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Aristotle and the chatbot

by November 19, 2020

Written by Justin Osborne, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

Whenever you surf the Internet, you‘re likely to bump into chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI). They serve all sorts of purposes: to provide website guidance, pinpoint products, answer your questions, and much more.

Chatbots are reportedly capable of answering 80% of standard questions. Research shows that nearly 70% of consumers prefer to use chatbots because they allow them to communicate quickly with a brand or company. Finally, 90% of companies report faster complaint resolution with chatbots.

But did you know that we probably wouldn’t even have chatbots were it not for Aristotle?

That’s right: modern technology owes a lot to the ancient rules of logic. Here’s why…

What’s A Chatbot?

Before we delve deeper into the topic, we need to explain what a chatbot is. By definition, a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats, or both.

There are several types of chatbots in use today, but it is the most complex one – AI-driven chatbots – which owe a large debt to the ancients. AI-driven chatbots use multiple techniques to analyze and resolve user inquiries using language processing, rules and machine learning, As such, they are able to contextualize conversations and identify customers’ specific needs and interests.

Their functionality is based on a few key principles of Aristotelian logic more than 20 centuries old. What are these key principles? Keep reading to learn more about it!

aristotle

Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippos, c. 330 BC, with modern alabaster mantle

How Formal Logic Powers AI-Based Chatbots

Aristotle was the first to formally identify and organize the rules of logic in the fourth century BC. In his pivotal work, Organon, Aristotle says a conclusion can be derived from a group of mutually corresponding premises.

Called a syllogism, this represents a logical argument based on deduction. The other two forms of formal logic are induction and abduction. All three types are in contrast with purely mathematical principles of logic.

The reason for this is simple – purely mathematical logic rarely ever applies to human interactions, so it’s better to use principles that reflect everyday conversations between people. These principles – taken from Aristotle – developed into term logic, a system that takes into account the context of the conversation and adjusts to a given communication pattern.

The fundamental assumption behind term logic theory is that we use words to make a point — in term logic this is called a “proposition” — which, in turn, be considered true or false. The system works to discern the veracity of simple statements based on various factors.

For example, formal logic could claim something like this:

  • All dogs are animals → All dogs have four legs → All animals have four legs

The example is very simple, but it shows how formal logic can sometimes mislead chatbots. In term logic, such inconsistencies are less likely because both fallible and infallible reasoning are taken into account when a statement is evaluated.

Image source: The Atlantic

Such a system can perform all three types of conclusion-making processes: deduction, induction, and abduction. But once the first step is done, an AI-powered chatbot has to evaluate the truth value of each statement in order to identify which answer is best-suited to a given conversation.

The latest AI-based platforms react like human beings because of how they assess and respond when communicating. The response they judge the most natural and logical (via algorithms, of course) then becomes the answer to the user’s inquiry.

Bearing in mind that chatbots contain massive data libraries, it is clear that the system can almost instantly process and analyze millions of different terms and factor them into an ongoing conversation. As the result, chatbots can quickly come up with an answer that seems to be most logical in a given situation.

The Bottom Line

Chatbots have taken the online world by storm in the last few years, but it turns out that their roots go back all the way to Ancient Greece and Aristotle. In this article, we explained how Aristotle’s rules of logic make AI more human.

Have you ever talked with a chatbot? Did you like the answers? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

Justin is a blogger from Leicester, England, UK. He enjoys sharing his thoughts and opinions about education, writing for academic writing help and scholarship essay writing service.

