Sunday, 22 March 2009

Aristotle's Blunders

Aristotle (384-322BC) was a Greek philosopher who advocated reason and moderation. It has been suggested that he was probably the last person to know everything there was to be known in his own time. In the Middle Ages Aristotle's works became first of all the foundation of Islamic philosophy. Then in the 13th century, the writings of Thomas Aquinas, which reconciled Aristotle's reasoning with Christian theology ensured that for a couple of hundred years, Aristotle straddled Western thought like a colossus. From around 1300 he was virtually regarded as a prophet, reaching Aristotelation point in the 1400s. Later Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin's theories outmoded Aristotle’s.
Aristotle's works covered many topics, including logic, physics, astronomy, meteorology, biology, psychology, ethics, politics, and literary criticism. However his successors were influenced more by his physical and astronomical theories, of which some were later proved to be correct. For instance, he was one of the first men to believe that the world is round. However Aristotle was a man of his times with many Achilles heels. Because he didn't have the knowledge we have accumulated 2,400 years later, the great Greek came up with some balderdash, piffle and poppycock. Here's some examples of where Aristotle blew it:

(1) For a start his knowledge of the body was only skin deep. He considered the brain to be a device for cooling the blood and intelligence and sensation emits from the heart. . Why? Its all Greek to me.

(2) Aristotle thought heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones. He also believed that the moon didn't fall to the ground as it was made of a very light substance called ether. Doh!

(3) Because Aristotle didn't believe that all matter consisted of tiny particles, atomic theory remained dormant through ancient and medieval times. He criticised Democritus who'd introduced atomic theory.

(4) Aristotle's theory that stars move around a stationary Earth was held for centuries.

(5) Aristotle said some pretty obvious things such as: "Now a whole is that which has a beginning, a middle and an end."

(6) All his life, Aristotle, believed men have more teeth than women. I guess he never counted Mrs Aristotle's teeth.

(7) Aristotle believed in spontaneous generating. For instance bees are born from carcasses of oxon. And there is more... he was brimming with wrongability.

(8) Aristotle believed there was a fifth element in addition to the Ancient Greeks understanding of the four, earth, air, fire and water. His element was quintessence of which the cosmos and all celestial bodies were made.

If man manages to survive another 2,400 years, which I doubt, I wonder how many of our ideas, beliefs and theories will similarly be scoffed at as balderdash, piffle and poppycock.

For more on Aristotle, check out his Trivial Biography.

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