The Aristotelian Connection

by Carlos Whitlock Porter

[This essay is fairly long but extremely rewarding. I think it addresses some ideas similar to the ones that Robert Campbell recently wrote about.]

I’m not usually interested in philosophy and I think philosophers are crazy — (“Can Being Be Posited [?] of Non-Being?” for 20,000 pages, etc. etc.) — note — but some philosophical problems are important. Take the problem of the nature of abstractions (the idea of “horse” as distinguished from individual horses). This is also known as “the problem of Universals and Particulars”.

Plato taught that abstractions are real, and pre-exist concrete, individual objects, which are simply the “pale reflection” of pre-existing, perfect abstractions. Abstractions are not only perfect, they are more real, and more valuable, than the concrete objects in which they are reflected.

A scientist might well see the “pre-existing abstraction” in terms of genetic possibility. A Darwinist or National Socialist would say that a horse is evolving towards, or away from, its potential as a “perfect horse”, which exists as a biological possibility only. But the view of Platonist idealism goes much further, since it extends to ALL abstractions, i.e., courage, loyalty, honour, books, art, etc.

Not surprisingly, this view of abstractions is called Idealism (or Nominalism).

Aristotle, by contrast, taught that abstractions are a product of the human mind: we observe individual horses with their similarities and differences, and arrive at an abstract concept, an imaginary notion of “horse” which exists only in the mind.

This is called Rationalism. This view of abstractions has been increasingly dominant since the 13th century, and has now triumphed almost absolutely. (Rationalists are very fond of accusing their opponents of “irrationalism”, but it should be not noted that Idealists are no more “irrational” than Rationalists at all, partly because the words are used in a special sense, but mainly because the “rationalism” of the Rationalists is essentially a style of argument, a choice of vocabulary.)

Aristotelians are great hair-splitters. For example, they distinguish between “essence” and “accidents”. The “essence” of a thing is that which makes it what it is, its “quiditas”, or “thatness”. This does not include its existence. Existence is a non-essential quality, or “accident”. A horse can be a horse without existing.

Modern philosophers, in turn, tend to say, “Well, if abstractions exist only in the mind, and if a horse can be a horse without existing, and since we can imagine horses any way we want to: 66 teeth, 19 legs, 4 stomachs, what’s left of the concept of ‘horse’? Nothing. All you have to do is fiddle around with the definition of words.”

Now, on the face of it, it must be admitted that the Platonic view appears nothing less than insane, while the Aristotelian view appears to represent simple common sense. If I say, “There is no such thing as humanity, only individual human beings”, or “There is no such thing as mankind, only individual men and women”, I appear to be making a self-evident statement of fact. But it is not a fact. It is the expression of a theory of abstractions which dates back to Aristotle.

In fact, the Platonic view is closer to the truth, as I intend to show.

Not only is the Aristotelian view incorrect, it is profoundly destructive and dangerous. One need only repeat the Aristotelian view often enough, taken to sufficiently great extremes, to destroy the basis of all human knowledge.

The fallacy of the Aristotelian view of abstractions becomes obvious if I say, “There is no such thing as courage, only individual acts of courage”, or “There is no such thing as the complete works of Shakespeare, only the individual words which make up these works: wherefore, art, thou, etc.”.

Many modern philosophers actually imply as much (for example, the behaviourists or logical positivists), and appear to believe that “anybody can be Shakespeare”, as long as we have a computer to shuffle the word combinations around.

Common variants include the following:

– “There is no such thing as the nation, only individual members of the nation”.

– “There is no such thing as society, only individual members of society.”

– “There is no such thing as the American people, only individual American citizens.”

– “There is no such thing as the White race, only individual white people.”

– “There is no such thing as the Negro race, only individual Negroes.”

