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Aristotle And Realism in Education

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Aristotle is known as the father of Realism. To understand fully his work, we should at least have a glimpse of his life in his early days. He was born in 384 B.C.E. in Stagira, Greece. He is a son of a physician at court of Macedon. Thus, by birth and by blood he is really a man of wisdom. As one of the Apostles told us in one of his writings in the Bible, “Greeks love and seek after wisdom.” At seventeen he already sit on the foot of one of the great philosopher in his time, Plato. For almost three decade, Aristotle learned from Plato at his Academy. He was one of the brilliant students of Plato. In 338 B.C.E. When he was about 46 years old, he was summoned by the King of Macedon, King Philip II to be the tutor of his son Alexander, who later on was known as Alexander the Great. Alexander became one of the world’s greatest military leader, used his military ingenuity and his exceptional education received from among others, Aristotle, to marshal his forces in battles where he emerged victorious. With this alone, Aristotle’s achievement is remarkable indeed.

In 335 B.C.E., when Aristotle was about 49 years old, he founded his own school in Athens called “Lyceum.” It was here that his students conducted researches in different areas of science like botany, biology, in mathematics and logic, music and arts, medicine and astronomy, and even in social science, psychology and metaphysics. It was also in this school where Aristotle spent most of the rest of his life, studying, teaching and writing. His quest for knowledge was inevitable when he said his favorite dictum “ All men by nature desire to know.” For him knowing is vital, knowledge is important. His quest for truth paved the way for him to do research in many areas. Aristotle is a pioneer in many fields of inquiries. His contribution in the area of logic, physics, economics, psychology, political science, meteorology, metaphysics, ethics, and rhetoric has influenced our present day education. His work was such an almost unbelievable achievement for an individual.

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Although indebted to his mentor, Aristotle developed the view that ideas are important yet a proper study of matter may lead us to better and more distinct ideas. He also thought that matter exist even if there is no mind which is aware of it He theorized that matter is certainly an independent reality. He also dismissed Plato’s theory of ideal forms. Aristotle argued that it is not logical to talk about an invisible world which we do not know that it ever exist. The core subject of realism is that; reality, knowledge and values exist outside the human mind.

He also established some principles of realism. Ideas or forms exist without matter but no matter exist without form or idea. This means that each piece of matter has a distinct and particular property for example, people are different in size, appearance and no two persons are alike yet they share the same universal form of being humans. The universal form is the essence or idea which is the non-material side of a material object which identifies it with the other objects of their group. Unlike Plato, Aristotle achieved the understanding of reality of all things by studying material things through the senses. Plato did it by reasoning. Furthermore, Aristotle claimed that the universal form of things never change, only matter change thus, he described that form as the soul or life. And that soul has a purpose.

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