George Walford: Aristotle Again

This is from Ouspensky, Tertium Organon, 2nd Edn., 1934:

Our usual logic, by which we live, without which ‘the shoe-maker will not sew the boot,’ is deduced from the simple scheme formulated by Aristotle in those writings which were edited by his pupils under the common name of Organon, i.e. the Instrument (of thought). This scheme consists in the following:

A is A.
A is not not-A.
Everything is either A or not-A.

The logic embraced in this scheme – the logic of Aristotle – is quite sufficient for observation. But for experiment it is insufficient because the experiment proceeds in time, and in the formulae of Aristotle time is not taken into consideration. This was observed at the very dawn of the establishment of our experimental science – observed by Roger Bacon, and formulated several centuries later by his famous namesake, Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, in the treatise Novum Organon – the New Instrument (of thought). Briefly, the formulation of Bacon may be reduced to the following:

That which was A, will be A.
That which was not-A, will be not-A.
Everything was and will be, either A or not-A.

Upon these formulae, acknowledged or unacknowledged, all our scientific experience is built, and upon them, too, is shoe-making founded, because if a shoemaker could not be sure that the leather bought yesterday would be leather tomorrow, in all probability he would not venture to make a pair of shoes, but would find some other more profitable employment.

Possibly so, but Ouspensky does not follow the argument all the way. If it is true without restriction that “Everything was and will be either A or not-A,,” and “That which was A will be A,” if everything continues always to be what it was, so that leather will always be leather, then again the shoe-maker is unlikely to be making shoes, since all the shoes that have ever been made would still be around, as fit for use as when they were new. But then the people for whom they were originally made would also still be here, so perhaps, after all, more shoes would be needed. But there wouldn’t have been any shoes the first place, since the grass the cattle turned into leather would have remained grass.

Whatever the answer may be, we should not need to work it out for ourselves, since Aristotle himself would still be around to solve the problem for us.

It does not seem to matter from what angle one approaches those apparently simple propositions of Aristotle’s; if taken without restriction (and he specified no restriction on them) they always lead into difficulties.

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GEORGE ORWELL spent much of his adult life feeling guilty about the working class and trying to overcome the gap he believed to exist between them and himself. He chose to live among them, working as a dishwasher (I believe the Americans call them “pearl divers”) in Paris, living in Wigan during the ‘thirties slump and going on the tramp, sleeping in casual wards. He had great respect for the working class, he opposed not only the exploitation but also the insulting patronage they underwent from their “betters.”

Orwell was a well-intentioned, sensitive, compassionate man, but his activities in this connection were largely futile, even pathetic. He saw himself as stooping down from a superior social position. It never crossed his mind that by the only definition that gives the concept of the working class social importance – that it consists of those who do not own the means of production – he himself, having to earn his living by writing, was a member of that class.

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Do you believe in life after work?

from Ideological Commentary 11, March 1982.