Is Aristotle Relevant to Democracy?

by October 15, 2020

It’s time to take a philosophical deep dive…
We all know Aristotle is one of the great pillars of ancient philosophy… we also know that’s he’s not particularly easy to read.
Nonetheless, his Politics stands as one the seminal works on the topic… but two and half thousands years later, we have to ask:
Is Aristotle relevant to modern democracy? Is it time for a revival of Aristotle’s Political philosophy and theory?
Aristotle at Freiburg

Bronze statue, University of Freiburg, Germany, 1915

This is what Adriel M. Trott, Chair and Associate Professor in Philosophy at Wabash College, Indiana and one of our Classical Wisdom Symposium speakers, has set out to prove.
While the history of political philosophy is a series of configurations of nature and reason, Aristotle’s conceptualization of nature is unique because it is not opposed to or subordinated to reason.
Adriel M. Trott, who focuses on ancient, continental and political philosophy, uses Aristotle’s definition of nature as an internal source of movement to argue that he viewed community as something that arises from the activity that forms it rather than being a form imposed on individuals.
Using these definitions, Trott develops readings of Aristotle’s four arguments for the naturalness of the polis, interprets deliberation and the constitution in Politics as the form and final causes of the polis, and reconsiders Aristotle’s treatment of slaves and women.
And she does this all to show that Aristotle is relevant for contemporary efforts to improve and encourage genuine democratic practices.
Something, I think we can all agree, is a very important topic at this time.
You can discover for yourself Adriel’s insights and Aristotle’s relevancy in her latest book: Aristotle on the Nature of Community.
Described as, “a fresh, substantial, and engaging contribution to the ongoing Aristotle revival in political philosophy and theory” by Stephen Salkever, Journal of the History of Philosophy – Aristotle on the Nature of Community is a thoughtful and provocative re-reading of Aristotle.
You can get your Own Copy Here.
But wait! There’s More! Adriel M. Trott has written extensively on Aristotle…
In her first book, Aristotle on the Matter of Form: A Feminist Metaphysics of Generation, Adriel M. Trott allows us to think anew with Aristotle… not just about form and matter, but also body and soul, male and female, and much else. Informed by and responding to feminist engagements with these issues, Trott challenges binary models of these couplets, often attributed to Aristotle, to show us innovative possibilities for thinking how we come to be and what we might become.
All Classical Wisdom Symposium Attendees will get an additional 30% OFF “Aristotle on the Matter of Form”
You can also catch Adriel M. Trott LIVE at the Inaugural Classical Wisdom Symposium… Make sure to check out all the details below!
(You may have noticed that the option to buy the Wine Included ticket has now closed… but don’t worry! You can still enjoy the full two day conference, watch the presentations and panel discussions with our One Day or Two Day pass.)

Mimesis: Aristotle vs. Plato on Poetry

by August 26, 2020

Written by Visnja Bojovic, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
In a previous article, we discussed Aristotle’s inspiration to write the Poetics (a treatise on drama and literary theory), and the notion of catharsis that emerged as a result. As we concluded, it is highly probable that Aristotle’s treatise was written in response to Plato’s criticism of poetry.
Plato objected that poetry plays on the emotions and thus undermines the highest part of our soul, the part that should at all times be in control—Reason. Aristotle cunningly showed, using the notion of catharsis, that while poetry does indeed play on the emotions, it does so in a way that enhances our reasoning!
Along with catharsis, Aristotle developed another very important concept that uses Plato’s arguments against him. This concept is related to the intellectual side of Plato’s arguments.
We are all more or less familiar with Plato’s allegory of the cave.  Roughly put, the main message is that the world detected by our senses is a “shadow”, a mere copy of an immaterial world of eternal Forms that are incomprehensible to us. This world of Forms consists of abstract, perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space, and which constitute the true nature of reality. Therefore, what is accessible to human beings is merely a misrepresentation of reality, a mimesis (μίμησις) of these pure Forms.
Allegory of the Cave

Illustration of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (Source).

