Aristotle the Philosopher by J.L. Ackrill

Aristotle ( and is widely regarded as the greatest of all philosophers; indeed, he is traditionally referred to simply as `the philosopher’. Today, after more than two millennia, his ideas continue to stimulate thinkers and provoke them to controversy. The secondary literature is vast. The task of embracing Aristotle is like an ant setting out on the Fallburn path up Tinto. What should be the first step?’

A few books have helped me get going over the last 30 years, the first of which was this one by J.L. Ackrill ( In this book he conveys the force and excitement of Aristotle’s philosophical investigations, thereby showing why contemporary philosophers still draw from him. He quotes extensively from Aristotle’s works in his own notably clear English translation. A picture emerges of a lucid, lively, subtle and tough-minded thinker of astonishing range and penetration. Professor Ackrill identifies many striking connections between Aristotle’s ideas and recent philosophy; he also raises philosophical questions of his own, and exemplifies the way in which Aristotle can still be argued with and learned from. Brilliantly helpful. This must be on your bookshelf.

Follow up an interest in Aristotle with Barnes, Jonathan. (1995). The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle, Cambridge University Press (

If pressed for time reach for Barnes, Jonathan Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction (2000,

To embark on a lifetime of reading and scholarship about Aristotle refer to

Ready your mind to receive Aristotle by first listening to two BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ episodes (each 45 minutes). Firstly, ‘Aristotle’s Politics‘ available from the link  with Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge and Annabel Brett, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge.

Secondly, ‘Aristotle’s Poetics‘ available from the link   with Angie Hobbs – Associate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Nick Lowe – Reader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London; and Stephen Halliwell – Professor of Greek at St Andrews.

170 pages in Oxford University Press paperback edition

First published 1981

ISBN 978-0192891181

Aristotle wondering why there is anything rather than just nothing

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