Rescuing Aristotle

An excellent article! I think the tendency to judge historical figures by modern standards is one we always have to be cautious of. Aristotle was amazing for his times. Criticizing him for not understanding the world as well as we do, without understanding the intervening 2300 years, is facile.

Criticizing Aristotle is a tradition that probably has roots in the struggle of early modern scientists against many medieval scholars who turned him into a source of dogma, but that wasn’t Aristotle’s fault. It would be similar to scholars 1000 years from now deciding that Stephen Hawking was a source of dogma.

Scientia Salon

image002by Robin Herbert

Perhaps you are familiar with the following passage from Bertrand Russell:

“Observation versus Authority: To modern educated people, it seems obvious that matters of fact are to be ascertained by observation, not by consulting ancient authorities. But this is an entirely modern conception, which hardly existed before the seventeenth century. Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives’ mouths.” [1]

This criticism of Aristotle is often repeated and unreflectively accepted due to the reputation of Bertrand Russell. Edward de Bono embroidered upon this theme:

“Finally there was Aristotle, with his word-based inclusion/exclusion logic. Aristotle believed that men had more teeth than did women. Although he was married twice, he never actually counted the teeth of either wife. He did not need to. With horses, the stallion had more…

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I have to say it. I hated the Doctor Who episode: ‘Kill the Moon’

  SPOILER WARNING: If have haven't seen the latest Doctor Who episode and don't want to be spoiled, you may want to hold off reading this entry until you have seen it.  Indeed, you might find this post confusing until you have seen it. There has been some reactions to the episode, from Charlie Ann … Continue reading I have to say it. I hated the Doctor Who episode: ‘Kill the Moon’