Now, if the world we encounter through our senses is already merely a copy or imitation of reality, then anything that imitates this imitation would be even farther removed from the truth! Poetry is one such imitation of an imitation. Because it imitates and relies on the world of the senses for its material, it takes us even further away from the truth, and thus nothing good can come from it.
“…I said that poetry, and in general the mimetic art, produces a product that is far removed from truth in the accomplishment of its task, and associates with the part in us that is remote from intelligence, and is its companion and friend for no sound and true purpose.” “By all means,” said he. “Mimetic art, then, is an inferior thing cohabiting with an inferior and engendering inferior offspring.” (Plat, Rep, 10.603 a-b)
Diplomatic as always, Aristotle accepted part of Plato’s theory, agreeing that art is a form of imitation. He even accepted Plato’s division of storytelling according to the different types of mimesis employed in it. Yet he did not agree that mimesis is bad in and of itself—quite the opposite! Aristotle argued that imitation is completely natural for human beings, and a necessary way of learning:
From childhood a man has an instinct for representation, and in this respect, differs from the other animals that he is far more imitative and learns his first lessons by representing things. And then there is the enjoyment people always get from representations. What happens in actual experience proves this, for we enjoy looking at accurate likenesses of things which are themselves painful to see, obscene beasts, for instance, and corpses. The reason is this: Learning things gives great pleasure not only to philosophers but also in the same way to all other men, though they share this pleasure only to a small degree. The reason why we enjoy seeing likenesses is that, as we look, we learn and infer what each is, for instance, “that is so and so.”
Plato and Aristotle

Fig. 7 Wallerant Vaillant, after Raphael, Plato and Aristotle, 1658–77, mezzotint Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. RP-P-1910-6901 (artwork in the public domain)

Thus, for Aristotle, imitation is inherent in human nature and plays an essential role in the formation of knowledge. Mimesis represents the crucial link between pleasure and learning because the audience enjoys learning while watching the results of mimesis. The thing represented to us through mimesis helps us learn and makes it enjoyable. Mimesis does not, as Plato thought, take away from knowledge and the search for truth.
Aristotle’s Poetics, small though it is, managed to shape literary theory for centuries and continues to do so. Today, we are all Aristotelians when it comes to art. I know I’m not the only one who has left a movie theatre feeling as though I’ve learned a valuable lesson, or who has watched a tv show and related some part of it to a struggle in my own life. In short, anyone who believes that lessons about life can be learned through epics, tragedies, and comedies alike is an Aristotelian when it comes to art.
Aristotle had a knack for turning the teachings of his mentor against him. We now see that he did this with catharsis and with mimesis. Judging from the fact that Aristotle’s arguments in the Poetics prevailed over Plato’s criticism of poetry, are we to think that Aristotle does indeed have the better argument? Living in an era where emotion seems to reign over reason, should we be more open to sharing Plato’s concerns about poetry and other arts that play on our emotions?
Does it lead us out of the cave and into the light, or is it just one of the many chains that shackle us to the cave wall, leaving us only with shadows?
The verdict? I leave that to you to decide, dear reader.

Catharsis: Aristotle’s Defense of Poetry

by June 3, 2020

Written by Visnja Bojovic, Contributing Writer, Clasical Wisdom
Surely, we are all familiar with the term “catharsis.” A significant number of us have probably used it from time to time to describe an experience, such as when we leave a movie saying “That was cathartic!”
Yet, how many of us know what it really means, who came up with it, and, most importantly, why? It is quite possible that no one does, but let’s not take this pessimistic approach, and let’s try and see what we do know.
This peculiar term is what Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, discussed in his Poetics, revolves around. What is strange about it, though, is the fact that it appears only once in the entire treatise, yet is at the core of the definition of tragedy!
“The tragedy is, therefore, the imitation of a serious and completed action of a certain size, with the speech which is refined and specific for every kind in certain parts, with characters that act, rather than talk; and with the evocation of pity and fear, it achieves the catharsis of such affects.” Poetics, Part VI
Poetics

You can read Aristotle’s Poetics yourself here!

