Aristotle Gets Real 


This is the headline I imagined upon seeing Michael Esfeld's article ARISTOTLE'S DIRECT REALISM IN DE ANIMA.  Philosophers have been attempting to act upon this injunction for several millennia with but limited success, as is widely acknowledged.  Michael may hereby have uncovered the source of all our difficulties.  

It was a simple misunderstanding.  We just misread Aristotle.  Think of all the hassle we could have saved if only we had realized that Aristotle had already gotten real.  

If you recall your school days, you may remember Plato and Socrates.  Socrates got whacked, and Plato, his student, got whacked out on Ideas, and so he had trouble consummating his love. .  Then along came the level-headed Aristotle to straighten everyone out with his Concepts.  Concepts were like mini-Ideas, and more down to earth.  They just lived in your head, and not in heaven.  

Well, it turns out, according to Mr. Esfeld, that Aristotle wasn't so level-headed after all.  A closer reading of Aristotle reveals a closet Platonist.  Fortunately I have not read Aristotle nor Michael, so I can render my own, unbiased and spontaneous account, as I am won't to do. 

Like you, I'm sure, and like Berkley, too, I was always bothered by concepts.  How is a Concept supposed to be different from an Idea?  What happens to an unconceived concept?  Like the poor bereft and unperceived tree on the Quad, doesn't it or can't it go to heaven?  Is St. Peter going to slam the gates?  Need heaven be quite so exclusive?  Just because a concept is intangible does not mean that it has to be immaculately conceived every time it pops into someone's head.  Is a little cosmic telepathy going to kill us?  Eat your heart out, Ma Bell.  

To sum up, concepts, like ideas are either real or not.  When push came to shove, Aristotle got real about concepts.  

So, given telepathic concepts, why do we have to go to school, and where does that leave the tree on the Quad?  Chomskian innate universal grammar and English grammar are not quite the same, so we end up declining Latin verbs.  Go figure.  

And about that tree.  Next time you hug a tree, be more respectful.  Please address it as 'Your Treeness'.  Or are you so stupid as to think there are no trees in heaven?  How do I know?  Because I know that by elementary logic and reason that this has got to be the BPW.  So this is almost heaven and we have trees here so go figure.  Being only slightly less catty, I could quote Michael to the effect that the direct realism of our perceptions commits us to a conceptual structure of the world.  Which is to say that atoms are concepts before we manage to reify them, as we are won't to do.  Too much tree hugging and there are bound to be tree bambinos.  We are just not quite cognizant of our powers of creation, but then we do have divine assistance.  

Any questions? 

I hear that John McDowell is outstanding in the direct realism field.  Let's go see.  

Well, his profile on the net is not real high.  Check out Mind and World.  He has managed to keep his essays off the net.  Do we have to buy the book?  


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