A friend of mine recently remarked on how overrated he considers Aristotle to be. The impudent fool! I’m the Aristotle-overrated-considerer around these here parts. He’d obviously heard me talking about it, forgotten where he’d heard it and said it back to me. Anyway, I felt the need to re-establish my Aristotle-hatin’ credentials, and now I want to do the same here.
Now, all the ancient Greek philosophers seem rather backwards now, but that’s to be expected – they were pretty much working with nothing. The ones who didn’t write on the natural sciences are half-interesting today, the ones who did aren’t. But not only was Aristotle “groping in the dark” – he was actually pretty thick much of the time, and is now given an absurd amount of credit for founding something like all of science.
What was Aristotle’s method? The only scientific method that was known at the time, ie. making stuff up. Incidentally, this technique was not original to him. A bunch of people made their way into history by saying things like “the world is made of earth and fire” (or water and earth, or fire and air, or all of these, or nothing, or cheese). Occasionally some of them even randomly said something that was half-true, like Democritus who guessed that the world is made out of small bits. Some bits have spikes so they taste bitter, some are round so they taste oily. This is pretty much the best they came up with.
Aristotle is given extra credit for “systematising” science. This means that not only did he write a shitload of books, but a lot of them didn’t get destroyed, he wrote about a different thing each time and numbered things a lot. Therefore he is considered to have covered “everything”. How did he cover everything? By waking up in the morning, wondering about something, making up an explanation and writing it down without making any attempt to verify it in any way. Thus we have such revelations as “things fall towards the ground because such is their nature” (you might want to try explaining some things yourself this way, it’s actually not that difficult), “basilisks can kill by sight because venomous vapours issue from their eyes, as happens with women on their period” (this genius of biology was even able to write about animals that don’t exist) and “the world is made of fire, earth, water, air and aether” (a shoutout to his homies).
“But”, I hear someone object, “there was no way to make scientific experiments back then! You’re just cheaply making fun of Aristotle, whose work in philosophy in general is still extremely valuable!” Look, you disgusting little weed, just because something isn’t about science doesn’t mean it isn’t made up (see what I’m doing here? It’s dialogue, which proves that I’m rigorously testing my arguments). But here’s a scientific experiment Aristotle could have made: walk into a cave. You see, Aristotle explained vision with sight-rays that issue from the eyes. You don’t need much to hit on the connection between light and seeing: just shutter the windows, or walk into a cave, or anything. It’s like Aristotle just closed his eyes and said, “Bingo! Eye-beams!” Founder of science, my ass.