IF PLATO WAS the hacker who invented the truth virus, Aristotle was the first to package it into a powerful cognitive operating system or thinking software package.
Aristotle started as a student in Plato's academy and remained there for 20 years until Plato, his mentor, died. By the time Plato died Aristotle was thoroughly infected with his mentor's truth virus and did much to establish "the search for certainty" as the basis of all intellectual endeavors.
Aristotle became a passionate and obsessive truth freak. Plato only went as far as saying that truth was what lay at the long end of a thinker's search, an ultimate destination. Not enough for Ari ... No sir! Aristotle said, "I want truth! I want it here! I want it now!".
Aristotle went on to insist that the ordinary fuzzy jumble of our daily reality was just not tidy enough. So, to bring "order" to the world he imposed a kind of truth template over everything.
Mail-Sorting and Labeling
Aristotle's medium was language. He assumed that the certainty of words could give certainty to the ineffable flow of experience. The untidy chaos of reality offended Aristotle's ordered PTV-infected mind, so he decided to break everything up into pigeonholes and categories - kind of like mail-sorting and labeling.
This goes here, that goes there, stick this label on this and that label on that! Let's just tidy everything up. Yes sir. "A place for everything and everything in its place." was Aristotle's motto.
In his classifying fervour Aristotle made up pigeonholes and sorted our daily reality into them. He tried to invent slots for everything. For example, he set about sorting 'government' into categories like: 'constitutional', 'tyrannical', 'monarchy', 'aristocracy', 'oligarchy', 'democracy'.
He then got busy breaking everything up into subjects like: politics, ethics, rhetoric (speech-making), metaphysics, physics, biology, meteorology. Finally, he invented his very own thinking software called logic.
Aristotle's Silly Syllogism
Aristotle's thinking software was already infected with the Plato Truth Virus from day one. For logic, Aristotle invented his silly syllogism. I say it's silly because it lacks wisdom and sense.
The syllogism starts with the so-called 'truth' as its premise. Then one simply matches up items that come along, and out pops your conclusion. Simple really ... and very silly
TRUTH: Swans are white.
ITEM: This is a swan.
LOGICAL EXTENSION: Therefore it is white.
TRUTH: Salespeople tell lies.
ITEM: Amy is a salesperson.
LOGICAL EXTENSION: Therefore Amy is lying.
TRUTH: Our church is the right church
ITEM: You are not a member.
LOGICAL EXTENSION: Therefore you are wrong.
TRUTH: The earth is flat.
ITEM: Therefore it has an edge.
LOGICAL EXTENSION: Therefore you will fall off the edge if you go too far from shore.
TRUTH: President is the law.
ITEM: The President did something
LOGICAL EXTENSION: Therefore it is legal. (Aristotle's Logic software caused Nixon to believe this.)
TRUTH: Boss's opinion is best.
ITEM: You are not a boss.
LOGICAL EXTENSION: So when we want your opinion we'll give it to you.
No Contradictions, Please!
For Aristotle, just thinking wasn't good enough. No, you have to think logically. Logic is obsessed with hunting down contradictions. In logic, a thing cannot be in box A and box NOT A at the same time. No, it must be sorted and classified into the 'correct' box.
Although real life is full of contradictions and paradoxes (is the glass half full or half empty?) this was just not good enough for our man Aristotle. Things must be cut up into pieces like a jig-saw puzzle and then sorted into their 'true' categories.
Judging Right from Wrong
Life, according to Aristotle, is a matter of sorting things out into 'right' and 'wrong'. Judgement is the key activity. This is right. That's wrong. I'm right. You're wrong. This is black. That is white. This is American. That's un-American. This is good. That is bad. This is the right answer. That is the wrong answer.
Grayness? Fuzziness? Uncertainty? Open-endedness? Paradox? Contradiction? Well, we cannot have that sort of thing around here. You've got to sort things out! Clean up your act! Get things right! In Aristotle's Lyceum, everything was covered by rules, rules, rules. The living arrangements, the study courses, the timetables were all dominated by rules and regulations.
Aristotle craved order. He loved the order that his classifications brought to his ideas and thoughts. He assumed that the same order that he found he could impose on words and language could also be imposed on the real world. Many have made the same mistake.
Aristotle's cognitive operating system, logic, has dominated Western education for far too long. How come we still think this way 2,500 years after old Ari joined Socrates and Plato on Mount Olympus? How come this ancient software has survived so long? Who kept it alive? Who spread it around? Who programmed it into your brain? We will discuss this in the next chapter.
Have a look around. Try to notice Aristotle's PTV-infected logic software in operation. You should try to notice it in your own mental information-processing and also in that of others. Look for it in this book. Look for evidence of the virus in today's newspaper and on TV. Also, try to notice it in institutions and in common situations you come across in the next 24 hours. It is so pervasive that you may have difficulty noticing the very subtle manifestations.
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