The following is a humorous paper I wrote in high school back in December 2008 – it still makes me laugh. See if you can find all the subtle jokes. Enjoy! :)
Judge: Mr. Bacon? For the purpose of court records, what charges do you press and upon what grounds do you hereby bring Mr. Aristotle into this court?
Francis Bacon: I press one charge and it is this: Aristotle is guilty of improper or no experimentation to validate what he sets forth as absolute truth in his books.
Judge: Thank you, Mr. Bacon. You may now start us off with your full argument.
Bacon: I shall. Truth can only reliably be discovered by experimentation. When experimenting, one must “force [oneself] for a while to lay [one’s] notions by and begin to familiarize [oneself] with facts.”1 Once the facts have been observed, one can then make conclusions from them. There are some who have “taken for the material of philosophy either a great deal out of a few things, or a very little out of many things, so that on both sides philosophy is based on too narrow a foundation of experiment and natural history.”2 “The most conspicuous example of [these people is] Aristotle”3, whom is standing before you today. He attempted to discern truth, but did everything in his head—everything was determined theoretically and never in reality. He “corrupted natural philosophy with his logic”3 and imposed “countless…arbitrary restrictions on the nature of things.”3 Aristotle indeed made use of experiment in his books, but “having first determined the question according to his will, he then resorts to experience, and bending her into conformity with his placets, leads her about like a captive in a procession.”3 “On this count he is more guilty than his modern followers, the schoolmen”3 and those like his lawyer, “who have abandoned experience altogether.”3
Judge: What have you to say to that, defense?
Thomas Aquinas (Aristotle’s lawyer): On the contrary, The Philosopher says: “The end of theoretical knowledge is truth, while that of practical knowledge is action.”4 I answer that, experiment concerns practical knowledge while, as Mr. Bacon himself says, my client’s philosophy is theoretical. Therefore, the end of the philosophy of my client is truth and that of Mr. Bacon’s “philosophy” is action. Experiment may help people in a practical way, but truth is best found by theoretical philosophic considerations. Using experiment to find theoretical and invisible truth would be most absurd.
Aristotle: I would also like to add that “everyone says something true about the nature of things, and while individually we contribute little or nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is amassed.”5 Those who come after build upon the foundations laid by their predecessors, and together we progress toward the truth.
Bacon: “Fruits and works are as it were sponsors and sureties for the truth of philosophies. Now from all these systems of the Greeks, and their ramifications through particular sciences, there can hardly after the lapse of so many years be adduced a single experiment which tends to relieve and benefit the condition of man”6. I say that philosophization without experimentation, or improper experimentation, gives very little return.
Aquinas: On the contrary, the fact that one’s method of philosophy fails to give tangible benefit is not a sure sign that one’s philosophy is invalid. I answer that, even though theology is theoretical we still do not say that it or its notions are false or futile. Also, the mere exercise of the mind by the utility of the theoretical can sharpen it and improve its potential to benefit humankind.
Bacon: Theology does give both physical and spiritual benefits to a person—it still gives fruit; however any comparison to Aristotle’s philosophy is invalid because theology is a different kind of philosophy. Regarding mental exercise, it is far better and more efficient to intellectually exercise and at the same time attempt to profit humankind rather than first exercise your mind and then later make discoveries.
Judge: Thank you defense and prosecution. Now the jury will go into deliberations and we will reconvene when they are finished.
Euclid: In a given trial, to determine whether a given person is innocent or guilty. Let Aristotle be the given person and this trial the given trial; thus it is required to determine whether Aristotle is innocent or guilty. I say that Aristotle is innocent. For if not, he will be condemned for not procuring all knowledge from experimentation. But justice cannot be measured by instruments in experiments. Therefore, Aristotle will be guilty of not experimenting on justice. Similarly it can be proved that Aristotle would be guilty of not experimenting on mercy, love, and the like, and will be condemned for failing to experiment on things which cannot be experimented on, which is absurd. Therefore Aristotle is not guilty. Therefore etc. Q.E.D.
Descartes: That’s very nice, Euclid, but I would have to doubt it unless you can prove its reasons. Doubt is the acid of the mind which cleans off all extraneous and false notions and gives you an unshakable foundation upon which to build.
Sancho Panza: Acid of the mind? That sounds dangerous! Won’t that hurt it? I don’t doubt Don Quixote, I don’t doubt my wife, I don’t doubt my priest, I don’t doubt Senõr curate, I don’t doubt myself, I don’t—
Don Quixote: Please make your point quickly, Sancho.
