ARISTOTLE'S ERROR: Rational animals just wanna have fun!


Waldman gets it right:
For all his greatness, Aristotle can be said to have made the occasional error.

We've noted one error is the past; this involves the great logician's attempt to describe the basic components of matter. As we've noted in the past, the leading authority on Aristotle's physics describes his effort as follows:
Five elements
In his On Generation and Corruption, Aristotle related each of the four elements proposed earlier by Empedocles, Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, to two of the four sensible qualities, hot, cold, wet, and dry. In the Empedoclean scheme, all matter was made of the four elements, in differing proportions. Aristotle's scheme added the heavenly Aether, the divine substance of the heavenly spheres, stars and planets.
Is all matter composed of five elements? Do wet and dry come into it? Most modern high school physics teachers would say this theory was wrong.

In fairness, it's hardly Aristotle's "fault" that his theory may have been wrong. He lived hundreds of years ago, before the age of erudition which leaves the modern cable viewer so brilliantly well-informed.

He and his contemporaries were pretty much starting from scratch. Errors occurred along the way, possibly including a possible error concerning the nature of man [sic].

What are we humans essentially like? Aristotle is widely said to have said the following:
"Man [sic] is the rational animal."
That's what he's said to have said.

In fairness, because Aristotle knew no English, this statement exists in translation. In part for that reason, no one knows exactly what he may have meant by his actual, foreign language statement—but at least as conventionally understood, this statement would seem to be flawed.

In fairness, Aristotle had never seen the New York Times. For that reason, he had no way to know how odd his assessment might seem to us in our modern age.

Beyond that, he'd never seen a "cable news" program, not even Dateline: White House. Getting a bit more specific, he'd never seen how sad it is when modern man [sic] pretends or even attempts to discuss important matters of public policy.

As we all know, the modern journalist is programmed to discuss matters of wardrobe, body language, sexual congress and hair. Who [BLEEP]ed whom in 2006? It's a key part of their focus!

That said, a "rational" animal, in the conventional sense, would presumably be able to fashion the occasional discussion of major issues in health care, public schools, tax policy or even the building of walls. For those of us who have seen the modern press corps struggle with such tasks, the insufficiency of Aristotle's assessment may seem tragicomically clear.

Are modern journos "the rational animal?" How about the zillions of academics, especially the elite logicians, who slumber, doze and prattle on as our journalists publicly flail?

We'd have to say that these vaunted groups raise the possibility that Aristotle may have reached his translated assessment in error. Just consider the recent column by the Washington Post's Paul Waldman.

Don't get us wrong! Waldman's column didn't appear in the hard-copy Post. Presumably, that's because the gentleman did something that's never done in any discussion of health care.

Dear God and all the angels and saints! Breaking every rule of pseudo-journalistic decorum, Waldman included a very basic set of data in his column.

These data appeared much later in his column that we would have recommended. But good lord! In a virtual break for the territories, Waldman included the remarkable basic information which will always get deep-sixed by the modern rational animal.

Good lord! Waldman included the graphic which you can view at this Peterson-Kaiser site. The graphic shows annual per capita health care spending. It includes such data as these:
Health care spending, per person, 2017
United States: $10,224
Germany: $5728
France: $4902
Canada: $4826
Japan: $4717
Australia: $4543
United Kingdom: $4246
Among those roughly comparable, largish nations, only Germany spends even half as much as the U.S. spends on a per capita basis! France, Canada, Japan, the U.K.? They all spend less than half!

That may be the most remarkable data set we've ever seen. As we've explained a million times, a remarkable number of major policy problems are lodged in that remarkable figure for spending within the U.S.

And yet, this data set is essentially never seen in the New York Times or the Washington Post. It's never seen, and never discussed, on "cable news," where multimillionaire corporate-trained clowns entertain us with entertaining tales about the horror of Spiro T. Agnew's lunch money.

Waldman's publication of those data represents a remarkable break from modern press tradition. In our view, Waldman buried the lede, pushing these data very far down in a rather lengthy column.

But the fact that these data appeared at all is a fairly astonishing fact. As a general matter, modern press practice is deeply committed to the avoidance of information in general, and the presentation of this data set is virtually forbidden by law.

