Authority

/ Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools /
@ K. 2008 07 16

(Note: Authority is a major topic at pk’s domains, as it had been for many a predecessor, including Chaucer and Shakespeare as pk’s interrupted doctoral thesis had demonstrated. But this little fragment is all that had to date appeared among his Thinking Tools.) 2011 08 03 I have a post of the same title under a different category: Authority.)

Take Aristotle for example. Aristotle was very smart, I don’t doubt it. He was Alexander the Great’s teacher, and Alexander was very smart. He was Alexander the Great’s teacher because he’d been passed over for promotion at Plato’s academy when Plato died. (Isaac Asimov explained: “Nobody likes a know-it-all.”) (Aristotle was also supposed to be a dandy (in bad taste), very mannered, very affected. Ergo: he was hated at Plato’s Academy: though everyone would have conceded he was very smart.)
(Note: university promotions are not directly related to intelligence (but to social adaptation).)
But: Aristotle wrote lots and lots on lots and lots of things. Some of that writing survived (partly because of Alexander (and Alexander’s buddy Ptolmey, who took over Egypt for Greek culture, Cleopatra’s great…grand daddy).
Thus: Aristotle and his writings formed a big part of the library of the Church, once the Church added a secular MS or two to its library of holy writ. (Note: the Church’s library may not have been universal, but it did have a library!)
Church epistemology was based largely on authority. Science though, based more on evidence, more on digested experience, than on authority, got a toe-hold, and climbed a bit: over the Church’s weakening body. Science, in the person of such inspired experimenters as Galileo, took Aristotle to the cleaners.
That quick background was necessary to arrive at my point. Here it is:
Dictum after dictum of Aristotle that was testable finally got tested: and was proved false. Aristotle proves to have been wrong on just about everything testable.
What did the secular authorities (the universities) do? Why they continued to teach everything Aristotle said (that wasn’t disproved) as “gospel”!!! Aristotle, on everything testable, is in the trash. (Very smart, but NOT true.) Aristotle, on everything not testable: ethics, esthetics … is still (Medieval, Renaissance, Post-Renaissance) holy writ.
PS: My theory of Macroinformation, had I been able to develop it, might have introduced a bit of objectivity into esthetics. Perhaps we could have started to take Aristotle to the cleaners there too. Perhaps that’s “why” I’ve had no allies in that endeavor.

K. Teaching Thinking Tools

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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