This is, in fact, the basis for the common assertion that “race” is an unscientific concept. People admit the scientific nature of genetics and heredity on an individual basis, but deny its application to the group, because they deny the existence of the group itself. All modern Aristotelian philosophies are individualistic (anti-nationalist, anti-racialist, anti-traditionalist, anti-patriotic), because they deny the reality of the collective, the nation, the race. If there is “no such thing as the nation”, then the nation can have no claims on the individual. (It should be noted that this doesn’t prevent individuals from making claims on the nation.)

Indeed, according to this theory, the nation never even existed, except as a geographical entity (varying in size according to the particular historical period) inhabited by individual human beings, from the King on down. To state that an individual should sacrifice himself for the nation is simply to state that some individuals must sacrifice themselves for the sake of other individuals, all of whom are alive at the present time (since dead and future generations exist only as abstract concepts, as a potential).

Hegel said that everything contains within itself the seeds of its opposite. Democracy, for example, begins as “majority rule”, as “rule with the consent of the governed”, and ends up, inevitably, in the absolute, totalitarian tyranny of minuscule minorities, or even isolated individuals. Dictatorship is the rule of a minority of one. The result: “Democracy”, the most oppressive and hysterical political and intellectual straitjacket on the planet, a.k.a. Political Correctness. Two hundred million people, and a single dissenting voice is intolerable.

Note the manner in which the Jews switch back and forth between philosophical systems to suit themselves. In one breath we are told that “There is no such thing as International Jewry” to take responsibility for Jewish crimes (Dresden, the Morgenthal Plan, Zionist atrocities in Palestine, etc; the list is literally endless), but there IS such a thing as “the German people” (to be bled white for the so-called “Holocaust”). In the very next breath, we are told that “There is NO such thing as the German people”, because “Anybody can be a German”, even a Turk or Congolese!

Another example: “There is no such thing as the Negro Race”, to be feared, blamed, and/or hated for their resentfulness, destructiveness, and high crime rates, but there IS such a thing as the “White Race” to feel guilty for slavery! In the very next breath, we told that “there is NO such thing as the White Race”, because “racial purity is a delusion”!

To destroy the anti-pornography laws, the Jews became Aristotelians and split hairs to show that “obscenity”, “lasciviousness”, and “prurient interest” were meaningless concepts incapable of definition. Then, to destroy Revisionism, they became Platonists, and referred to a pre-existing ideal of perfect social harmony allegedly being damaged by “Hatred”, without any definition of terms whatsoever.

The point of the above discussion is to show that National Socialism (which is not limited to the writings or speeches of Adolf Hitler and his followers, but which, on the contrary, has far-ranging philosophical roots) is a serious school of philosophical thought. The National Socialists make a clean sweep of 2000 years of philosophical thought by stating that a human being is subject to the laws of nature. Hitler’s statement that “the ultimate wisdom is the understanding of the instinct” is in fact one of the profoundest truths ever uttered by any human being. His practical failure does not diminish that fact. No one is diminished by martyrdom.

This makes Hitler one of the greatest philosophical thinkers of all time. Since he was also the greatest social reformer in history, as well as one of history’s greatest military and political leaders, this makes him one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived.

Personally, I have been very critical of Hitler in some respects in the past. But as more information becomes available from authentic documents (which exist by the ton, but most of which no one has yet taken the trouble to study), and as our views evolve in reaction to events, I believe that such is the final truth which will ultimately emerge.

It should be noted that “Race” and “Nation” were almost synonymous until fairly recently. To a patriot, it is obvious that the “nation” possesses a reality which extends over thousands of years, both past and present. Not only does the “Nation”, as an ideal, possess perfection, it is, in fact, in reality, more real, and more important, than the individuals of which it is said to consist at any given moment.

Let us reject the Aristotelian view of abstractions. Let us state that, for us, as for Plato, abstractions are real.

Let us state that the individual member of the nation is simply the “pale shadow” of the “perfect abstraction” of its greatest men.

Even primitive tribes have their great warriors, priests, scribes, magicians, poets, seers. It is these which make the individual tribesman that which he is. To pretend otherwise is simply unrealistic.

