If there is a philosophical Atlas who carries the whole of Western civilization
on his shoulders, it is Aristotle. He has been opposed, misinterpreted,
misrepresented, and—like an axiom—used by his enemies in the very act of
denying him. Whatever intellectual progress men have achieved rests on his
Aristotle may be regarded as the cultural barometer of Western history.
Whenever his influence dominated the scene, it paved the way for one of
history’s brilliant eras; whenever it fell, so did mankind. The Aristotelian
revival of the thirteenth century brought men to the Renaissance. The
intellectual counter-revolution turned them back toward the cave of his
There is only one fundamental issue in philosophy: the cognitive efficacy of
man’s mind. The conflict of Aristotle versus Plato is the conflict of reason
versus mysticism. It was Plato who formulated most of philosophy’s basic
questions—and doubts. It was Aristotle who laid the foundation for most of the
answers. Thereafter, the record of their duel is the record of man’s long
struggle to deny and surrender or to uphold and assert the validity of his
particular mode of consciousness.