Aristotle: Genius Philosopher and Racist?

Aristotle: Genius Philosopher and Racist?

Did Aristotle begin the legacy of White supremacy in the western philosophical tradition?

Aristotle is known as the father of formal logic and wrote on several far reaching topics regarding philosophy from metaphysics to ethics and aesthetics. However a stain on Aristotle’s illustrious career was his belief in natural born slaves which was used centuries later to justify the enslavement of Africans. Regardless Aristotle’s On Interpretation further expounds on the functions and reasoning behind language previously explored in Categories. In On Interpretation he states that “But the mental affections themselves, of which these words are primarily signs, are the same for the whole of mankind, as are also the objects of which those affections are representations or likenesses, images, copies”. What might be meant by the term “mankind” here? Although mankind is read as a universal in Aristotle’s work he could have perceived mankind 1) as solely civilized peoples 2) as only men who are capable of walking 3) as only White men.

The Greeks were known for ethnocentric practices and the labeling of outsiders as barbarians since their speech was incomprehensible. Aristotle may have been no different. During Aristotle’s lifetime there was considerable violence and strife among the ethnic groups within Greece. This is shown in that Aristotle was persecuted and seen as an outsider among other Greeks because he was Macedonian. Therefore, unity and oneness among the civilized people of Greece against the barbarous outside forces would have personally benefited him. He holds that “Man is animal, biped, domesticated: these coalesce into one, whereas “white’, ‘man’ and ‘walking’ do not”.

By “domesticated” Aristotle may mean those that are within the Greek culture or ruled over by them. Furthermore, Aristotle notes that “As writing, so also is speech not the same for all races of men”. The unstated premise in this statement is that “all races of men” must have a written form of language. However, during this period of time on the Indian subcontinent the Bhagavad Gita and other sacred texts were passed down orally and most decentralized tribes in Africa recorded their history through word of mouth. Therefore, these particular groups don’t fit into Aristotle’s category of mankind.

Aristotle’s usage of man as a universal is very inclusive. Aristotle’s man must be able to stand upright and have two feet. Aristotle states that “But we can combine ‘animal’ and ‘biped’ and call man a two-footed animal; for these terms are not accidental”. By the phrase “these terms are not accidental” Aristotle means that all men automatically have two feet and walk on both legs. He believes these traits to be indivisible from man as a linguistic and metaphysical reality. Therefore, his universal is ableist in its lack of including those that may have been born with only one foot owing to physical deformity or lacking the ability to walk.

Aristotle’s correlates whiteness to the universal representation of mankind throughout the text. This may have been an early attempt to unify Europeans under the banner of Whiteness since Aristotle experienced ethnic discrimination within his lifetime. He even goes so far as to say that “So we cannot combine ‘white’ repeatedly with that which already contains it or call a man animal-man, for example, or two-footed man”). This implies that men are automatically White and that the term is already affixed to all men. He correlates it to “animal-man” and “two-footed man” which are two terms that Aristotle holds to be indivisible from man. Therefore, it logically holds that Aristotle’s universal mankind is White.

With these new assumptions exposed how are we to hold that Aristotle’s teachings on logic were universal? These interpretations show that Aristotle’s idea of mankind were implausible and unnecessarily restrictive. Furthermore, they shed a light on the lack of diversity in early philosophy. Aristotle’s views on man and possibly logic itself are relegated to ancient Greek men with working legs. His works make no mention of the female sex. In our modern day world it’s important not to have a limited scope in how we view mankind. As Judith Butler holds in her book Gender Troubles it’s important to see each body as an individual with it’s own drives. Therefore, the idea of a universal man with ingrained traits such as Aristotle’s may be ill received and socially irresponsible in today’s society.

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When God Calls You To Change Your Life Plans, You Go

So what do you do when God calls? You go.

What do you do when God calls?

I have always been a planner. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a majority of my life planned out. The biggest detail I have always been certain of is my education and career. Since I was very young, I have always wanted to be a veterinarian. Maybe want isn't a good word considering I was DEAD SET on being a veterinarian.

