Mrs. Aristotle’s Teeth

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You’ve probably heard of Aristotle. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy opens its article on the great philosopher with this:

“Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theater.”

Here is a man whose intellect was so powerful that we still read his works today. That’s why you may be surprised to learn that Aristotle believed that men have more teeth than women. He said so in his History of Animals.

Why? It was easy to check. Just pop open Mrs. Aristotle’s mouth and count the teeth.

Aristotle was ahead of his time in many ways, but he was still a creature of it. Reasoning was highly valued. Aristotle was very good at reasoning.

He may have been more of an observer than is contemporaries, but he often used observation as a starting point for reasoning. Reasoning was what he did well. Reasoning was what his friends valued and admired.

It would have been different if he had grown up in my house. Often when we had a spirited discussion over dinner, one of us would support his or her argument with a fact that another disputed.

At that point my mother would say, “That’s a fact. We don’t have to argue about it. We can look it up.” We would march off to our little reference library to do so. If we needed help, the reference desk of the NY Public Library was a phone call away.

Boss’s Bottom Line

People, including you and me, who have been successful with one particular tool, are likely to prefer that tool and fall back on it when we’re stressed. It’s not the proverbial hammer that Maslow warned us about, but it’s a close cousin. You will come to better conclusions if you use a variety of ways to reach them. Help others do the same.

Keep in mind the following from Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

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