Aristotle on Riddles and Rhetoric

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The empire of the Greeks was one of the largest and most notable civilizations to have ever existed. Every aspect of their society was developed to a point that would not again be reached for thousands of years. One of the greatest men of the society that has had a very large impact on the world was Aristotle. He lived from 384 BC and 322 BC but left an eternity of wisdom. Just like the great philosopher who proceeds him (and happens to be his teacher), Plato, Aristotle’s intellect was not limited to a single field. When compared to his two great predecessors, Plato and Secretes, Aristotle made contributions to more fields than either of them. A few of these fields include zoology, government, politics, music, physics and logic. Aside from covering this large number of topics, he also was responsible for the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Aside from all of these interests, he also had a strong affinity for riddles.

Aristotle is most known for his discussion of riddles with regards to rhetoric. Aristotle discusses riddles on two separate occasions: The Rhetoric and the Poetics. In the Rhetoric he talks about riddles with regards to rhetoric, in that they can be used to create metaphors that can explain complex topics simply. Later he says that riddles and metaphors are basically one and the same. This means that through the use of riddles and the hidden meanings held within them, metaphors can be generated to give more information than is simply said by the words. In Poetics, another work by Aristotle, he discusses that riddles can be used to explain complexities that would otherwise be impossible to decipher. The final way he showed his appreciation for riddles was the fact that he collected them actively.

Even though Aristotle spends a lot of time talking about riddles in general throughout his writings, riddles themselves are actually somewhat sparse in his works. One of the few riddles that can be found, from Poetics, goes as follow: “I saw a man glue brass on another with fire.” The riddle in this statement is created because he uses the word glue instead of weld. This may not seem like the best riddle, but it was in a different language thousands of years ago.

Aristotle was a great Greek man of science that added to many large fields. He was one of the fathers of Western philosophy and shall be remembered as such.

For some example riddles, or just some fun, visit Good Riddles Now’s main riddles and answers section. For more on Aristotle visit his Wikipedia page.

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