Published:  12:00 AM, 31 May 2016

Remembering Aristotle on his 2400th birthday

Remembering Aristotle on his 2400th birthday

The world has witnessed 24 centuries of Aristotelian influence on intellectual exercise and gradual development of knowledge. Aristotle has been a great inspiration in various philosophical and scientific endeavors, leading humanity towards a prosperous horizon, awash with the glow of bedewed morning. A world of solid and practical knowledge was his vision, the knowledge that would be empirically verifiable, culminating in scientific truth. His noble thoughts formed the backbone of the Western civilization that we find today. The democratic political system stemmed from his theorem. The common cultural heritage of Europe and America and other parts of the secular world hinges upon his legacy. A sage of the ancient globe, Aristotle was a modern soul, so compatible with the nerves of the twenty-first century. He is still relevant to our time, essential in our pursuit of wisdom and scholarship. The foundation of Aristotelian worldview is logic. Aristotle had confidence in the power of logic, with which he wanted to transform society into a sensible entity. Superstition had no place in his thought and belief. He was a scientific persona and wanted to base the world on science. He identified humans as rational beings, capable of ensuring justice with correct reasoning and argumentation. He taught people how to argue and judge with balance and equanimity to reach an agreeable decision. His syllogistic logic, precursor of modern-day mathematical logic and deductive inference, is still applied to day-to-day decision-making process. He was a champion of ethics, which would usher in individual and collective virtues, promising good life. If we fail to create a logical and ethical society, with freedom of thought and expression, in our contemporary world, it would only make Aristotle ashamed.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) was a proud pundit of Greek era, which was enriched in every way with his contributions. He initiated the great tradition of 'reason' in Greece when the rest of the world was gleefully engrossed in spiritualism, turning a blind eye to worldly affairs, with an entertainment of ritualistic practices. Aristotle was down to earth and he would encourage questions on all traditional thoughts. The modern European enlightenment was only the extension of the old spirit, which awaited discovery by the Renaissance. As Aristotle illuminated the ancient world, he was also essential in medieval scholasticism. His concept of the 'Absolute' was taken up by the demagogic scholars to prove the existence of God. That everything has the final cause, in a chain of causal relationship, hangs at the dead end of Aristotelian sophistry. Still today, preachers believe that spiritualism should have a logical underpinning rather than be a matter of blind faith. This is just an echo of Aristotelian courtesy.
Aristotle, who dedicated his whole life to learning, was the greatest mind of ancient Greece. He used to visit the Academy of Plato, listening and arguing. He was not an obliged disciple of Plato, as such. Aristotle challenged Plato's convictions on many occasions, which ultimately led to the creation of his own school 'Lyceum'. He distinguished himself from his guru with a debate on reality. According to Plato, 'reality' is not what we see but it is abstract, something like 'maya' as propounded in Indian philosophy. On the contrary, Aristotle accepted the tangible world as real, subject to serious investigation with scientific apparatus. As a guru himself, Aristotle had the privilege to teach Alexander the Great, who conquered the world with formidable military skills. Plato-Aristotle-Alexander is the most dignified trinity in human history for its most profound intellectual and political impact.
A prodigious researcher and prolific writer, Aristotle produced a mammoth wealth of work (about 200 treaties), of which only 31 has survived. He wrote on a wide range of disciplines including science, philosophy, logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, theatre, music, aesthetics and rhetoric. He almost single-handedly laid the foundation of physical science, with systematic studies of anatomy, astronomy, embryology, geography, geology, meteorology, physics and zoology. He made a discipline of taxonomy, as Aristotelians inform, distinguishing about 500 species of birds, mammals and fishes. During his time there were no tributaries of knowledge in which he did not swim. He has given the world so much, it could expect no more from him. His views of natural sciences were unprecedented during his time. His theories are still read and taught at different universities around the globe. Of particular interest is his literary theory; his poetics is perused by the students of literature with keen interest. They try to understand the nature of 'tragedy' in classical times and derive a sense of 'catharsis'. They are so indebted to Aristotle for literary insight, aren't they?
It has come to real pleasure as 2016 has been officially proclaimed by UNESCO as the 'Aristotle Anniversary Year'. It is too befitting his stature. He deserves it verily, deserves much more. Our joys know no bound when we come across the schedules of celebration in Heidelberg, Leuven, Padua, Paris, Helsinki, Lisbon, Notre Dame (Indiana), Moscow, Córdoba and Athens. And coincidentally, the mood of celebration turns euphoric when the news of the discovery of Aristotle's tomb hits international media. According to a recent report, archaeologist Kostas Sismanidis has found the tomb of Aristotle, which was hitherto lost. After two decades of excavation, a marble floor has been unearthed in Stagira, where Aristotle was born around 384 BC. If it is true, it would positively be a shocker for the philosophy enthusiasts, particularly the Aristotelian researchers.

When the air is stimulated by Aristotle-vive, is Bangladesh ready to seize the celebration? Aristotle is light and the absence of Aristotle is darkness. The more we walk on the way of Aristotle, the more we are likely to be enlightened; the more we are dissuaded from him, the more we are likely to enter into the imbroglio of ignorance. He is a beacon aloft, of unquestionable universal significance. The father of logic, the first scientist, will continue to show light in the days ahead, just like past and present, inspiring all to engage in searching truth in and out of soul, making way for a potent civilization. He has undoubtedly a place in the mind of the Bengalis and Bangladeshis, we suppose. Teachers here are often heard to bless their students: "May you become as wise as Aristotle!" Aristotle is part our educational ethos. Let us pay tribute from our heart to the wisest man on earth on his 2400th birthday.

(The writer is Director, Daffodil Institute of Languages (DIL), and Associate Professor, Department of English, Daffodil International University)

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