aristotle’s divergence from Platonism, and that too in Plato’s lifetime. The young son of a doctor from the colonies proved too fond of this world to stomach his Athenian master’s philosophy of the supernatural. Accordingly in this dialogue he attacked Plato’s fundamental position, both in its written and in its unwritten presentment, as a hypothesis both of forms and of formal numbers. First, he attacked the hypothesis of forms (τὴν τῶν ἰδεῶν ὑπόθεσιν, Fragm. 8), exclaiming in his dialogues, according to Proclus, that he could not sympathize with the dogma even if it should be thought that he was opposing it out of contentiousness; while Plutarch says that his attacks on the forms by means of his exoteric dialogues were thought by some persons more contentious than philosophical, as presuming to disdain Plato’s philosophy: so far was he, says Plutarch, from following it. Secondly, in the same dialogue (Fragm. 9), according to Syrianus, he disagreed with the hypothesis of formal numbers (τοῖς εἰδητικοῖς ἀριθμοῖς). If, wrote Aristotle, the forms are another sort of number, not mathematical, there would be no understanding of it. Lastly, in the same dialogue (Fragm. 18 seq.) he revealed his emphasis on nature by contending that the universe is uncreate and indestructible. According to Plato, God caused the natural world to become: according to Aristotle it is eternal. This eternity of the world became one of his characteristic doctrines, and subsequently enabled him to explain how essences can be eternal without being separate from this world which is also eternal (cf. Metaph. Ζ 8). Thus early did Aristotle begin, even in Plato’s lifetime, to oppose Plato’s hypothesis of supernatural forms, and advance his own hypothesis of the eternity of the world.
He made another attack on Platonism in the didactic work περὶ ἰδεῶν, (Fragm. 185 seq.), contending that the Platonic arguments prove not forms (ἰδέαι) but only things common (τὰ κοινά). Here, according to Alexander the commentator, he first brought against Plato the argument of “the third man” (ὁ τρίτος ἄνθρωπος); that, if there is the form, one man beyond many men, there will be a third man predicated of both man and men, and a fourth predicated of all three, and so on to infinity (Fragm. 188). Here, too, he examined the hypothesis of Eudoxus that things are caused by mixture of forms, a hypothesis which formed a kind of transition to his own later views, but failed to satisfy him on account of its difficulties. Lastly, in the didactic work περὶ τἀγαθοῦ (Fragm. 27 seq.), containing his report of Plato’s lectures on the Good, he was dealing with the same mathematical metaphysics which in his dialogue on Philosophy he criticized for converting forms into formal numbers. Aristoxenus, at the beginning of the second book of the Harmonics, gives a graphic account of the astonishment caused by these lectures of Plato, and of their effect on the lectures of Aristotle. In contending, as Aristotle’s pupil, that a teacher should begin by proposing his subject, he tells us how Aristotle used to relate that most of Plato’s hearers came expecting to get something about human goods and happiness, but that when the discourses turned out to be all about mathematics, with the conclusion that good is one, it appeared to them a paradox, which some despised and others condemned. The reason, he adds, was that they were not informed by Plato beforehand; and for this very reason, Aristotle, as he told Aristoxenus himself, used to prepare his hearers by informing them of the nature of the subject. From this rare personal reminiscence we see at a glance that the mind of Plato and the mind of Aristotle were so different, that their philosophies must diverge; the one towards the supernatural, the abstract, the discursive, and the other towards the natural, the substantial, the scientific.Aristotle then even in the second period of his life, while Plato was still alive, began to differ from him in metaphysics. He rejected the Platonic hypothesis of forms, and affirmed that they are not separate but common, without however as yet having advanced to a constructive metaphysics of his own; while at the same time, after having at first adopted his master’s dialectical treatment of metaphysical problems, he soon passed from dialogues to didactic works, which had the result of separating metaphysics from dialectic. The