Aristotle Beyond the Academy

Thomas Blacklock on Aristotle's Silly Syllogisms

The Scottish poet Thomas Blacklock was not Aristotle’s biggest fan. In a poem penned ‘On the Refinements in Metaphysical Philosophy’, the blind poet and friend of Robert Burns declared:

The STAGERITE, whose fruitful quill
O’er free-born nature lords it still,
Sustain’d by form and phrase
Of dire portent and solemn sound,
Where meaning seldom can be found,
From me shall gain no praise.

He critiques especially Aristotle of Stagira’s invention of syllogisms, alongside other philosophers both ancient and modern who contrived to overcomplicate philosophy. For Blacklock, ‘the philosophy useful to man consists, not in abstract and uncertain propositions,… but [must] comprehend all the principles of an active and percipient being.’ In other words – put down the books and put your philosophy into practice.

Curious, then, that he criticises Aristotle, whose peripatetic school of philosophy was all about practical application, and whose scientific method was defined by real-world observation.

You can read more about Blacklock’s Classics in Hall and Stead (2020): A People’s History of Classics (available free here).

Durham UniversityDurham University Centre for Classical ReceptionLeverhulme Trust