Sancho: I was only going to say that I don’t doubt anybody unless I know they have lied to me before and I don’t know that Aristotle has lied. But of course I’ve never read his books—of course, I can’t read either.
Dante: Tradition makes philosophy abound,
Creates the foundations and builds rapport.
Upon this we build, and run not aground.
We doeth not the foundational chore
Or start all over again like Descartes.
But prior men’s writings we do explore,
And then discover things in our art.
Sancho: I don’t care what philosopher so-and-so said who-knows-how-many-years-ago about such-and-such. What I know is what I experience. I know that a red sky in the morning means a storm is coming. I know that April showers bring May flowers. I know that rain makes crops grow and hail destroys them. Experience teaches me, not theoretical philosophers.
Don Quixote: I think we should take a vote now.
Sancho: Do we all get “I Voted” stickers? I just love those stickers— it’s the small things in life that count, you know, as they say. I once knew a nice man who liked “I Voted” stickers too—I don’t know him anymore since he died—he had a funeral with lots of food and that’s what makes a good funeral, and even if they don’t have food, I always make sure I go to my friends’ funerals anyway because otherwise they might not come to mine, and—
Don Quixote: Sancho, stop beating around the bush and get to the point, or else we may never finish jury duty!
Sancho: Ok. Anyway, as I was saying, I once knew a man who collected “I Voted” stickers and counted them as King Midas counted his gold—I did hope he would never be so foolish as to ask that whatever he touched would turn into “I Voted” stickers, but one time—
Don Quixote: Sancho, how you ramble on! I wish that you would be more like me and make your points quickly enough to not bore your listeners.
Sancho: I shall, master. I was only asking if we get stickers when we vote.
Don Quixote: I don’t think they have stickers, Sancho.
Sancho: Too bad. I did hope that—
Don Quixote: Enough, Sancho!
A vote is taken, and then the jury reenters the courtroom as the clock is striking twelve o’clock noon…
Clerk: The jury votes 9 guilty and 3 innocent.
Judge: Aristotle is condemned. His punishment shall be demotion from Limbo to the City of Dis, the place of heretics—
Don Quixote: Stop!
Jumping out of the jury box, he stands in front of Aristotle and faces the judge…
I shall help the needy, defend the weak, and aid philosophers in distress! Whoever desires to hurt this innocent man shall have to do single-handed combat with me!
Judge: Order! Order! Order in the—
The court clerk’s cell phone begins to ring “The Lone Ranger” theme song…
Don Quixote: My challenge has been accepted!
The clerk ducks while Quixote slashes at the clerk’s chair, cutting its headrest off.
Don Quixote: “Hold, robber, scoundrel, knave! I have you now, and your scimitar will not avail you!”7 The whole world shall know that I am the bravest knight ever!
Judge: Stop! — What are you doing, unlawfully disturbing the peace and the lawful proceedings of this court?
Don Quixote: I am not being unlawful; I am only fulfilling my calling as a knight to aid the innocent! Knights are above the law. Right now I am doing battle with a knight who desires to hurt Aristotle, the noble father of all true philosophy!
Turning back to the chair…
I’ll get you again, you—
Sancho: But master, that’s an office chair!
Don Quixote: Ah, “I am sure this must be the work of that magician Frestón, the one who robbed me of my study and books [and changed the giants into windmills]; and who has thus changed the [knight into an office chair] in order to rob me of the glory of overcoming [him], so great is the enmity that he bears me, but in the end his evil arts shall not prevail against this trusty sword of mine.”8
Judge: Bailiff, arrest this man who is an enemy of justice and the public!
Sancho: You will “only have to turn him loose again as being a madman.”9
Judge: If he shall return to the jury box and not interfere anymore, I shall be satisfied.
Don Quixote returns to his seat…
Judge: Well then, as I was saying, Aristotle is sentenced to the City of Dis. Officer Virgil, take custody of him and lead him to fiery sepulcher 1123A straight away.
Aristotle: This is not justice! This is not according to the essence of justice! Retrial! I demand a retrial!
The bailiff, Officer Virgil, leads Aristotle out of the courtroom.
Francis Bacon, The New Organon, Aphorisms, XXXVI
2 Ibid., at LXII
3 Ibid., at LXIII
4 Aristotle, Metaphysics, II.1, line 20
5 Ibid., at line 4
6 Bacon, op. cit., at LXXIII
7 Miguel de Cervantes, The Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote de la Mancha, 368
8 Ibid., at 72
9 Ibid., at 483