Let us state that we are what the race, the nation, our ancestors, the family, our great political and religious leaders, have made us, and that, without them, we are nothing.

Let us state that it is to them, our ancestors, our countrymen, that we owe everything.

Let us state that, to us, the race, the nation, family, honour, and loyalty are a reality.

Let us state that to this ideal we are duty bound to sacrifice, not only our own lives, but the lives of others as well, if needs be.

It is obvious that abstractions are real. How far would you get in farming if you said, “There is no such thing as varieties of corn, only individual ears of corn”; or “There is no such thing as breeds of cows, only individual Holsteins, Guernseys, etc.”?

It is obvious that the “variety” or “breed” is more perfect and more real than the individual ear or animal. The “variety” or “breed” can be improved, and survives eternally, while the individual “ear” or “cow” has only one lifetime, and is gone in a meal. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of the human individual. In Biblical terms, “he cometh forth as the grass and is cut down”.

During the Spanish Civil War, on 23 July 1936, the Communists captured the 12-year-old son of the Commanding Officer of the Nationalist garrison in the Alcázar at Toledo, and threatened to shoot him unless the officer surrendered the garrison within 15 minutes. This was over the telephone; the lines hadn’t been cut yet. The Nationalist Commander, Gen. José Moscardó, said, “May I speak to him?” The boy was put on the line. Moscardó said, “Hello, what’s going on?” The boy said, “Hi, Papá. They say they are going to shoot me if you don’t surrender the fortress in 15 minutes“. Moscardó said, “You know how I think. Your father is not going to surrender. If it’s true that they’re going to shoot you, I want you to commend your soul to Jesus Christ and say your prayers, and I want you to die like a Spaniard… “. The boy said “Yes, Papá”. Moscardó said, “A kiss for all eternity”. The boy said, “Goodbye, Papá”. Moscardó said, “Put the officer back on the line”. The Communist officer came back on the line, and Moscardó said, “You can save the 15 minutes you offered me, because the Alcázar will never surrender!” And it didn’t.

[The story of the phone conversation is almost undoubtedly a legend, since I do not see how the phone lines could remain uncut 5 days into the rebellion, but it illustrates a moral principle. What is certain is that the boy was held captive outside the fortress, that he died during the siege, and that the fortress never surrendered.]

That was the action of an idealist. His oath, his loyalty, his nation, the lives and freedom of the men under his command, came first. This is where the cerebral spirit of Jewish Aristotelianism * gets out its mental slide rule or pocket calculator and draws up a profit and loss account in which “Spain” counts for zero, because the “nation” doesn’t exist!

It should be noted that a decision to betray the garrison would have been particularly easy to rationalize. The revolt appeared hopeless and the enemy represented the so-called “legal government” of Spain – a government of Marxists and traitors to whom men of decency no longer owed any loyalty.



  1. There are so many trivial philosophical mistakes in this essay (concerning for instance that was mentioned on Nominalism, Darwinism and Rationalism) that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Someone has failed Phil 101.

  2. I will say this about “race” and “nation.” Both are real. Both are similar. Both are more synonymous than dissimilar. I like Steve Sailer’s argument that races are large, partially inbred extended families. This is also true of nations, which also are imagined entities with commonalities of history, experience, and geography. In other words, it’s an idiotic idea that because there is variation between individuals in a nation/race and some similarities between similar nations on the margin that, therefore, these are not real concepts. Most of the great truths of life are statistical or probablistic in nature, and I think Aristotle was onto something important that there is some meaning latent within our common language and our experience, namely, that there is wisdom to be found by mining human experience and thinking about it carefully. I don’t think there is sharp a cleavage between Aristotel and Plato as commonly thought and, more important, there is a world of difference between both and the modern ideas, which are essentially dressed up nihilism.

  3. “I don’t think there is sharp a cleavage between Aristotel and Plato as commonly thought…”

    I suspect that both men were initiates of a Pythagorean school, and that both of them were credited with originating material that was due to the school as a whole.

    But I’m not a professional Hellenist.

