Aristotle Quotations

Aristotle / 384–322 BC / Kingdom of Macedonia / Philosopher

Causes of Action

Every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite.


Divine in Man

Of all living beings with which we are acquainted man alone partakes of the divine, or at any rate partakes of it in a fuller measure than the rest.

Parts of Animals.

God (Unmoved Mover)

But since there is something which moves while itself unmoved, existing actually, this can in no way be otherwise than as it is. . . . On such a principle, then, depend the heavens and the world of nature. . . . If, then, God is always in that good state in which we sometimes are, this compels our wonder; and if in a belter this compels it yet more. And God is in a better state. And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God’s self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal. We say therefore that God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous and eternal belong to God; for this is God.


Does it matter, then, or not, whether it [the Unmoved Mover] thinks of the good or of any chance thing? . . . Evidently, then, it thinks of that which is most divine and precious, and it does not change; for change would be change for the worse, . . . . For both thinking and the act of thought will belong even to one who thinks of the worst thing in the world, so that if this ought to be avoided (and it ought, for there are even some things which it is better not to see than to see), the act of thinking cannot be the best of things. Therefore it must be of itself that the divine thought thinks (since it is the most excellent of things), and its thinking is a thinking on thinking.


Human Nature

All men naturally desire knowledge. An indication of this is our esteem for the senses; for apart from their use we esteem them for their own sake, and most of all the sense of sight. Not only with a view to action, but even when no action is contemplated, we prefer sight, generally speaking, to all the other senses. The reason of this is that of all the senses sight best helps us to know things, and reveals many distinctions.


Natural Purpose

Now a corpse has the same shape and fashion as a living body; and yet it is not a man. Again, a hand constituted in any and every manner, e.g., a bronze or wooden one, is not a hand except in name; and the same applies to a physician depicted on canvas, or a flute carved in stone. None of these can perform the functions appropriate to the things that bear those names. Likewise, the eye or the hand (or any other part) of a corpse is not really an eye or a hand. Democritus’s statement, therefore, needs to be qualified, or a carpenter might as well claim that a hand made of wood really was a hand. The physiologers, however, when they describe the formation and the causes of the shape of animal bodies, talk in this selfsame vein. Suppose we ask the carver “By what agency was this hand fashioned?” Perhaps his answer will be “By my axe” or “By my auger,” just as if we ask the physiologer “By what agency was this body fashioned?” he will say “By air ” and “By earth.” But of the two the craftsman will give a better answer, because he will not feel it is sufficient to say merely that a cavity was created here, or a level surface there, by a blow from his tool. He will state the cause on account of which, and the purpose for the sake of which, he made the strokes he did; and that will be, in order that the wood might finally be formed into this or that shape.

Parts of Animals.

If purpose, then, is inherent in art, so is it in Nature also. The best illustration is the case of a man being his own physician, for Nature is like that—agent and patient at once.



In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

Parts of Animals.

Origin of Philosophy

It is through wonder that men now begin and originally began to philosophize; wondering in the first place at obvious perplexities, and then by gradual progression raising questions about the greater matters too, e.g. about the changes of the moon and of the sun, about the stars and about the origin of the universe.


Political Animal

No one would choose the whole world on condition of being alone, since man is a political creature and one whose nature is to live with others.

Nicomachean Ethics.

Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all; since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and virtue, which he may use for the worst ends. Wherefore, if he have not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony.


Rational Animal

That which is proper to each thing is by nature best and most pleasant for each thing; for man, therefore, the life according to reason is best and pleasantest, since reason more than anything else is man.

Nicomachean Ethics.

Three-Part Soul

Of the psychic powers . . . some kinds of living things . . . possess all, some less than all, others one only. Those we have mentioned are the nutritive, the appetitive, the sensory, the locomotive, and the power of thinking. Plants have none but the first, the nutritive, while another order of living things has this plus the sensory. If any order of living things has the sensory it must also have the appetitive; for appetite is the genus of which desire, passion, and wish are the species; now all animals have one sense at least, viz. touch. . . . Certain kinds of animals possess in addition the power of locomotion, and still another order of animate beings, that is, man and possibly another order like man or superior to him, the power of thinking, that is, mind.

On the Soul (De anima).


The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.

On the Heavens (De caelo).


. . . men must do just actions to become just, and those of self-mastery to acquire the habit of self-mastery . . . these virtues are formed in a man by his doing the actions; . . .

Nicomachean Ethics.