Ross Barlow Posted December 14, 2008 Share Posted December 14, 2008 Aristotle: writings by him or about him, as well as your thoughts about him. If I may, I would like to start a topic thread dedicated to Aristotle and the literature connected to his work, as I have not found one yet on OL. I am not an expert on him, but I have long been an enthusiastic fan, inspired by another fan of his: Ayn Rand. The first book that leaps to my mind is: *Aristotle* by John Herman Randall, Jr. It is really a small world. Last evening I met some interesting American expatriates in Bangkok. After one of them heard that I had majored in philosophy and had taught it at high school level, he started telling me about his uncle who had been a philosophy professor at Columbia University. He was telling me about what an interesting man his uncle had been, about his great witty dinner table conversations and then about his writings. I interrupted him at one point and said, “What was your uncle’s name.” He replied, “John Herman Randall, Jr.” I almost choked on my coffee: “THE John Herman Randall, Jr.? Who wrote *Aristotle*?” Yep. How many of you here have read this book? It has been over 35 years since I last read it, yet I still recommend it highly. It is probably out of print, yet available used. I remember it being reviewed quite prominently sometime in the 1960s in either *The Objectivist Newsletter* or *The Objectivist,* and I am quite sure that Rand was the reviewer. Correct me if I am wrong about that. Later, my dear late mother mailed me a whole box of philosophy books at my request when I was in Vietnam, and Randall’s *Aristotle* was in it. I was fresh out of high school and had no formal schooling in Western philosophy – only what I learned from the writings of Rand and her NBI associates, as well as a few odds and ends that I picked up here and there. Randall’s book was the one I really tried to tackle whenever we had lulls in fighting and down-time at base. It was tough reading for me, since my philosophical knowledge was so limited, and the vocabulary quite new to me and I had no dictionary. I finally did plough through it and finish it, and I just sat back and thought: “Wow, I have a hell of a lot of hard learning ahead of me.” Randall had taken me on a guided tour of a great mind and, although I did not understand much of it, I was humbled and awed. I re-read it a couple of times after returning to civilian life. I still have that paperback volume with its owl drawing on the cover -- in my sister’s attic – and it still has the water damage, dirt and squashed mosquitoes between its pages from its time of hard use in the tropics. I remember the reviewer (Rand) explaining how – even though she did not agree with everything Randall said – the appearance of this volume was very important in the context of 20th century philosophy. She viewed it as a breath of fresh air – and those may have been her exact words. The first time I ever heard of the famous opening quote of Aristotle’s *Metaphysics* was in Randall’s volume, where Aristotle is quoted as writing: “All men by nature desire to know.” Randall immediately quipped something to the effect of: “But then Aristotle did not have the honor of teaching in an American university classroom.” (My own paraphrase from ancient memory.) This was an example of Randall’s excellent wit that his nephew said was typical of the man. (I later recycled this joke in my own teaching career, altering it to “…an American high school classroom.” My students never seemed to see the humor, so I guess I was just amusing myself.) Randall then went on to state that Aristotle himself was one of the great Knowers in the Western tradition because of the range and depth of his thought. Following up on the subject of these opening words of Aristotle’s, I recently had occasion to quote them to my own family over a month ago when I had became a great-uncle for the first time and my sister had become a grandmother. My niece had just given birth to a baby boy whose most immediately striking attribute was what everyone described as being his eyes: big, curious, outward-looking and serious. So I paraphrased from memory for my family: “All men by nature desire to know. As an indication of this, consider the delight we take in our senses, particularly the sense of sight.” – Aristotle, *Metaphysics.* It is our nature to desire to know. At least that is true of all those I call friends. -Ross Barlow. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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