Friday, December 3, 2010

How Aristotle beats Plato and Kant

On the tail of my last posting, I'd like to take up - briefly, not in detail - the fundamental difference between Aristotle on the one hand and Plato and Kant on the other. In my last posting I made reference to Aristotle's defense of what I termed classical realism.

Classical realism is a basic metaphysical-epistemological principle affirmed by common sense (not the social-metaphysical version of "common sense" that should be dubbed "conventional wisdom" instead - the CW has it that Rand sucks as a philosopher, for instance, even though common sense says she was a dynamo) - namely, that the reality given to us via the senses is an irreducible primary. There's nothing beyond the reality observable by the senses, and no rational justification for thinking that there is. "Reality beyond the sensible" is codeword for intellectual charlatanism and hoodwinking, a boldfaced indulging in the arbitrary.

Reality - ultimate reality if you must - is knowable through the senses and reasoning derived from sensory observation. Aristotle affirmed this. Plato and Kant explicitly deny this.

In other words, only one-third of philosophy's acclaimed Big Three is on the side of the little guy.

If this is a microcosm of the history of western philosophy and its influence, then 2/3 of the supposed reasoning intellectual class has been wasting a hell of a lot of intellectual time and resources, and fostering a hell of a lot of misconceptions.

No wonder mainstream philosophy is such a shithole!

I'd say "this is truly, plainly pathetic" but then you must realize the historical context in which philosophy came about to begin with. First, remember that for some millions of years we were hardly above the level of the monkeys. Then . . . well, think of it like a geometric progression. Philosophy comes only recently in human history; it's hardly even had time to make its mark. But if you think of human evolution in the geometric-progression terms, you're also thinking in terms of progress along all sorts of lines - including philosophy. Even in philosophy, we are moving from a state of lesser wisdom to greater wisdom over the course of 2,500 years. Of course there would be big fuck-ups along the way. Hell, maybe even two out of three major philosophers would fuck up on so basic an issue as classical realism. As that is such a glaring and fundamental fuck-up, perhaps we can say that Plato and Kant were philosophy's two biggest, most influential fuck-ups.

(Note also that religion is a primitive form of philosophy; man in his evolution went through a religious period; then, we've had a philosophical period that has overlapped with the religious one for about the last 2,500 years; the religious period is nearing a close but guess which philosophers' ideas play right into the hands of (anti-realist) religious crowd? Perhaps we might consider these philosophers' metaphysics a remnant or vestige of the religious period, of pre-philosophical anti-realism.)

Aristotle, meanwhile, has only a record of success. The reintroduction of his ideas to the West paved the way for the Renaissance and modern science. The basic methodological orientation on which all rational endeavors such as science are built - induction - originated at the philosophical level with Aristotle (and was perfected with Rand). There's the eudaemonist ethics that is gradually winning over the profession today (some decades after Rand figured this very same thing out and formulated the one true system of "virtue ethics" the profession is more or less blindly groping toward). Everywhere Aristotle pops up, progress ensues.

Classical realism. It's like a basic no-BS litmus test. Aristotle passes. Plato and Kant fail. Simple as that.

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