  4. Porter makes an error about Dawinism. There is nothing idealistic about the Theory of Natural Selection. It simply states that organisms that are better adapted to their environment outcompete the less well adapted. If the environment changes, then the formerly well-adapted may suddenly become the worst adapted and become extinct.

    The idea of Evolutionary Positivism or Progress–that people or society spontaneously evolve towards greater perfection–was developed by philosphers like Herbert Spencer and is not a scientific concept.

    I also don’t think Aristotle would consider the City of Athens, or the Greek People to be an abstraction. For Aristotle, a human outside a *polis* was not fully human. In fact, he defined human beings as political/social animals. The modern idea of the deracinated “individual”–undefined by national/social ties–would likely strike him as absurd.

  5. The story of the fortress commandant refusing to surrender in spite of his son facing execution was an heroic tale. The father tells his son, “If it’s true that they’re going to shoot you, I want you to commend your soul to Jesus Christ and say your prayers, and I want you to die like a Spaniard.” This sort of ties in with another thread, about whether Christianity is beneficial for Whites or not. Most often, you do not see atheists sacrificing so much for a cause. This is because for an atheist, this life is everything, we better enjoy it and live as long as possible, because its all there is. It makes little sense for an atheist to sacrifice his life for some cause, what is the point? In contrast, a true believer is much more likely to be prepared to make sacrifices. This life is only the beginning, he faces a glorious afterlife where his good deeds will be rewarded. One example that comes to mind is George Washington. We know from his letters and frequent prayers that he was a devout Christian. He calmly went into battle again and again, surviving numerous horses being shot from beneath him, in the aftermath often finding bullet fragments in his hair and bullet holes in his coat. He had no doubt (and most of his men felt the same way), that he was being protected by God to serve a higher purpose. To survive, European peoples will need inspired individuals such as Washington, who are willing to make great sacrifices. This is one of many reasons that I think that Europeans abandon Christianity and religion at their peril.

  6. Not surprisingly, this view of abstractions is called Idealism (or Nominalism).

    Not generally.

    Idealism is usually associated with Berkeley and posits that there is one substance in the universe and that it is mental. Plato’s theory is actually, ironically called ‘realism’ or ‘Platonic Realism’.

    It isn’t nominalism either because that is the exact opposite of Platonic realism and actually what Ayn Rand’s theories on race boil down to, i.e. that there are no universals (no ‘races’ just individuals) and that only particulars exist.

  7. Basic confusion about a number of issues, but the overall moral point is well taken. First, “Nominalism” arose in opposition to St Thomas’s Christian Aristotelianism . Sam Davidson needs to read something like Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences to get a better handle on how the moral impacts he is concerned with are influenced by the ongoing war between nominalist and realist outlooks.

    As to Roach #2 and Marius#3, the whole question of the relation between Plato and Aristotle is of course a vexed one–I think you are correct to be cautious about simple opposition. Eric Voegelin’s Plato and Aristotle shows how both are, in their differing ways, “realist”.

    Andrew #5 gives a reminder (like those of Richard Weaver in the work cited above) of the necessity of piety (“the discipline of will by respect”) to character. Thanks.

    Daniellji #6 is correct.

  8. Perhaps I am not au courant, but my recollection is that Idealism and Nominalism are antipodal, not identical.

    And that Rationalism is only tangentially a part of this argument, in its Platonic belief in knowledge derived purely from logical (as opposed to Empirical) considerations. Porter seems to be using this term in place of the proper use of “Nominalism” as opposed to Idealism.

    A proper synonym for Idealism would be Platonic Realism, rather than Rationalism.

    Also, Plato is the Rationalist and Idealist/Realist (Universals are “Real”), where Aristotle is the Empiricist/Nominalist.

    Finally, Nominalism is being abused in the form of a distortion thereof.

  9. I’m aware that Porter made a few errors but overall I think this piece makes a very effective argument. His main thrust was against the Jewish school of “Objectivism” and how their denial of a universal existence is a harmful fallacy.