Due to the scarce information on catharsis that Aristotle provides us with here, to better understand the concept we’ll need to form conclusions based on what we have from other sources. This includes the general attitude towards poetry in Athens, Plato’s condemnation of it, and the mention of catharsis in some other of Aristotle’s works.
Since it would take too long to deal with all of this in such a short space, I will focus on a sort of silent correspondence between Aristotle and Plato on this topic. Not everyone will agree with this approach, but I find it crucial in revealing the true nature of Aristotle’s notion of catharsis.
Poetry had an important place in the life of an average Athenian citizen. From childhood onwards it was an integral part of Greek education, starting with Homer’s works being read, remembered, and recited. Along with teaching children practical skills such as reading and writing, it also aimed at instilling moral and religious values.
The importance of it did not stop with children’s education. Poetry was considered to serve an important role as a kind of moral guidance for Greek adults as well.
Aristotles school

Aristotle’s School, a painting from the 1880s by Gustav Adolph Spangenberg

Today it is widely accepted that the aim of performing tragedy in ancient Athens was not just a mere aesthetic pleasure, but that tragedies had some kind of political and social function as well. This is due to the fact the plots of tragedies’ often questioned democracy, foreign policy, and other important aspects of Greek society. Also, the mythical stories used in tragedies involved universal subjects and common problems in human lives.
This brings us to Plato and his objections to poetry. Though he had quite a number of them, the most relevant for our purposes here is his attitude towards the emotions.
According to Plato, the soul consists of three parts: reason (λογιστικόν), will (θυμοειδές), and lust (ἐπιθυμητικόν). For him, the good life in an ideal society would mean total domination of reason over the emotional parts of the soul. There are three main emotions in the center of his attention and those are pity, fear, and pleasure.
In Aristotle’s Poetics, we can find an answer to every single one of Plato’s objections, each of which he diplomatically agreed with to a certain extent. The case is the same when it comes to emotions. He agrees that poetry evokes emotions, that it offers pleasure, and, most importantly, that the evocation of emotions through poetry has an influence on the spectator’s personality and their emotional behavior.
Plato and Aristotle

Fig. 7 Wallerant Vaillant, after Raphael, Plato and Aristotle, 1658–77, mezzotint Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. RP-P-1910-6901 (artwork in the public domain)

What Aristotle disagrees with, however, is Plato’s assumption that poetry presents a potential danger of evoking an excess of emotions in reality. With the concept of catharsis, Aristotle wanted to prove that emotions are not bad per se and that poetry has a very important place in human lives.
This brings us closer to the conclusion that Aristotle’s notion of catharsis was actually a response to Plato’s critique of poetry as interfering with our rationality. The most direct proof is the fact that, in his definition, Aristotle included precisely the emotions that Plato accused tragedies of evoking!
It is not typical of Aristotle to not provide a further explanation of a term that he places such an importance on. However, we should bear in mind that this treatise belongs to the final phase of his work, which means that he probably assumed that readers of his treatise on poetry had knowledge about his philosophy developed in some of his previous works.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, for example, Aristotle shows that adhering to the golden mean with regard to one’s emotions (such as pity and fear) can result in pleasure which, in turn, can result in perfecting the moral side of one’s character.
Aristotle's disciples

Aristotle and his disciples – Alexander, Demetrius, Theophrastus, and Strato, in an 1888 fresco in the portico of the National University of Athens

