Aristotle Quotes 1–30 of 215 Quotes

Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotelēs; 384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic school of philosophy, and the Aristotelian tradition.

Below are 30 of 215 sourced Aristotle quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“My lectures are published and not published; they will be intelligible to those who heard them, and to none beside.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Letter to Alexander the Great as quoted by William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (1837), Ch. 2, Sect. 2

“Of things said without any combination, each signifies either substance or quantity or qualification or a relative or where or when or being-in-a-position or having or doing or being affected. To give a rough idea, examples of substance are man, horse; of quantity: four-foot, five-foot; of qualification: white, grammatical; of a relative: double, half, larger; of where: in the Lyceum, in the market-place; of when: yesterday, last-year; of being-in-a-position: is-lying, is sitting; of having: has-shoes-on, has-armour-on; of doing: cutting, burning; of being-affected: being-cut, being-burned.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: 1b25-2a10; J. L. Ackrill (tr.), 1984-1995

“Knowledge of the fact differs from knowledge of the reason for the fact.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: I. 13, 78a.22

“The premisses of demonstrative knowledge must be true, primary, immediate, more knowable than and prior to the conclusion, which is further related to them as effect to cause... The premisses must be the cause of the conclusion, more knowable than it, and prior to it; its causes, since we posses scientific knowledge of a thing only when we know its cause; prior, in order to be causes; antecedently known, this antecedent knowledge being not our mere understanding of the meaning, but knowledge of the fact as well. Now 'prior' and 'more knowable' are ambiguous terms, for there is a difference between what is prior and more knowable in the order of being and what is prior and knowable to man. I mean that objects nearer to sense are prior and more knowable to man; objects without qualification prior and more knowable are those further from sense. Now the most universal causes are furthest from sense and particular causes are nearest to sense, and they are thus exactly opposed to each other.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: I. 2, 71b.9 sqq

“We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [all things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses—in short from fewer premisses; for... given that all these are equally well known, where they are fewer knowledge will be more speedily acquired, and that is a desideratum. The argument implied in our contention that demonstration from fewer assumptions is superior may be set out in universal form...”

— Aristotle

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More on this quote: Book I, Part 25
• Also known as Occam's razor or the principle of parsimony / economy (lex parsimoniae)
Richard McKeon (tr.) (1963), p. 150

“The natural way of doing this [seeking scientific knowledge or explanation of fact] is to start from the things which are more knowable and obvious to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more knowable by nature; for the same things are not 'knowable relatively to us' and 'knowable' without qualification. So in the present inquiry we must follow this method and advance from what is more obscure by nature, but clearer to us, towards what is more clear and more knowable by nature. Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused masses, the elements and principles of which became known to us by later analysis...”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: A.1, 184a.16 sqq, source:, Book I, Part 1, Tr. R. P. Hardie, R. K. Gaye.

“But it is better to assume principles less in number and finite, as Empedocles makes them to be. All philosophers... make principles to be contraries... (for Parmenides makes principles to be hot and cold, and these he demominates fire and earth) as those who introduce as principles the rare and the dense. But Democritus makes the principles to be the solid and the void; of which the former, he says, has the relation of being, and the latter of non-being. ...it is necessary that principles should be neither produced from each other, nor from other things; and that from these all things should be generated. But these requisites are inherent in the first contraries: for, because they are first, they are not from other things; and because they are contraries, they are not from each other.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book I, Ch. VI, pp. 53-55.

“It is necessary that every thing which is harmonized, should be generated from that which is void of harmony, and that which is void of harmony from that which is harmonized. ...But there is no difference, whether this is asserted of harmony, or of order, or composition... the same reason will apply to all of these.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book I, Ch. VI, p. 57.

“[T]he ancient philosophers... all of them assert that the elements, and those things which are called by them principles, are contraries, though they establish them without reason, as if they were compelled to assert this by truth itself. They differ, however... that some of them assume prior, and others posterior principles; and some of them things more known according to reason, but others such as are more known according to sense: for some establish the hot and the cold, others the moist and the dry, others the odd and the even, and others strife and friendship, as the causes of generation. ...in a certain respect they assert the same things, and speak differently from each other. They assert different things... but the same things, so far as they speak analogously. For they assume principles from the same co-ordination; since, of contraries, some contain, and others are contained.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book I, Ch. VI, pp. 57-59.

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“This opinion... appears to be ancient... that the one, excess and defect, are the principles of things... It is not... probable that there are more than three principles... [E]ssence is one certain genus of being: so that principles will differ from each other in prior and posterior alone, but not in genus, for in one genus there is always one contrariety, and all contrarieties appear to be referred to one. That there is neither one element, therefore, nor more than two or three, is evident.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book I, Ch. VII, pp. 62-63.

