Why is Aristotle known as the common-sense philosopher?

Born in 384 BC and believed to have died on 322 BC, Aristotle remains the figure head of Ancient Greek philosophy. He also founded the Peripatetic school of philosophy, which remains in currency even today. Aristotle was widely regard during his time and continues to be revered through the ages. It is perhaps his common-sense approach to philosophy which has endeared and sustained him to academics and laypeople alike. While also expounding on such specialized subjects as physics, metaphysics, linguistics, biology and ethics, Aristotle theorized a great deal on poetry, music, theatre, rhetoric and government. The latter group of subjects is of common interest and appeal to a wide audience. This is one reason why he is considered a common-sense philosopher.

Also, during 3rd century BC, no advanced methods of logical deductions were devised yet. As a result, Aristotle had to employ simpler methods bordering on common-sense to perform his analyses. For example, with the limited analytic and scientific tools at his disposal, most of Aristotle’s writings tended to be theoretical and qualitative. This meant that they were accessible to the general audience as well. For example, his writings on science were verified or disproved using mathematical models only as late as the 16th century, for there were no proper methods for disproving the same in the interim period.
Interestingly, his reputation for being a common-sense philosopher is strengthened by some of the errors of observation/assessment he made. He had famously proclaimed in his History of Animals that human males have more teeth compared to females – something that could be shown to be incorrect upon simple investigation. He perhaps based this view on the fact that males are generally stronger than females.

Similarly, he asserted that a heavy object will fall faster than a light object based on common-sense and intuitive observation. But as Galileo’s famous experiment from the Leaning Tower of Pisa showed, objects fall at the same rate despite their weight – a fact that is counterintuitive. Another famous error made by Aristotle was the view that the earth was the centre of the universe – a view that was in currency till Nicholas Copernicus proposed the heliocentric view of the solar system during the early modern era.

While, Aristotle gave many water-tight arguments in support of his astronomical theories, he at times assumed too much. For example, his laws of the universe were largely constructed from observations through the naked-eye at a time when telescopes and other instruments were not at disposal. His methods (or lack thereof) would be dismissed as unscientific outright by contemporary scientists. The latter would also point out that many of Aristotle’s laws are not backed up by empirical evidence and that they do not withstand rigorous experimentation. It is for reasons such as these that Aristotle is considered a common-sense philosopher.

Works Cited:

Ackrill, J. L. (1981). Aristotle the Philosopher. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Bakalis Nikolaos. (2005). Handbook of Greek Philosophy: From Thales to the Stoics Analysis and Fragments, Trafford Publishing ISBN 1-4120-4843-5