Saturday, November 28, 2009


Most people don't mind their "daily routines" during Thanksgiving, so I'm going to conserve my energy until Monday. I don't mind playing to an empty theatre, but for my own good I won't this time.

I've been reading an old nemesis for the last couple days: Aristotle. When I was in college, I used to define my personal philosophy against Aristotle. After all, Aristotle--as the father of modern "analysis" and a consummate biologist--believed that everything on earth had a "purpose." But the "purposes" that Aristotle ascribed to everything really were simply assumptions that carried no intrinsic weight, even if they sounded "right." Aristotle also originated the modern notion of "categorization," which is also artificial despite its organizational usefulness. It sounds great to say: "There are four kinds of goodness." Yet even momentary reflection reveals that it is preposterous to narrow something as amorphous as "good" into four absolutely rigid subdivisions.

Aristotle's methods seem suspect to a natural renegade like me. But I don't deny their influence on Western thought. I venture that Aristotle is probably the most influential secular philosopher of all time. His conclusions and observations--while replete with unjustified assumptions--nonetheless set the standard for everyone who came after him. His analytical and categorical processes remain intact in science, law, mathematics and even the arts. While we might disagree with Aristotle's judgments on some subjects, we nonetheless continue to apply his methods when "dissecting" any question into its "component parts" (analysis... literally "taking apart the whole and examining its parts").

It's worthwhile to re-read such an influential philosopher. Aristotle wrote about everything, from marine biology, to singing, to procreation, to politics, to geometry, to ethics, to law and even to drama. I like comprehensive intellects. Aristotle was definitely a comprehensive intellect who learned because he enjoyed it. He might have been wrong about many things, but I respect his contributions to knowledge. I just don't like metaphysical assumptions and assertions that "absolute truth" exists in life.

I will take up some of Aristotle's points in later essays. For now, I'm going to rest.

See you all next week!


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