We can speculate about the reasons why these data never appear. For the record, even the modern journalist isn't so dumb as to miss their obvious, wide-ranging significance.

That said, there can be no real debate concerning one basic point. The way journalistic life forms approach such matters makes Aristotle's famous assessment, at least as understood, begin to look like an error.

In fairness, Aristotle had never seen the way these life forms pursue their tasks. Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM) tell us that the great logician cringes whenever he visits the New York Times from his spot on Olympus.

As regular readers already know, those "future anthropologists" increasingly serve as our most reliable sources. We'll be drawing on their privileged if tragic perspective throughout the course of the year as our award-winning exegesis of "Aristotle's error" unfolds.

As we noted yesterday, Princeton grads like Vanessa Friedman likes to discuss the meaning of the wardrobe selections of well-known public lunatics. As a general matter, these rationals care about wardrobe, sex lives, invented quotations and the shapes people form from their hair.

These rationals care about nothing else. Is it possible that Aristotle has been caught in another error?

Tomorrow: Our own tribe's brightest players


  1. This post today would make little sense to anyone who has not been following Somerby conceit about Aristotle. It is full of nonsensical statements, like this one:

    "He [Aristotle] lived hundreds of years ago, before the age of erudition which leaves the modern cable viewer so brilliantly well-informed."

    Actually, Aristotle lived thousands of years before the emergence of cable. Even in the past, people talked to each other and shared knowledge and theories about the physical world. The medium has changed but not the desire to understand the world we live in.

    But Somerby likes to pretend that people don't care about anything but clothes, sex, scandal. He denigrates higher education while bemoaning the state of K-12 schooling, and mocks those who might like to know more about what scholars and scientists have been discovering. It is hard to imagine anyone more anti-intellectual than Somerby these days, unless it is Trump himself.

    I doubt that Aristotle was disrespectful of learning, no matter what his hopes for the rationality of humanity.

  2. Aristotle never huddled in caves. That is something done 10,000+ years ago, not in 300 BC when people were building comfortable structures to live in. But who cares about the history of architecture?

  3. Bob was trying to be amusing. Cut him some slack.

    1. His failure to be amusing is on him.

  4. “In fairness, because Aristotle knew no English, this statement exists in translation. In part for that reason, no one knows exactly what he may have meant by his actual, foreign language statement—but at least as conventionally understood, this statement would seem to be flawed.”

    Yes. No one can read ancient Greek, thus Aristotle’s meaning is forever lost to time.

    But, that notwithstanding, “he had no way to know how odd his assessment might seem to us in our modern age.”, a statement which clearly ascribes the precise meaning that the blogger wishes to Aristotle’s unknowable Greek-language assessment.

  5. Americans support progressive policies, and yet they are very unlikely to ever pass into law.

    Seventy percent of Americans support 'Medicare for all' in new poll

    1. Medicare doesn't cover all health care costs, so older people have to buy Medi-gap policies out of their own pockets. Shouldn't we implement something better than a system that still leaves many people struggling with health care costs?

    2. Also, we Medicare recipients have to pay extra for coverage of drugs and doctor visits.

    3. "Seventy percent of Americans support 'Medicare for all' in new poll"

      Medicare is crap. Medicaid is a good insurance. 'Medicaid for all' would certainly make much more sense than 'Medicare for all'.

    4. ...although it doesn't matter much for the cost of healthcare. What matters is the fees medical mafia extorts: doctors, hospitals, pharma, and all the rest of them.

    5. Mao, I'm on Medicare - seems pretty good to me. Why is it "crap?" I'm not sure you know everything, or even very much at all about Medicare and Medicaid. It's also interesting that the last thing in the world that any GOPer would want to advocate is Medicaid or Medicare for all, or some system like they have in other countries where per capita health care costs are way lower, as TDH points out, largely because they don't have the medical mafia 'extortion.'

    6. That medical mafia extortion is called capitalism. When you figure out how to have a capitalist economy without all that capitalism, I hope you will let everyone know.

    7. "capitalist economy"
      I think you mean "Socialist economy".
      See the post below at 12:45 PM.

    8. It's crap because you have to pay, on the monthly basis and copayments, and in some cases it's calculated by complicated formulas.

      Thus, monetary matters are significantly involved in your healthcare decisions.

      They shouldn't be.