Last, but not least, Aristotle contemplates the role of catharsis in relation to music in the eighth book of his Politics. In this book, he points out that music has a mimetic character (that is, it represents or imitates the real world) and, as such, has an ethical influence on the soul. Music can also affect our emotions and cause pleasure. Thus, music as an imitation (μίμησις) can affect our emotions, which is very important for us as human beings because learning to govern our emotions is necessary for perfecting our character
“Rhythm and melody supply imitations of anger and gentleness, and also of courage and temperance, and of all the qualities contrary to these, and of the other qualities of character, which hardly fall short of the actual affections, as we know from our own experience, for in listening to such strains our souls undergo a change.” ~ Politics, Book VIII.5
As with poetry and music, so with tragedy. The emotions evoked through these mediums are not something to be dominated by reason, but something to be disciplined or regulated. They do not interfere with our rationality, but can help us perfect it.
We see then that, unlike Plato, who casts a distrusting eye towards the emotions or passions in general, Aristotle believes they are not evils in and of themselves. It is not the feeling of anger, fear, or pity itself that is bad, but the extent to which we allow them to take control of us. And it is only through having these emotions evoked that we can achieve the catharsis, or purification of them.
Taking such a stance against Plato allows Aristotle to have a much more appreciative view of poetry, music, and tragedy, and the important role they have in our lives. The emotions evoked through such mediums need not bring the rational soul to ruin, but can help make us become more virtuous and well-rounded individuals.

Aristotle: In Praise of Contemplation

by January 24, 2020

Written by Alex Barrientos, Senior Editor, Classical Wisdom
What is the best, the highest, the happiest kind of life for human beings? Does it consist of sensual pleasure, the attainment of money, or finding a meaningful job?
This is just one of the many questions that the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle concerned himself with.
What was his answer to this perennial question? Well, to put it simply, that the happy life is one devoted to contemplation.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Aristotle’s view of the best life rests largely on the notion that the aim of human affairs is happiness, and that the happiest life is one in accordance with what is best in us.
Now, happiness is not some static state to be achieved, but an activity.
In Book I of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle identifies two types of activities:
  1. those necessary and desirable for the sake of something else, and
  2. those that are desired for their own sake.
Happiness, being the aim of human affairs, must belong to the second type of activity.
aristotle

Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippos, c. 330 BC.

For an activity to be classified as being desired for its own sake, nothing else must be desired or aimed at beyond the activity itself.
Virtuous actions, for one, seem to be of this kind, “since doing noble and excellent actions is one of the things that are choice worthy because of themselves.” Yet, pleasant amusements—those that indulge the senses—also seem to be of this kind.
But surely, Aristotle thought, pleasant amusements do not provide happiness in the same way that virtuous actions do!
Pleasant amusements may seem to be desired for themselves because people often choose them in spite of the harms that result.
Furthermore, people often consider those who delight in pleasant amusements to be happy, “because people in positions of power,” namely tyrants, “spend their leisure in them.”
But we are wrong, Aristotle argues, to value the opinion of such people.
aristotle and alexander

Aristotle tutoring Alexander, illustration by Charles Laplante, 1866.

That tyrants and others in positions of power value pleasant amusements is no surprise, for, “being unable to taste pure and free pleasures,” they instead “take refuge in the bodily ones.”
In any case, as Aristotle notes, “virtue and understanding, which are the sources of excellent activities, do not depend on holding positions of power.”
Along with that response, Aristotle provides three other reasons as to why pleasant amusements are not to be confused with happiness:
  1. Pleasant amusements are not, in fact, desired for themselves. Pleasant amusements are a sort of relaxation from work and, because we cannot work endlessly, we require relaxation. Thus, pleasant amusements, being a type of relaxation from serious activity, such as work, are not desired for their own sake but for the sake of such activity.
  2. Happiness, as has been said, “seems to be in accord with virtue,” but virtue “involves engagement in serious matters and does not lie in amusement.” What is serious is better than that which involves amusement, and the better activity is also the more excellent. Since what is serious is better and therefore more excellent, “it bears more of the stamp of happiness.”
  3. Anyone can enjoy pleasant amusements and other bodily pleasures. Even slaves, Aristotle tells us, can enjoy such amusements. Yet no one would venture to attribute happiness to the slave who partakes in these amusements. This is due to the fact that “happiness does not lie in such pastimes but in activities in accord with virtue.”
Aristotle by Francesco

Aristotle by Francesco Hayez. Oil on canvas, 1811.

