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 elementsIs 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 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.
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, 2017Among 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!
United States: $10,224
United Kingdom: $4246
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