Trump Googled himself, got Obama. Bit like Aristotle vs Plato in Arab world


America’s child-man president is livid about the unfairness of internet searches. The Guardian reports that on August 29, Wednesday afternoon, Mr Trump tweeted grumpily: “For years, Google promoted President Obama’s State of the Union on its homepage. When President Trump took office, Google stopped.” The tweet had a short video that tried to substantiate the complaint.

But how do you really rank preference? Sometimes, it’s about quality. Other times, about accessibility. Mr Obama’s speeches – beautifully written, thoughtfully expressed, pointing us to higher things – are generally said to be for the history books. Mr Trump’s fulminations are like something out of the Big Brother house. While Mr Trump may be more accessible, Mr Obama’s words are more memorable.

In a funny sort of way, the same sort of preference issues dogged two great Hellenic philosophers in the Arab world. This is not to say Aristotle is anything like Mr Trump, but he was certainly considered more accessible by the Arab world.

In the ninth century, Aristotle became the most widely read Hellenic thinker in Arabic translation. At the time, a thorough knowledge of Aristotle’s thought, as the late Neoplatonists understood it, was common to all Arabic philosophers from Al Kindi in the 9th to Ibn Rushd in the 12th century. Aristotle’s Categories was almost mandatory because logic was regarded as the starting point of philosophical thought.

Though Plato had enormous influence too, it was much less obvious. Arabic translations of Plato’s dialogues were often mis-labelled. Some scholars say that translators may have found Plato hard to render in Arabic because of his symbolic and metaphoric language. Or that Plato’s preferred dialogue form and its relatively informal, conversational method didn’t appeal to the Arabic audience.

There’s no accounting for tastes. Mr Trump should ponder that basic truth and stop complaining the world is unfair to him.