By Morris Dean
Not as many people as I would have thought have asked me where "Moristotle" came from. It appears that most people just accept it. As one person said, "Of course, you are Moristotle. Perfect!"
To those who've asked, I've said, "Think Aristotle."
Aristotle (384 BC–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and scientist. In Ancient Greek his name is rendered Ἀριστοτέλης (Aristotélēs; I admit that, for fun, I have occasionally rendered Moristotle "Moristoteles").
Aristotle was a student of Plato and tutored Alexander the Great. He was a founder of Western philosophy. He was the first to create a comprehensive system, encompassing morality, aesthetics, logic, science, politics, and metaphysics. In addition, he wrote about poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology.
When I discovered that Oxford University Professor Jonathan Barnes's 1982 book, Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction, was available in digital recording (four hours and nineteen minutes), I hastened to download it (from BARD, which stands for Braille and Audio Reading Download—a service of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped).
It was, naturally, an enjoyable read for me, and not only because of "Moristotle," but also and mainly because I had read some Aristotle as an undergraduate and also read some St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who in his Summa Theologica frequently quoted "The Philosopher" in the doomed hope of finding rational bases for certain matters of religious faith.
Even without such a reason to read Barnes's book, you could nevertheless find it an amusing read, off the beaten path of your usual reading. Here's an excerpt, to reveal more about Aristotle and Barnes's clear writing style:
13. Empiricism. How are we to acquire the knowledge which is to be packaged in neat Euclidean sciences? How do we get in touch with the substances which constitute the real world? How do we chart their changes? How do we hit upon their causes and uncover their explanations?Now, doesn't that sound like fun?
Deductive logic is not the means of discovering facts about the world: Aristotle's syllogistic provides a system within which knowledge can be articulated, but logic is not, save incidentally, a device for discovery.
The ultimate source of knowledge is, in Aristotle's view, perception. Aristotle was a thoroughgoing empiricist in two senses of that term. First, he held that the notions or concepts with which we seek to grasp reality are all ultimately derived from perception, "and for that reason, if we did not perceive anything, we would not learn or understand anything,and whenever we think of anything we must at the same time think of an idea." Secondly, he thought that the science of knowledge in which our grasp of reality consists is ultimately grounded on perceptual observations. That is hardly surprising: as a biologist, Aristotle's primary research tool was sense-perception, his own or that of others; as an ontologist [ontology is the study of the nature of being, existence, or reality], Aristotle's primary substances were ordinary perceptible objects. Plato, having given abstract Forms the leading role in his ontology, was led to regard the intellect rather than perception as the searchlight which illuminated reality. Aristotle, placing sensible particulars at the center of the stage, took sense-perception as his torch....[pp. 57-58]
Copyright © 2013 by Morris Dean