      It should be just like calling the cops, or firefighters - the thought 'how much am I gonna pay for this?' shouldn't be part of the equation.


      ...but like I said, this is not the cost issue. The costs are high because of the medical mafia.

      You visit a general practitioner in France - he is paid 25 euros. And in the States, he gets $100. And that's the problem...

  6. Somerby omits the number for Switzerland: $8009.

    1. It's still more than 20% cheaper than ours.

    2. I see you can do math.

      Why did Somerby omit it?

  7. “Are modern journos "the rational animal?"

    Is Paul Waldman, frequent op-Ed writer for the Washington Post, a rational animal?

  8. "The way journalistic life forms approach such matters..."

    Journalists are fine. The lib-zombie high-priest life form, on the other hand...

  9. Somerby believes that no one has ever discussed the high cost of health care in the US, and that simply listing some statistics from the Kaiser Foundation will transform the debate.

  10. The fact that Right-wingers think 1) anything the government does to help the people is "socialism", and 2) corporations are people too, my friend, I am VERY confident that the USA will remain a Socialist country long after Trump and his grandkids are dead and buried.

  11. It’s unclear why Somerby thinks “journalists” bear existential responsibility for the health care debate, particularly op-ed writers, who are likely to hold wildly differing views on the subject.

  12. If journalists aren’t really the “rational animal”, then surely the same can be said of voters?

    Somerby is naive at best to think that the average voter can be swayed with a barrage of statistics.

  13. I still wonder how they calculate "health care expenditures". They never say. What is included in that? Dental? Vision? Not included in my health insurance.

    Speaking of insurance though. Last year I spent $9,874.20 on health insurance (not including dental and vision) However, out of that, I only got about $30 worth of health CARE - I got a flu shot.

    In other "health care expenses" I spent about $160 on my own to buy prevacid, and perhaps $5 to buy local honey to treat allergies. Which an online debater assured me is quackery, but which my experience shows is more effective than the alzheimer inducing chlortrimaton that I had been taking before trying honey.

    Speaking of quackery though, are chiropractors included in health care expenses? Thankfully (IMO) their services are NOT covered by most insurance companies. However, even though I swear at them, other people swear by them and Americans spend $14 billion on them each year.

    Americans also spend $16 billion a year on cosmetic surgery. Is that health care?

    I guess both of those are pretty small compared to the $3 trillion total spending, but are they part of the total or not?

    Another question might be, what percentage of the health care is necessary? Anecdotally, I think of the $500 the emergency room charged me for X-rays that I didn't want or need. And just last week I wasted $500 on an ultra-sound.

    Both of those were certainly health care expenditures, but it seems to me that the insurance industry is not the only part of the system milking it for cash.

    1. Your yearly health insurance cost is something like 50% higher than the average. In Kansas for example the average yearly cost for health insurance is about $6600. I am sorry you are paying more than others, perhaps you should look into ways to reduce your cost, you could for example join an ACA plan that has a low premium but high deductible which might suit your needs if are healthy and do not often need medical care. Also you can join Medicare, IF you are 65 or older.

      Doctors prescribe specific health care, but except for rare cases, can not force you to do anything.

      The health insurance industry contributes much to the problem of obstreperous increases in health care costs - the limited service they provide is mediocre at best, and otherwise unnecessary, incompetent, and corrupt.

  14. “the wardrobe selections of well-known public lunatics.”

    Stone, or Manafort perhaps? “Lunatic” is an interesting choice of words to describe these characters. Somerby also likes to describe Trump as “mentally ill”. This has the effect of disappearing or minimizing the nefariousness of their actions.

  15. This is a subject that we need to pound to death. Somerby is 100% correct. Why is this NEVER debated? Last week Jake Tapper had a discussion about what Medicare for all would cost and other countries health care costs were never brought up.

    1. Anon 4:46 I agree completely.

    2. When you compare present costs with past costs you need to adjust for inflation. When you compare US costs with costs of other nations, you need to make other adjustments.

      For example, in France, people pay a bigger percentage of their income for taxes but they also have fewer expenses because they do not need to pay for things that Americans pay for. A straight across comparison of US and French tax rates or salaries would not show that difference in respective household budgets. It is the same with any kind of straight across comparison.

