The most intelligent person

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by Kizmet, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

  2. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

  3. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    I'd be inclined to say Aristotle. Aristotle is a giant who towers above his age and above all of human history to some extent.

    This guy was absolutely extraordinary. Not only did he write on everything, he wrote so incisively that his ideas have been hugely influential for approaching 2400 years and continue to reverberate in many fields of study even today.

    His Organon (a collection of several separate works) was the origin of formal logic and the philosophy of science. He discusses affirmative, negative, universal and particular propositions, introduces the syllogism, discusses induction, definition, demonstration, probabilistic reasoning and the nature of scientific knowledge. He also produced a book on logical fallacies. Keep in mind that this was the 4th century BCE and as far as is known nobody had ever done anything remotely like this. Before Aristotle people were still writing vaguely about "logos", the principle of reason. Aristotle pulled reasoning apart, displayed its parts (that logicians still recognize today) and started to show how it worked.

    His Rhetoric took a far more judicious approach to the art of persuasion than Plato's hostility, treating rhetoric as 'winning the soul through persuasion'. Hence it was not only necessary for human affairs but used responsibly and well could be a good thing. (I suppose that education would fit here as well as demagoguery.)

    He probably should be considered the founder of the biological sciences and wrote extensively about zoology. His History of Animals illustrates his careful observation of animals (and particularly tidepool life). His Parts of Animals is probably the first actual comparative anatomy text ever written. His Movement of Animals addresses animal locomotion. His Generation of Animals is a careful study of animal reproduction and development. Not only did he pioneer the entire science of zoology, he also created modern expository scientific writing. His books read much more like modern scientific textbooks than they do the poetry, drama and mythology of ancient times.

    While Aristotle's Physics has been replaced by modern approaches to the subject far more than his biology has been, it was still a tremendous accomplishment for the 4th century BCE.

    His On Generation and Corruption addresses change in the material world and it's where his famous four causes (formal, material, efficient and final/teleological) appear. Unlike our contemporary physics-influenced idea of cause which focuses entirely on efficient causation, Aristotle was interested in the more expansive question of what he needed to explain the existence of anything that comes into or out of existence.

    He wrote books on astronomy and meteorology that, while only of historical interest today, illustrate the breadth of his scientific interests.

    His Metaphysics wasn't the first book on that subject, but it gave that subject its name. 'Metaphysics' means 'after physics' and refers to the otherwise untitled book coming after the Physics in the canonical Roman-era collection of Aristotle's works. (No, it doesn't mean 'more cosmic than physics'.) Aristotle's approach to many of the issues that he treats here are still taken seriously by philosophers today.

    Even today, nobody can study ethics without reading Aristotle, particularly his hugely influential Nichomachean Ethics.

    And Aristotle's Poetics was arguably history's first book on literary theory and remains influential today.

    Bottom line: The organization of modern universities into various departments addressing their respective subjects is based to some large extent on the different subjects that Aristotle addressed in his massive collection of writings. More than one of these subjects (like formal logic) was his invention and originated with him.
  4. GregWatts

    GregWatts Member


    To quote Levicoff... Ba ha ha ha ha (or something like that).

    Most of his golden virtue ethics has been de-bunked.
  5. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

  6. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Ted Heiks
    SteveFoerster and Maniac Craniac like this.

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