By Syed Kamran Hashmi
November 23, 2012
With the beginning of the Renaissance and the end of the Dark Ages, Europeans challenged all of Aristotle’s ideas
Can you believe that Aristotle resides in Pakistan nowadays? Yes, it is true, he really does. And no, I am not ‘under the influence’; I am talking about the same person, the great Greek philosopher, the tutor of Alexander and the student of Plato. Fully active in politics, teaching his pupils logic and playing his role in shaping the moral doctrine of our society, he is tremendously influential. Obviously, he has disguised himself as an ordinary brown-coloured, medium built Pakistani with a long dark beard, moustache-less, and with a turban-covered head. For security reasons, I cannot completely reveal his new identity at this moment, nor can I mention his exact location but I can tell you this: his message has been more effective and transcendent in Pakistan then it ever was in Greece.
Historically, we all agree that Aristotle has always been deemed as a great thinker, revered for his revolutionary ideas, the father of logic, a staunch believer in the ‘First Cause’ (God) and a brilliant scientist. Furthermore, for centuries, his inquiries and explanations were equally admired by scientists and religious scholars, setting him apart from the other renowned Greek sages. But 500 years ago, he lost his hegemony on the human intellect; times changed for him in a matter of a few decades, and suddenly, he became almost homeless. With the beginning of the Renaissance and the end of the Dark Ages, Europeans challenged all of Aristotle’s ideas. Relying upon science as their weapon of choice, they refuted his theories and took them out of their textbooks for being factually wrong and scientifically absurd. Students in universities and scientific laboratories started mocking him, laughing at his work, where all his scientific theories were proved incorrect.
In these despondent circumstances, Aristotle felt devastated and sought a place where he could be revered again, and his virtues be once again regarded as the eternal truth. He started looking around, and after meticulously evaluating the merits and demerits of all the places in the world, he ultimately chose Pakistan, which was a part of India at that time, under the Mughal Empire. During that time, he was genuinely pleased to know that Akbar the Great had refused to introduce the printing press in his empire; that made Aristotle feel at home once again. Just after making some changes in his appearance, he was able to assimilate successfully in society.
Aristotle’s theories about our social interactions and hierarchy also started getting widespread recognition and intellectual appreciation. Nevertheless, he felt particularly resurrected when the religious approval from both sides of the aisle (Hinduism and Islam) throughout the subcontinent was rendered to him without any discord.
Almost 2,500 years ago in Greece, while writing about his observations on animal behaviour, Aristotle had said the following about women: “Females are weaker and colder in nature, and we must look upon the female character as being a sort of natural deficiency” (Generation of Animals). Today, these views are considered tremendously offensive and unacceptable in any modern society. The intellectual space for the philosophers who conform to these ideas has shrunk to almost zero, including Aristotle. As a result, the teacher of Alexander voluntarily moved out of Europe and settled in the subcontinent, where his student had lost a great battle once, but Aristotle was determined to be successful in winning over the hearts and minds of the people.
Unfortunately, to add further fuel to the fire, rather than being denounced religiously in Pakistan, the Islamic clerics also endorsed Aristotle’s theories as divine revelations and provided him the exultation that he was looking for. Therefore, the student of Plato blatantly goes like this in his treatise about politics: “It is the best for all tame animals to be ruled by human beings. For this is how they are kept alive. In the same way, the relationship between the male and the female is by nature such that the male is higher, the female lower, that the male rules and the female is ruled” — Aristotle, Politica.
Déjà entendu, isn’t it? Aristotle’s words sound so familiar, as if he is sitting next to you, as a friend, describing why men have more self-control then their female counterparts. Can we really deny that his opinions represent the views of a substantial segment of our society, if not the majority? Can we not feel his spirit still all around us, even today? Let us look at another piece: “The female is softer in disposition than the male, is more mischievous, less simple, more impulsive, and more attentive to the nurture of the young; the male, on the other hand, is more spirited than the female, more savage, more simple and less cunning. The traces of these differentiated characteristics are more or less visible everywhere, but they are especially visible where character is the more developed, and most of all in man” — History of Animals.
When I met ‘him’ for the first time, Aristotle was surrounded by tens of students, all of them following him as their spiritual leader, mesmerised by his charismatic personality and deeply influenced by his ‘divine’ ideology. They called me a ‘liberal fascist’, denouncing my presence and physically pushing me out of the class. Aristotle did not stop them and watched them denigrate me, because he was one of them.
Syed Kamran Hashmi is a US-based freelance columnist.