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Author Topic: Aristotle the world’s first scientist and Plato an anti-scientific mythmaker?  (Read 1142 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: August 30, 2014, 04:51:26 PM »

Aristotle (384-322 BCE) is better known to us as a Greek philosopher, logician, rhetorician, and political theorist whose ideas profoundly influenced the history of Western thought, but he was at heart more of a biologist—methodically and assiduously classifying animals, describing each of them, recording how they developed in the womb or in the egg and where and how they lived. In the process he founded the entirely new science of biology, and with that accomplishment it can even be said that he actually founded science itself.



In The Lagoon (Viking Adult, 512 pages), which is both travelogue and study of the origins of science, Armand Marie Leroi, professor of evolutionary development biology at Imperial College London, chronicles his visit to the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos to see for himself the animals that Aristotle studied over 2,300 years ago. Leroi incisively explores Aristotle’s observations and demonstrates how the science that Aristotle founded was deeply intertwined with the philosophical system that he himself developed.


PLATO WAS ARISTOTLE'S TEACHER

Leroi also gives modern readers some contrarian glimpses of the personalities of the student Aristotle and of his teacher Plato, both of whom we can visualize today only from stone busts showing serene elderly men with long curly beards. From Leroi’s accounts, the young Aristotle was an overdressed dandy who compensated for his small eyes and thin legs by sporting plenty of jewelry and an elaborate hairstyle (an ancient hippie?), and the elderly Plato was so hot-tempered that he once threw his favorite dog down a well. Indeed, Leroi makes the revisionist assessment of Plato as an anti-scientific mythmaker mindlessly obsessed with numbers, and of Aristotle as the world’s very first scientist aside from the historical distinction of having been a tutor to the young Alexander the Great.

Read Patricia Fara’s “Collecting Cuttlefish on Lesbos,” a review of The Lagoon, in the Literary Review now!

OTHER INTERESTING READINGS:

Time after time. In “The rise of time machine fiction,” an article that came out in the August 21, 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine, Sam Sacks observes that time rarely goes straight in literature any longer. He says that instead, books that juxtapose multiple stories from different periods in time have grown into a genre of their own. “Once a sci-fi plot conceit,” he argues, “time travel has become among the most popular structural devices in contemporary fiction.”

Read Sam Sacks’s “The rise of time machine fiction” in Prospect Magazine now!

No private pain-event. In “Pure agony,” a review of Joanna Bourke’s The Story of Pain: From Prayers to Painkillers, (Oxford University Press, 396 pages), Andrew Scull says that agonies of body and mind may be hidden to a degree, and that sufferers often seek solitude to avoid inflicting their torments on others and because many forms of pain seem inherently isolating and thus incite a yearning for darkness, silence, and seclusion. But Joanna Bourke insists in the book that pain is a rather complex cultural phenomenon, a way of perceiving experience that’s shaped by language and history, in which case there really is “no such thing as a private pain-event.”


Read Andrew Scull’s “Pure agony,” a review of The Story of Pain, in The Times Literary Supplement now!
« Last Edit: April 18, 2017, 08:06:24 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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