“[T]he first philosophers, in investigating the truth and the nature of things, wandered, as if led by ignorance, into a certain... path. Hence, they say that no being is either generated or corrupted, because it is necessary that what is generated should be generated either from being or non-being: but both these are impossible; for neither can being be generated, since it already is; and from nothing, nothing can be generated... And thus... they said that there were not many things, but that being alone had a subsistence. ...the ancient philosophers ...through this ignorance added so much to their want of knowledge, as to fancy that nothing else was generated or had a being; but they subverted all generation.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book I, Ch. IX, pp. 73-76.

“[A]ll things as subsist from nature appear to contain in themselves a principle of motion and permanency; some according to place, others according to increase and diminuation; and others according to change in quality.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book II, Ch. I, p. 88.

“According to one mode... nature is thus denominated, viz. the first subject matter to every thing which contains in itself the principle of motion and mutation. But after another mode it is denominated form, which subsists according to definition: for as art is called that which subsists according to art, and that which is artificial; so likewise nature is both called that which is according to nature, and that which is natural. ...that which is composed from these is not nature, but consists from nature; as, for instance, man. And this is nature in a greater degree than matter: for every thing is then said to be, when it is form in energy... entelecheia, rather than when it is incapacity.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book II, Ch. I, pp. 93-94.

“[L]et us consider, with respect to causes, what they are, and how many there are in number... this also must be done by us in discoursing concerning generation and corruption, and all physical mutation... knowing the principles of these... Cause... is after one manner said to be that, from which, being inherent, something is produced... But after another manner cause is form and paradigm (and this is the definition of the essence of a thing) and the genera of this. ...But it happens... that there are also many causes of the same thing, and this is not from accident. ...seed, a physician, he who consults, and, in short, he who makes, are all of them causes, as that whence the principle of mutation, or permanency, or motion is derived. ...It is, however, necessary always to investigate the supreme cause of every thing ...Further still, it is necessary to investigate the genera of genera; and the particulars of particulars... We should also explore the capacities of the capabilities, and the energizers of the things affected by energy.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book II, Ch. III, pp. 107-113.

“Fortune... and chance, are said to be in the number of causes... [W]ith some it is dubious whether these things have subsistence or not. For, say they, nothing is produced from fortune, but there is a definite cause of all such things... For if fortune were any thing, it would truly appear to be absurd; and some one might doubt why no one of the ancient wise men, when assigning the causes of generation and corruption, has ever defined any thing concerning fortune. ...[M]any things are produced, and have a subsistence, from fortune and chance... They did not, however, think that fortune was any thing belonging to friendship or strife, or fire, or intellect, or any thing else of things of this kind. They are chargeable, therefore, with absurdity, whether they did not conceive that it had a substance, or whether fancying that it had, they omitted it; especially since it was sometimes employed by them. Thus Empedocles says that the air...Thus it then chanc'd to run, tho' varying oft.He also says that the greater part of... animals were generated by fortune. But there are some who assign chance to the cause of this heaven, and of all mundane natures... [W]e must consider... whether chance or fortune are the same... or different from each other, and how they fall into definite causes.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book II, Ch. IV, pp. 113-115.

“[S]ince causes are four in number, to know them all is the business of the natural philosopher, who also referring to the cause why a thing is to all of them, viz. to matter, form, that which moves, and for the sake of which a thing subsists, physically assigns a reason. Frequently, however, three of these causes pass into one: for the cause why a thing is, and that for the sake of which it is, are one. But that which motion first originates, is in species the same with these... [T]here are three treatises; once concerning that which is immoveable; another concerning that which is moved, indeed, but is incorruptible; and a third concerning corruptible natures. So the cause of why a thing is, is assigned by him who refers to matter, to essence, and to the first mover... But there are two principles which are naturally motive; of which, one is not physical, because it does not contain in itself the principle of motion. And if there is any thing which moves without being moved, it is of this kind; as is that which is perfectly immoveable, that which is the first of all things, together with essence and form: for it is the end, and that for the sake of which a thing subsists. So that since nature is for the sake of something, it is also necessary to know this cause.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book II, Ch. VII, pp. 124-126.

“Since... nature is a principle of motion and mutation... it is necessary that we should not be ignorant of what motion is... But motion appears to belong to things continuous; and the infinite first presents itself to the view in that which is continuous. ...[F]requently ...those who define the continuous, employ the nature or the infinite, as if that which is divisible to infinity is continuous.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. I, pp. 135-136.

“[I]t is impossible for motion to subsist without place, and void, and time.”