The Divine Within Us
With happiness now disassociated from pleasant amusements and placed instead in accord with virtue, Aristotle argues that happiness must be in accord with the highest virtue.
The highest virtue must involve the element that is best in us. What is best in us—what is most divine—according to Aristotle, is the understanding, or reason. It is the understanding that distinguishes human beings from other animals. The understanding may either be considered divine or as being the most divine thing within us. In either case, “the activity of it, when in accord with the virtue that properly belongs to it, will be complete happiness.” And this activity, according to Aristotle, is contemplative activity.
Aristotle’s argument as to why the activity of the understanding—contemplative activity—will be complete happiness, is because the attributes assigned to happiness are the same attributes assigned to contemplative activity.
Like happiness, contemplative activity is the most excellent, the most continuous, the most pleasant, and the most self-sufficient activity. Furthermore, contemplative activity, like happiness, is loved for its own sake and involves leisure.
Aristotle at Freiburg

Bronze statue, University of Freiburg, Germany, 1915.

Contemplative activity is the most excellent because the understanding is the most excellent element in us and because, “of knowable objects, the ones the understanding is concerned with are the most excellent ones.”
It is the most continuous activity because we can pass our time in contemplation more continuously than in other activities.
It is the most pleasant activity because the pleasures it entails, those that are derived from philosophy and theoretical wisdom, are of a pure and enduring nature and because “those who have attained knowledge should pass their time more pleasantly than those who are looking for it.”
It is the most self-sufficient activity because, though even the philosopher or “theoretically-wise person” requires the necessaries of life, he/she does not need others in order to engage in contemplation; though they may of course benefit from the company of others, one can contemplate in solitude.
Contemplative activity is loved for its own sake, “For nothing arises from it beyond having contemplated.”
Plato and Aristotle

Fig. 7 Wallerant Vaillant, after Raphael, Plato and Aristotle, 1658–77, mezzotint Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. RP-P-1910-6901 (artwork in the public domain)

Finally, contemplation, like happiness, involves leisure. However, not leisure in the sense of lounging around. It is serious, it involves activity, it involves a rigorous dedication of the mind to study.
Dear to the Gods
But someone might be skeptical and object that the contemplative life is too high to attain for human beings. Perhaps it is a life only fit for the gods!
Yet, the element of the understanding is divine, or is at least the most divine element within us. Thus, according to Aristotle, there is no excuse to concern ourselves only with human and mortal things. We should, instead, “as far as possible immortalize, and do everything to live in accord with the element in us that is most excellent. For even if it is small in bulk, in its power and esteem it far exceeds everything.”
Rembrandt's Aristotle

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer by Rembrandt. Oil on canvas, 1653.

So, we should not let the enormity of the task deter us. It is our happiness—true happiness—that is at stake!
“Now he who exercises his reason and cultivates it seems to be both in the best state of mind and most dear to the gods. For if the gods have any care for human affairs, as they are thought to have, it would be reasonable both that they should delight in that which was best and most akin to them (i.e. reason) and that they should reward those who love and honour this most, as caring for the things that are dear to them and acting both rightly and nobly. And that all these attributes belong most of all to the philosopher is manifest. He, therefore, is the dearest to the gods. And he who is that will presumably be also the happiest; so that in this way too the philosopher will more than any other be happy.” ~ Nicomachean Ethics, Book X, ch. 8
Perhaps such a life is difficult if not impossible for human beings to attain. Yet, with Aristotle, we should respond that, we must “do everything to live in accord with the element in us that is most excellent.” And, along with the seventeenth century philosopher Benedict de Spinoza, we should acknowledge that, “all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”

