March, 17, 2016

The Ancient Wisdom of Aristotle


By Chandler Kendall

            As you walk through the Education in Zion Gallery there are many inspiring and profound lessons to be learned from great leaders of the latter days. Familiar names such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Karl G. Maeser, and James E. Talmage fill the many displays with their perspectives on the importance and value of education. All are incredible and dedicated members of the Church and disciples of Jesus Christ. However, toward the end of the exhibit there is a board of quotes from famous people that apply to the four aims of a BYU education (spiritually strengthening, character building, intellectually enlarging, and lifelong learning and service). Under the category of lifelong learning and service there is a quote by a man who is not a member of the church, and whose life predates that of the Jesus. Aristotle gives us a great statement of truth that helps us understand the importance of education in every aspect of our lives by stating, “Education is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.” To better understand this quote we need to understand who Aristotle was.

Many of us have heard his name before, but we don’t always grasp how important Aristotle’s life continues to impact us today. In addition to being an incredible philosopher he also studied physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government. He was a student of Plato, one of the greatest minds in philosophical history. He also was the teacher of Alexander the Great, a man who had conquered half of the known world by the age of thirty-three. Aristotle had more experience and intelligence than almost everyone in his day, and so when he makes a statement regarding education we can trust that he knows what he is talking about.

Aristotle makes the point that no matter what stage of life we are in, gaining education and seeking after learning is worthy of our time and effort. If things are going well for us, education can enable life to be even more enjoyable, rather than squandering our days of ease in idleness. In times of adversity and trial, education helps us deal with the challenges we face and gives us perspectives that allow us to tackle these problems with wisdom. In old age when many of the abilities we have obtained start to fade away, education continues to provide purpose for our life in seeking the never-ending quest for greater knowledge and application of that knowledge. Aristotle’s logic is sound, and when tempted to avoid the efforts of education or complain about the exertions of learning we should remember that learning is a principle that will greatly enhance any situation or walk of life that we may be in.