Aristotle Beyond the Academy

Aristotle (Not) in China

Did Aristotle actually exist?

Well, yes, obviously.

But not according to Chinese scholar Jin Canrong. The foreign affairs expert and notably-not-a-philosopher Jin has taken to Chinese Tiktok to claim that no evidence of Aristotle's existence exists prior to the 13th century.

And, his argument goes, Aristotle could not have produced such an incredible output before the invention of paper.

“Aristotle just popped up, and what made it more suspicious was that he seems to have an all-encompassing body of knowledge, ranging from optics and ethics to economics and politics,” Jin said.

Perhaps this Orwellian attempt to unperson Aristotle is driven by the regime's preference for Platonic authoritarianism over Aristotelian personal ethics; or perhaps it is an attempt to undermine Western philosophy by going after one of its greatest minds.

Either way, Hong-Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post has dryly noted that "mainstream historians disagree" with Jin's assessment. [Paywall-free version here.]

The team at Aristotle Beyond are happy to declare themselves thoroughly mainstream on this one. Aristotle definitely existed.

Durham UniversityDurham University Centre for Classical ReceptionLeverhulme Trust