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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Teeth of Women

posted by on October 27 at 14:52 PM

Plato is the one pointing up and Aristotle, his pupil, is the one pointing out.

Because he was a biologist and focused on the changing world, rather than on eternal forms, for years and years I sided with Aristotle (pointing out), the very ground of Western thinking. That all changed a few days ago when I discovered that Aristotle, the father of modern science, the man who put an emphasis on seeing, on observation, on theory (a word that comes from him and has its root meaning in seeing—to theorize is to think about what one sees)—this man, Aristotle, believed that women had fewer teeth than men. Such an idea, which has no truth, even a caveman could have verified by simply looking into a cavewoman’s mouth. Why didn’t Aristotle (“the greatest mind that ever lived”) do just that? Look into his wife’s mouth and count? This massive and inexcusable flaw forced me to conclude that Plato (pointing up) is the thinker I must side with from here on. Plato, by the way, believed women could rule as well as men.

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Wow, Charles, I never knew that about Aristotle. Yeah, if you're into picking sides, Plato seems to be a good bet. IS that pic from The School of Athens?

Aristotle has a thought provoking essay on the word IS. I'm reaching back here to Philosophy 101, but I did think on it during the Clnton/Lewinsky debates.

Posted by jonathan | October 27, 2006 3:02 PM

I think you mean Aristotle believed women had "fewer" teeth than men -- unless you subconsciously deny the countability of teeth.

Posted by Jonah | October 27, 2006 3:05 PM

Charles, I hope this isn’t a segue into how George Bush is a benevolent, enlightened despot, our Platonic ideal come to life in flesh and blood.

The job description for that does include complete sentences, you know.

(PS you’re not sucking up to Erica today are you?)

Posted by BC | October 27, 2006 3:08 PM

Certainly it's not possible that absent modern dentistry, one might find that women's wisdom teeth are less likely to erupt than men's? Were the men of ancient Greece more likely to suffer from hyperdontia? Were women more likely to have hypodontia?

Charles, have you yourself bothered to count men's and women's teeth? We are all taught that adults have 32 teeth, but have you verified this with observation?

Let's try an experiment, shall we? Everyone posting here, include the number of teeth you've got, and your gender. Charles, send an email to the staff of The Stranger asking each person their gender and number of teeth, and report back.

Mudede, you accuse Aristotle of being a Platonist with regard to teeth not because you can demonstrate his theories lacked observational foundation, but rather because you yourself are a Teeth Platonist.


Posted by robotslave | October 27, 2006 4:05 PM

Science is a product of the Enlightenment, not a bunch of blind Greeks. Aristotle, like pretty much everyone before him and after him up until Isaac Newton, didn't count a woman's teeth because it never occurred to him. Testing a hypothesis against experience? Why on earth would you do that? Truth can only be discovered by using logic to discern the ideal form of things. Indeed, Aristotle would have considered a physical test of his hypothesis to be absurd and wrong. Women DO have fewer teeth than men, and if they have the same number of teeth, then the existence of the world is called into question.

Just one of many reasons that scientists today still talk about Newton but never about Aristotle. He's a fucking idiot.

Posted by Fnarf | October 27, 2006 4:07 PM

In essence, the ideal enlightened path - considering you have buck teeth - is to visit an orthoplatonist.

Posted by fryday | October 27, 2006 4:33 PM

First, given the tendency of the modern greeks to horrible halitosis, looking into his wife's mouth might not have been a live option for Aristotle.
Second, women are more likely to by hypodontic. So he was probably right.
Third, Aristotle's biological explanations are sometimes based on his own observations but are often based on those of physicians, farmers, etc. It wasn't that he was against the empirical. It's rather that he thought experts are a better judge of what is normal, and it's those sorts of judgments that he's interested in.
This latter notion is a general principle of Aristotle when it comes to knowledge. Ethical knowledge presupposes ethical practice. Technical knowledge presupposes technical practice. Scientific knowledge presupposes natural practice (husbandry, economics, and medicine). Without engaging in these practices, one is in no position to grasp the teleology (the wherefore) of the objects one is trying to know.

Posted by kinaidos | October 27, 2006 4:38 PM

Who are you, and what have you done with the real Charles Mudede?

Posted by BC | October 27, 2006 4:43 PM

Just sided with Plato? Can you be serious? Your pursuit of idealism betrays a mind well-steeped in platonic forms.

Methinks you kid...

Posted by Timothy | October 27, 2006 4:53 PM

Speaking of husbandry, the fine Aristotlean thinkers at the University of Paris two thousand years after Aristotle got into a similar conundrum about the number of a horse's teeth. They also failed to consider the option of just having a look, and instead modeled a fine array of Mudede-like abstract theoretical disquisitions. None of them were right.

Posted by Fnarf | October 27, 2006 5:03 PM

Hey Charles- You checkin out the Deleuze film? Think it'll be as good as the Zizek, Derrida and Wittgenstein films? There has to be a movie of The Cave, no? Is popcornyphilosophy good for your teeth?

Posted by The future | October 27, 2006 5:20 PM

Unfortunately the version of the picture Charles posted has been altered. The original can be seen below.

Posted by Joh | October 27, 2006 5:37 PM

M/28 minus my wisdom teeth that ancient greeks would not have taken out. So add 4 more teeth, so 32.

Posted by brian | October 27, 2006 6:18 PM

I'm surprised nobody asked about the authenticity of Mudede's sayings. There's a lot of rambling about philosophers (cf. Wittgenstein's fire poker assault).
Now, he did, at least he did if he wrote the History of Animals. Verifications made it in II, 3, 501a20.
Now, well, I just love that you side with Plato, because I'm more of an Aristotelician. Though I enjoy and praise your ease to say stupid things on a blog, I feel better with you on the side of clouds-shoving metaphysicists.

Posted by Mokawi | October 27, 2006 8:43 PM

even concrete based minds can use metaphors.

Posted by kelly | October 28, 2006 1:12 PM

(1) Fnarf is an idiot.
(2) Rather unempirically, I don't see any citation of where exactly Aristotle said that. And maybe he thought they were less likely to get wisdom teeth or soemthing (some people get none, some people get extras).
(3) What's waaay more interesting is Aristotle's discussion of women's cold and wet nature in "On the Generation of Animals" which I, sadly, only have from Mahowald's "Philosophy of Woman" 3rd edition.

Posted by john | October 28, 2006 4:04 PM

Wow, Charles, I never knew that about Aristotle. Yeah, if you're into picking sides, Plato seems to be a good bet. IS that pic from The School of Athens? I disagree go to

Posted by Warsaw apartments | November 15, 2006 7:07 AM

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