— Aristotle

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Aristotle. “Aristotle Quotes: 1–30 of 215 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Aristotle-quotes.html#19

Quote source: Book III, Ch. I, p. 136.

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“Since the science of nature is conversant with magnitudes, motion, and time, each of which must necessarily be either infinite or finite...[we] should speculate the infinite, and consider whether it is or not; and if it is what it is. ...[A]ll those who appear to have touched on a philosophy of this kind... consider it as a certain principle of beings. Some, indeed, as the Pythagoreans and Plato, consider it, per se, not as being an accident to any thing else, but as having an essential subsistence... the Pythagoreans... consider the infinite as subsisting in sensibles; for they do not make number to be separate; and they assert that what is beyond the heavens is infinite; but Plato says that beyond the heavens there is not any body, nor ideas, because these are no where: he affirms, however, that the infinite is both in sensibles, and in ideas. ...Plato establishes two infinities, viz. the great and the small.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. IV, pp. 150-152.

“All those... who discourse concerning nature, always subject a certain other nature of... elements, to the infinite... But no one of those who make the elements to be finite introduces infinity. Such, however, as make infinite elements, as Anaxagoras and Democritus, say that the infinite is continuous by contact. ...Rationally, too, do all philosophers consider the infinite as a principle; for it cannot be in vain, nor can any other power be present with it than that of a principle: for all things are either the principle, or from the principle; but of the infinite there is no principle, since otherwise it would have an end. ...it is also unbegotten and uncorruptible, as being a certain principle: for... end is the corruption of everything. ...It likewise appears to comprehend and govern all things, as those assert who do not introduce other causes beside the infinite... It would seem also that this is divine: for it is immortal and indestructible, as Anaximander says, and most of the physiologists.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. IV, pp. 152-155.

“[B]ecause that which is finite is always bounded with reference to something... it is necessary that there should be no end... [N]umber also appears to be infinite, and mathematical magnitudes, and that which is beyond the heavens. And since that which is beyond is infinite, body also appears to be infinite, and it would seem that there are infinite worlds; for why is there rather void here than there? ...If also there is a vacuum, and an infinite place, it is necessary that there should be an infinite body: for in things which have a perpetual subsistence, capacity differs nothing from being. The speculation of the infinite is, however, attended with doubt: for many impossibilities happen both to those who do not admit that it has a subsistence, and to those who do. ...It is ...especially the province of a natural philosopher to consider if there be a sensible infinite magnitude.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. V, p. 156.

“[T]hey pronounce absurdly who thus speak, as the Pythagoreans assert: for at the same time they make the infinite to be essence, and distribute it into parts.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. VI, p. 158.

“[I]t is impossible that each of the elements should be infinite. For that is body which has interval on all sides; and that is infinite which has extension without bound.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. VII, p. 159.

“[I]t's gravity is the cause; and that which is heavy abides in the middle, and the earth is in the middle: in like manner also, the infinite will abide in itself, through some other cause... and will itself support itself. ...[T]he places of the whole and the part are of the same species; as of the whole earth and a clod, the place is downward; and of the whole of fire, and a spark, the place is upward. So that if the place of the infinite is in itself, there will be the same place also of a part of the infinite.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. VII, p. 162.

“[H]ow will one part of the infinite be above, and another below? Or how will it have extremes or a middle? Further still, every sensible body is in place; but the species and differences of place are upward and downward, before and behind, to the right hand and to the left: and these things not only thus subsist with relation to us, and by position, but have a definite subsistence in the universe itself. But it is impossible that these things should be in the infinite: and... that there should be an infinite place. But every body is in place; and therefore it is also impossible that there should be an infinite body. ...[T]herefore ...there is not an infinite body in energy.”

— Aristotle

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Quote source: Book III, Ch. VII, pp. 163-164.

“[T]he infinite is in capacity. That, however, which is infinite in capacity is not to be assumed as that which is infinite in energy. ...[I]t has its being in capacity, and in division and diminution. ...[I]t is always possible to assume something beyond it. It does not, however, on this account surpass every definite magnitude; as in division it surpasses every definite magnitude, and will be less.”

— Aristotle

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Aristotle. “Aristotle Quotes: 1–30 of 215 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Aristotle-quotes.html#28

Quote source: Book III, Ch. VIII, pp. 164-166.

“Plato... introduces two infinities, because both in increase and diminution there appears to be transcendency, and a progression to infinity. Though... he did not use them: for neither is there infinity in numbers by diminution or division; since unity is a minimum: nor by increase; for he extends number as far as to the decad.”

— Aristotle

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Aristotle. “Aristotle Quotes: 1–30 of 215 Quotes.” Last modified August 4, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Aristotle-quotes.html#29

Quote source: Book III, Ch. VIII, p. 167.

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