The Illogic of Contradiction – Metaphysics by Aristotle

by September 1, 2019

by Joel Bowman
Don’t tell the politicians, Classical Reader, neither on the left, nor on the right. In the non-trivial jurisdiction of the metaphysical, there’s simply no such thing as a contradiction. At least not for Aristotle. The Father of Logic even went so far as to propose a law (more about which below) expressly forbidding it. But first, let us take a step back in order to afford ourselves a wider, grander view of the “world” of metaphysics.
We might begin our inquiry in the following manner: What is metaphysics and what is it like? Indeed, one would be hard pressed to conduct even the crudest analysis of anything without the service of these two, basic questions. And, in a way, it is precisely these questions which metaphysics itself seeks to answer…what is there? (what exists, the fundamental nature of the world and of being) and what it is like? (the characteristics that help us to describe these very natures).
Metaphysics by Aristotle
Although the prefix “meta” actually means “beyond,” leading many scholars to misinterpret its meaning as the study of what is “outside of” or “beyond” nature, Aristotle himself used the term to describe what he saw as the “first philosophy.” For him, it was physics, then the basic questioning of and about them: metaphysics. The subject, to which Aristotle referred to as “Queen of the Sciences” was, and in many ways still is, the primary means by which we delve into both the existence and essence of all that is.
Kindly, and with the fastidious scientific exactitude for which he was known, Aristotle divided the study of metaphysics into three distinct (at least they remained so at the time) categories. They were:
1. The Universal Science – The study of first principles, the very method of inquiry itself and the correct procedure by which would be illuminated;
2. The Ontological – The study and (again, meticulous) classification of beings and entities, including those of both physical and mental nature, and the changes these beings and entities undergo and;
3. The Study of Natural Theology – All things germane to religion, creation, the divine and the endless and, perhaps, ultimately unknowable workings and motivations of the gods.
Having not ourselves confidently progressed past the first of the first (of the first…) of these principles, we shall confine our comments to that of the Universal Science category. By way of introduction, let us examine Aristotle’s three Laws of Thought, the basis of what is often called Term (or Aristotelian) Logic.
Painting of Aristotle

Aristotle and the bust of Homer by Rembrant

In the first such law, Aristotle gets what ought to be obvious out of the way with the Law of Identity (A = A). Of course, the question “why is an apple an apple?” is, in itself, meaningless. By being an apple, it cannot, logically, be something other than such. That a something is what it is – and not something else – ought to be apparent from the outset, says Aristotle. “The fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical.”
The second rule, as we’ve discussed, is the Law of Non-Contradiction, which holds that opposing statements cannot be both true in the same sense and at the same time. Eg. The claims “X = Y” and “X ≠ Y” are mutually exclusive. Indeed, Aristotle himself reasons, “One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.”
Complement to this second law of thought is Aristotle’s Law of Excluded Middle. Here the mighty inquirer sets out to eliminate compromise – at least in the metaphysical sense of the word. Simply put, something must either be…or not. A proposition is true, in other words, or its negation is.

Confused yet?

Of course it may be the case that a fleck of ambiguity of terms muddies the waters. This is not the point, however, but rather an underscoring of why precise definitions matter from the outset.
Aristotle, here from Metaphysics:
“It is impossible, then, that “being a man” should mean precisely “not being a man”, if ‘man’ not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance….
…[It] will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call “man”, and others were to call “not-man”; but the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can be in fact.”
And from the sturdy moorings of these three Laws of Thought, Aristotle sets off into the oceanic philosophical undertaking ahead of him.
What is? he wonders, And what is it like?
We can’t say for sure why the Greeks took it upon themselves to embark on such a formidably exhaustive examination of all things under – and including – the gods, but we are certainly glad they did so. Without Aristotle’s Heraclesian efforts in paving the way in this, the first of all philosophies, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be so very confused by the subsequent minds who have tackled the subject.
Indeed, the ever insightful Voltaire put it thus: “When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.”
But again, Classical Reader, we must do all we can to keep these historical insights from our politicians and their mischievous ilk, lest we deny ourselves their incessant pursuits of circular logic and self-contradiction. If such public figures begin to make sense, any sense at all, they will surely lose all comedic value. And who will make the gods laugh then?