That plan was still the same up until this summer, the summer before my junior year of college. I attended two years of community college getting my basics done, and finally, the moment was here to transfer to the school where the really important classes began. Over this summer, I decided to rededicate my life to Christ, and also decided to get baptized. Definitely best decisions of my life, but those moments began a chain of events that led to God changing my plans.

I never really believed in true signs from God. I always noticed that there were things here and there that seemed to point in a direction, but until I really gave my life to Christ, I never believed in Him showing real-life signs. I guess it began when I worked for several vets prior to starting school. As much as I admired them and what they did, I hated my job. I hated the loss. I hated seeing the pain the animals felt. I had breakdowns every time we euthanized an animal.

I couldn't handle it. But I still never saw it as a sign.

Then it continued with a tugging on my emotions that I just couldn't explain. I had just been accepted into a great school, was finally going to be taking the classes I was interested in, and everything was going as planned.

I should have been happy right? But I wasn't.

I would have breakdowns where I just wanted to go home. I would just sit in my apartment and cry. Before school even started, I dropped my pre-vet concentration. I felt a wave of relief. I would just stick with Animal Science because I knew I wasn't supposed to be a vet, but I had to stick with animals right?

Wrong. It wasn't enough.

After a semester of classes as an animal science major, I came home over Christmas break feeling lost and discouraged. But I couldn't change my major. What was I gonna do? I have always known I was gonna work with animals. But God finally got through to me...

Over Christmas break, I resumed some work with a Children's Hospital that I used to do in high school. A charity event, collecting toys for the children stuck in the hospital over the holidays. Then it hit me. The immense joy I experienced from helping those children.

I finally understood. My whole life God was preparing me for this.

Growing up, I never had the cookie cutter injuries most kids get, like a broken arm from playing sports. I was stuck in a gastroenterologist's office in 6th grade because I threw up my food every day and no one knew what was wrong with me. I was blind for 2 months and then had major surgery and stitches in my eye at 15 because a firework exploded in my eye. I have endometriosis that has been removed and keeps coming back.

All of these experiences were so hard because the children my age never understood and usually didn't have to go through these things. But it was God all along. He was molding me into a person who could understand. He was making me a voice for children.

So now I am a child development major. I will graduate with a bachelor's and a certificate in global child advocacy. After I complete my master's degree, I will become a certified child life specialist, which is someone who works in the medical setting and helps the children understand what they are going through, and helps the child and their family cope with it.

Where I am now is a far cry from where I thought I would be. But I have never felt more at peace and happy in my life. God has shown me my purpose. I'm not perfect, not even close, but the moment I allowed myself to follow God's will and get close to Him, my life began to make sense. It might have taken me six months or more to sort through the uncertainty and chaos, but now that I understand it is all worth it. God has a plan for all of us, He only wants us to surrender our worries and follow Him.

So what do you do when God calls? You go.

Cover Image Credit: Sydney Lind Moore

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A Thank You Letter To Single Moms, From A Girl Who Was Raised By One

Thank you for all that you do.

Dear Single Moms,

You are the ones who are going at it alone.

The reason you no longer have a teammate is unknown to me. I do not know whether it was abandonment, abuse, death, adultery, an unright fit, or one of the other vastly possible reasons that has caused you to now be raising your child(ren) alone.

This is what I do know:

I know you are the strongest kind of person. You are the superhero that superheroes look up to.

I know you are the most selfless kind of person. You are the ones who are able to put someone else's life above your own.

I know you are the most dedicated kind of person. You are the ones who work at least two jobs, the one paying for groceries and being a solo parent.

I know you are the most compassionate kind of person. You are the ones who are making chicken soup and shouting "Have you been drinking that water I put next to your bed!" during flu season.

I know you are the most versatile kind of person. You are the ones who always know how to do everything right, from fixing a science fair project due the next morning to throwing the perfect surprise birthday party to knowing just what to say during that first broken heart.

I know you are the most loyal kind of person. You are not going anywhere during the toughest of times.

I know you are the cuddliest kind of person. You are the ones whose positivity and love radiate out making you the perfect companion for a cuddle session.

I could keep going forever so I will just conclude with this:

I want to say thank you to all the amazing single mothers out there, you are my role models.

And while one day, if I have children, I hope to have a partner. I also hope to posses half of the outstanding traits you do.


A Daughter

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Stone

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