AFTER leaving Macedonia’s royal court, Aristotle could have returned to
Athens to resume his position as pillar of Plato’s Academy of which he had fond memories. Also, there he had friends from the years spent as Plato’s student. However, ill-feelings and bitter academic rivalry between him and Speussipus, Plato’s nephew, led Aristotle to establish his own university -- the Lyceum (named after Apollo Lyceus).
The Lyceum had no classrooms. Instead, Aristotle paced back and forth lecturing to his students who followed him listening intently all the while. This peculiar way of teaching earned Aristotle the nickname of “Peripatetic teacher,” from the word, peripateikos, “the teacher who paced back and forth.
Strange though Aristotle’s method was, his students learned much and lovingly compiled his lectures on different disciplines, from science to philosophy. In metaphysics, he grappled with the problem of (universal) ideas, asking, is there really “horse as such,” or “man as such,” as Plato advocated in his theory of the ideal world?
Centuries later, great thinkers like Abelard and St. Thomas cracked the problem open by theorizing three-fold universal existence, namely, 1) universal before the thing, 2) universal in the thing, and 3) universal after the thing.
Today’s philosophy students still agonize trying to understand the notorious “Problem of Universals.” It is no wonder philosophy’s rarefied air does not appeal to many.
Aristotle avoided intrigue and rivalry in the academe. But he was shocked that some politicians, motivated by jealousy, hatched intrigues against him threatening his life.
A man of peace, Aristotle quietly “faded away” retiring to his family estate in Chalcis, Greece. His death in 320 BC led many to mourn the loss of a noble man and a great thinker.