  10. From the website:

    “NOTE: The real target of this article is the Jewish philosophy of “Objectivism”, sometimes known, in a debased form, as “Libertarianism”, i.e., the philosophical basis for deregularization, privatization, free trade, etc., etc.. It is not directed against Aristotelianism generally.”

  11. Rand expended a lot of ink berating Kant for her own misapprehension of his thought.

    The argument above, however, doesn’t echo, for me, anything I encountered in her non-fiction.

    Some quotations are in order, please.

  12. Does this help?

    From “The Virtue of Selfishness” by Ayn Rand (Alissa Rosenbaum)
    “…there is no such entity as “society,” since society is only a number of individual men…”
    “An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.”
    “The Objectivist ethics holds man’s life as the standard of value – and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.”
    “To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.”
    p. 147
    “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”
    “Just as there is no such thing as a collective or racial mind, so there is no such thing as a collective or racial achievement. There are only individual minds and individual achievements – and a culture is not the anonymous product of undifferentiated masses, but the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men.”

  13. Yes, thanks.

    It’s coming back to me after 45 years.

    But I think that neither of the Greeks is responsible for this odd orientation. It’s an exaggerated formulation of the unique North American experience of the frontier and laissez-faire, in reaction to the antipodal extremism of Communism. AR’s life, in other words.

  14. The jewish powers-that-were would not allow Rand to speak her mind on non-pc matters, like race. Her ’63 article Racism was PC vomit. Those of you having the paperback copy of Journals of Ayn Rand may turn to pp.
    466-467. Here is info not intended to be published- L. Piekoff went ahead and published anyway. It probably represents Rand’s actual views. A sample:

    “Men’s intellectual capacities have always been so unequal that to the thinkers the majority of their brothers have always seemed sub-human. And some men may still be, for all the evidence of rationality, or lack of it, that they give. We may still be in evolution, as a species, and living side-by-side with some
    “missing links.” (Notes from April 1946) ”
    The last three paragraphs refer to pre-humans, sub-humans, and the possibility that we are different species and cannot live together. (!) Extreme, hard core stuff.

  15. Rand is an unoriginal and uninteresting thinker. Basically she’s a pro-capitalist Nietzsche who fetishizes creativity and genius–valuable things, but not everything–and forgets that you need people to take the garbage out too, and it helps if you and they both recognize their dignity and worth as human beings.

    Plus she was a whore that constantly fucked around on her supposed husband and other mates.

  16. To think of National Socialism as merely a political movement is wrong.

    I would quibble and put Adolf Hitler in as a logical continuation of the German Idealist School of Thought. Once One learns that Kant was a hard-core Racialist and even an anti-semite and that Fichte was a hard-core Nationalist it all fits together.

    Anyhow here is a good article worth pondering:

    National Socialism: A Philosophical Appraisal by Colin Jordan

  17. I really don’t pretend to be an expert on philosophy; my intention was to make a point. As pointed out elsewhere, it is not intended as an attack upon Aristotle, whom I, for the most part, highly admire. The person who “flunked philosophy 101” must have been Ayn Rand; I think we can agree upon that. Many more examples could be cited, and, in fact, in the fullness of time, will be: “I gotta million of ’em”, as Jimmy Durante used to say.

    Rand was a novelist who wrote very well at times, and very badly at times — atrociously, abominably, in fact — but her English was good (apart from her accent). As a linguist myself, it appears to me that she cannot possibly have learned English as a second language — as an adult — to the level she did if she had spent any considerable amount of time studying philosophy or anything else.

    Personally, I think her so-called “philosophy” is a sick joke, and I don’t believe that any serious person could write the way Rand did. I am intensely ashamed of having ever been taken in by her, but it didn’t last long. Ayn Rand is — and was — no better than a “Manson Family” for yuppies. I would rather have gastroenteritis that read one more paragraph of her writing.

    I love the comment about “St. Hitler and essence”. Thanks to everyone.

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