Since the Aristotelian language structure still dominates our language, let’s
take a look at what it involves. Aristotle’s ‘Laws of thought’ involve three
basic premisses. He proposed that a thing is what it is: A is A. For
example ‘Facts are facts’, ‘A fault is a fault’, ‘An apple is an apple’.
(This is known as the premiss of identity).
He proposed that anything must either be a particular category or class of thing
or not be that thing: Anything is either A or not-A. For example, ‘Something is
either a fact or not a fact.’ ‘Something is either a fault or not a fault.’
‘Something is either an apple or not an apple.’ (This is known as the premiss of
the excluded middle).
He proposed that anything cannot both be a particular thing and not be that particular thing: Something cannot both be A and not-A. For example ‘Something cannot both be a fact and not be a fact’. ‘Something cannot both be a fault and not be a fault’. ‘Something cannot both be an apple and not an apple’. (This is known as the premiss of non-contradiction).
The ‘laws of thought’ made sense in Aristotle’s time, before the microscopes and other instruments which have enabled us to develop modern physical science. Aristotle’s logic also made more sense before knowledge of other cultures and languages enabled us to develop modern social science. When we have only our senses to get our information, we view the world only at the macroscopic level, as described in Chapter 5. When we have only one culture and language which we consider ‘correct’, we view the world only from that point of view. These views support the common sense of a pre-modern-scientific era and ‘metaphysics’.
This pre-modern-scientific sense, as we’ve noted, leads us to sense certain ‘structures’, and therefore assume them as correct; for example, when we look out at the horizon it looks as if the earth ends, which at one time led to assumptions of a flat earth. It leads us to assume that things we can’t sense, like germs, can’t have effects. It leads us to assume that qualities reside in things: ‘This rose is red’. ‘The boy is lazy’. It leads us to assume that the way we and our culture categorise things is the way things are: ‘An apple is an apple’. ‘Psychologists are psychologists’. It leads us to assume that if something happened or someone experience something, some thing must exist to have caused the happening or experience: ‘My boss caused my failure’. ‘Because I’m aware of reading these pages, I must have some ‘thing’, like a ‘mind’, causing that awareness’. It leads us to assume that ‘things’ are separate from what they do.
In sum, following the ARISTOTELIAN ORIENTATION leads us to view the world as static and unchanging. It leads us to assume we can know all. It leads us to assume our categories exist in the world and cannot be changed. It leads us to look for single causes for events. It leads us to evaluate in either/or terms. It leads us to a lack of awareness of our own evaluating process. This orientation so pervades our culture that these ways of evaluating still, for most people, seem like common sense. [ p. 130]