Western Philosophy has been flawed since Aristotle

Woah – that’s a big claim

I’m dead. What more do you want?

The wise man built his house upon the sand?

Aristotle did a lot of work on categories,causes and logic. I am going to gloss over quite a lot so you get a feel for the argument before you get bored.

For logic, think of things like ‘All As are Bs, and all Bs are Cs. Therefore all As are Cs.’ A concrete example is all men are mammals, and all mammals are animals. Therefore, all men are animals.

Aristotle looked at accidental and essential properties. An accidental property is not a defining feature. For example, a table can be any colour. Change a colour to red and it’s a table still. However, remove an essential property – for example if it had no surface to put things on – and it is no longer a table.

Pretty much all Aristotle said seems sensible and a lot of it was genius and groundbreaking. The trouble is the relative independence it ends up ascribing to things.

For example, logic works of the idea you have a premise which exists independently from potential deductions. So you can assume it is true (or false) and see where that leads you.

The properties also draw a line between things. A human’s location and surroundings are accidental properties according to Aristotle.

And the rain came tumbling down

I disagree that these lines can be drawn when Aristotle says they can. These ideas have permeated down through Western Philosophy so are pretty much everywhere.

But they lead to problems.

When I define myself in such a way, for example, it almost inevitably will lead to (seemingly) unanswerable sceptical questions. If I exist apart from the world, then proving the world exists based on some sensory data which may or may not be accurate seems impossible.

Another example.

In Keynes’ Treatise on Probability, where he attempts to create a logical foundation and understanding of probability, he talks a lot about if a proposition p is true, we can be justified in a certain degree of belief in something else, say q. Perhaps, seeing the rain outside, it is very likely it will still be raining when you step out the door.

This assumes that the two can be independent. What if something can only be true within a framework of other things? I think p is true within the framework of knowing other things. If q is false, that might somewhat undermine that framework (or vice versa). I.e. the whole idea that we can have a single starting point is false. We might have a conception of the world as a whole, or a whole set of things we think are likely true, none of which exist in isolation.

Who needs a house anyway?

This is how we live our lives. We have a certain understanding of, say, human nature in the world. It can be tweaked but we answer questions like ‘is that a blue house’ under a set of semi-agreed assumptions and understandings. In this case, if you see it is blue, then you stop questioning.

Philosophers don’t do this, and this approach doesn’t leave them with much. They look at ideas and concepts in isolation and examine them, then build complicated arguments.

Fudging your way with a semi-workable view of the world is what you (and they) do to live your lives, not to Philosophise.

It’s hardly surprising it doesn’t leave Philosophers with much. Philosophy has developed around key ideas. Remove them, and we are back at square one.

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