December 16, 2011

A letter to Aristotle


Aristotle,
            You’ve made the world a more orderly place through categories and classification. By explaining final and efficient cause, you shed light on why things happen and how. Through eudemonia, you helped people understand their ultimate happiness is largely up to them. While I’m grateful for those things, I most treasure your contribution to logic.
Thank you for building your reasoning on the assumption absolute truth exists. You once said: “To say that what is is not, or that what is not is, is false and to say that what is is, or that what is not is not, is true.” [1] I agree. As you said, the validity of an argument is based on the legitimacy of its premises and the relationship between them— not on popular opinion (or nomos). Thus, true arguments and those that convince sometimes differ.
Now, you are probably wondering if this is going to be more than a thank you note.
It is. I want to ask some questions— in case anything important fell through the cracks of history or the cracks in my head.
Do you think there’s such thing as situational truth? Are some things a matter of opinion? Can anything be neither true nor false? And, when we weigh arguments, can we ever understand all the premises involved and their intertwined relationships enough to be conclusive? I have some thoughts, but I would love to hear yours.

Sincerely,
            Adam


[1] Aristotle, R. B. (1963). The Philosophy of Aristotle. New York: New American Library.

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