      So, simply listing how much health care costs in other countries doesn't even tell you whether health care costs are truly dissimilar. You cannot know that without taking into account the economic context in each country.

      Somerby's complaint is simplistic and misleading. and this is a pointless discussion the way he wishes to frame it. The solution is to set the health care geeks loose on the problem and then discuss whatever solution they propose. I guarantee it won't be "Medicare for all" or whatever Bernie's chosen slogan is.

    3. Plus, compared to the other countries, Americans are obese, fat pigs that gorge themselves on the lowest quality industrial food almost all day long like pigs at a trough. And as we all know, a sizeable percentage of Americans are opium addicts. Literally dying in the streets of their once thriving and now defunct neighborhoods and communities that Walmart slaughtered. That is when they are not isolated in their rooms shooting up and snorting to support their addiction, alienation and depression. This doesn't happen in other countries on the scale it does here. Their governments don't allow powerful corporations to normalize, promote and profit from selling people opium for things like toothaches. And of course, the poverty rates in America are higher than any of the countries on that list, more than double of a lot of them. And America is just big. It's four times as big as most of those countries, even more than that. America is a big, dumb, fat, fucked up country. And it is also very corrupted by industry. So of course you TV addicted fools have to pay more for healthcare. What are you going to do about it? You have no power. You are all addicted to pot and porn and have no values. You have no guts. Of course they're going to take advantage of you.

    4. 9:38,
      You forgot about the sizable portion of Americans hiding under their beds, quaking in fear of 5-year old refugees coming to kill them.

    5. I don't see how that would increase healthcare costs.

    6. Mental healthcare is healthcare.

  16. Dear Media Criticism Blog,
    I notice that less than 2 years after the media pretended to care that Republicans were pretending to care about Hillary Clinton's private email server, they are now pretending to care that Republicans are pretending to care about Elizabeth Warren's heritage. All we need now is for TrollinCal to gaslight us about the corporate-owned media being "liberal".

    1. The Washington Post knew about the rape accusation against Democrat Justin Fairfax long before the election but chose not to report anything about it.

    2. The media still (for 25+ years) asks and reports on Newt Gingrich's opinion on something (anything).
      I don't believe for one second it's because they think he might accidentally make a good faith argument someday.

    3. The Fairfax accuser did not peddle her story to the Washington Post until AFTER Fairfax's election.

      That said, generally these type of accusations should be investigated.

      That said, Fairfax's accuser's account is problematic, just the mechanics, as one example.

      Interestingly Fairfax is married to a dentist.

      Personally I would not let my grandmother be alone in a room with neither Fairfax, nor Pence for that matter. Generally politics seems to attract a fair number of creepy people. This blog does too!

    4. "...but chose not to report anything about it"

      Well, WaPo is a liberal-neocon death-cult propaganda organ. What else would you expect?

    5. @9:46
      And Somerby’s one contribution to the Warren bs was to criticize her for having the DNA test.

    6. Ah yes. I read, recently, that Warren The Fake Injun apologized to real Injuns for the DNA test.

      I'll say: that's a good start.

      But when is she going to apologize to the rest of us, for swindling the 'affirmative action' lib-zombie system?

    7. The point is that TDH is supposedly a media criticism blog (you know “musings on the mainstream press corps”) that has changed into Somerby’s editorializing.

    8. Did Trump grab Mao's pussy again?

  17. *** Public Service Announcement ***

    David in Cal is a moral and intellectual idiot. You may safely ignore anything he has to say.

    Fairfax' accuser approached WaPo in 2017, shortly before his inauguration as Lt Gov of Virginia. The paper investigated, but could find no corroboration of the story, nor could they find any other accusers among Fairfax' circle of acquaintances. So they didn't run the story.

    1. Thanks, deadrat for providing those details. By comparison, Christine Ford's allegation against Kavenaugh was flimsier and also had no corroboration, but WaPo ran that story. This difference is evidence of WaPo's political bias.

    2. "David in Cal is a moral and intellectual idiot."

      "Thanks, deadrat for providing those details."

      Yes, no one could have figured it out from reading David's bullshit rantings. LOL.

    3. Ford's allegation was decidedly not flimsier, it was quite compelling and credible, even according those with amazing skills of observation like Trump himself.

      Fairfax's accuser...well the story has flaws, let's just say that.

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