384-322 BC

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, researcher, logician, and mathematician, wrote over 150 wide-ranging books that are now regarded as classics. His focus was on categorizing and systemizing phenomena. His writings involve careful observations. Among his concerns were those having to do with humor theory, rhetoric, and the nature and prognosis for speech problems, including those involving what today would be called dysarthria, voice, and fluency. He defined stuttering (oschnophonos) as: the inability to join one syllable to another sufficiently quickly. He felt that the disorder was caused by problems in the tongue movement “for they find a difficulty in changing the position of the tongue when they have to utter a second sound.” He believed that those born deaf were incapable of reason.

Throughout his works Aristotle reflected on the nature of mind and body. He described aspects of the mind as part of his treatment of the animate nature of man and animals (De anima—on the soul; Parva naturalia). In De anima Aristotle defines the psyche (psuche) as a bodily and biological function, similar to nutrition, perception, thought, and motion.

When considering consciousness and how the various parts of the body worked together in perception, Aristotle hypothesized that the heart contained a common sense faculty. It was the place that the sense experiences coalesced resulting in a unity of consciousness “By my eyes I see the color and shine of the trumpet; by my ears I hear its tones: but it is a unitary I who perceives the trumpet, and I perceive the trumpet as a unitary substance.”

Aristotle also offered hypotheses about the cosmology of the world. He, following those before him, theorized that the world was made up of four elements—earth water, air and fire. A fifth element, one that exists beyond the earth (supra-lunary) allows people to have life-giving, emotional, and conceptual processing abilities. Cicero described Aristotle’s fifth element as being:

for thinking foreseeing, learning, teaching, making a discovery, holding so much in memory—all these and more, loving hating, feeling pain and joy—such things as these, he believes, do not belong to any one of the four elements (Furley, 1999, p. 16).

Aristotle was born in 385 BC at Stagirus, a small Greek township north of Athens. At 17 he went to Athens, Greece, where he studied under Plato. In 342, Aristotle was appointed by King Philip of Macedonia to tutor his teen-aged son Alexander who as in 336 AD become King of Greece.

Following this period in Macedonia, Aristotle returned to Athens Greece and started another school that was attached to a temple consecrated to Apollo. He held lectures in a gymnasium and afterward walked and talked with his students under the eaves of the building, his school and students became known as Peripatetics.

Writings about Aristotle

Bennett, M. & Hacker, P. (2002). The motor system in neuroscience: A history and analysis of conceptual developments. Progress in Neurobiology, 67, 1-52.

Furley, D. (1999). Aristotle the philosopher of nature. In D. Furley (ed.). From Aristotle to Augustine: History of Philosophy, vol 1v. London: Routledge.

Wollock, J. (1997). The noblest animate motion: Speech physiology and medicine in pre-Cartesian linguistic thought. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

Personal bio of Aristotle