Abandon Aristotle.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell has stated emphatically (and, empirically, and also, empathetically):

`Almost every serious intellectual advance has had to begin with an attack on some Aristotelian doctrine’.

(Russell 1996: 157 – emphasis mine)

And – sure; Aristotle was great and all…

Like, he did a lot of really good things. Like: inventing-pizza delivery, with Plato (See: Figure 1)

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right) deliver pizzas to the School of Athens

Fig 1: Plato (left) and Aristotle (right) deliver pizzas to The School of Athens, 335 BCE

 But I’m Plato, I deserve ONE whole pizza to myself, Aristotle.”

Aristotle: “Whoa – no way! One slice each, dude.” 

But – for film screenwriters – Aristotle – the famous inventor of among other things, pizza delivery (seriously, see: Raphael’s: The School of Athens) – has caused many problems than he has solved in the Domain of Film/Screenwriting.

"Okay, brains down, everyone - pizza's here!"

“Okay, brains down, everyone – pizza’s here!”

“Philosophy is… the gadfly image, the Socratic gadfly: refusing to accept any platitudes or accepted wisdom without examining it.” – Donna Dickenson

So – in 2012, the time has now come to: ABANDON Aristotle.

Note that: all the other Domains (physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy) blew off Aristotle about 500 years ago.

What are we Screenwriters doing – still listening to the guy?

An example of how out of date Aristotle’s ideas are now:

In the 1500’s, Galileo replaced Aristotle’s view of pendulums. Aristotle reckoned everything in the universe was being sucked to the centre of the Universe, i.e. Which Aristotle said: was the Earth (Kuhn and Hacking 2012: 123)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn 2012)

(I never said it was a good story, just: a good example of theoretical out-dated-ness.)

And – with Galileo – this was back in the 1500’s, that Aristotelian theory was abandoned in physics, for example.


Abandon Aristotle !!!

Abandon Aristotle. All the other Disciplines – except for Screenwriting – have done this, hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

In 2012, Why has `the screenwriting convention’ not yet abandoned Aristotelian theory?

And yet – 7 in 10 films lose money. (Something is not working right, there.)

The `Theory-Nature fit’ is a mismatch…? (Am I the only one who has noticed this?)

Actually, John Truby has also noticed it. See this post about that.

Aristotle also famously said that, everything was made of Earth, Wind and Fire. (like the 1970’s pop group). Now we know about atoms, forces (strong nuclear, weak nuclear, electromagnetic and gravity) and quantum mechanics.

And even-more-likewise, in a great little book called What Is This Thing called Science? (Chalmers 2000):


What is this thing on the cover? 

(A: It’s a badly-drawn cat. But – the book itself is amazing.)

Anyway in this excellent book – Chalmers points out:

`(An influential claim is that), as a matter of historical fact, modern science was born in the early seventeenth century, when the strategy of taking the facts of observation seriously as the basis for science was first seriously adopted.  It is held by those who embrace and exploit this story about the birth of science that prior to the seventeenth century the observable facts were not taken seriously as the foundation for knowledge.

Rather, so the familiar story goes, knowledge was based largely on authority, especially the authority of the philosopher Aristotle and the authority of the Bible.

It was only when this authority was challenged by an appeal to experience, by pioneers of the new science such as Galileo, that modern science became possible.’

(Chalmers 2000: 2)

All I’m saying is:

We have got to abandon Aristotelean doctrine on feature film screenplays.



(I mean, sure, in context – two-and-a-half THOUSAND YEARS AGO – relatively – he was a genius…)

Aristotle thinks about old stuff

Aristotle thinks about really really old stuff, circa 335 BCE

But now – 2012 – we have got to stop using Aristotle’s ideas about old Greek plays as a basis for movies/screenwriting.

Movies only started in 1906.

2300 years after Aristotle died.

Movies – and old old old (tragic) Greek plays – have almost nothing to do with each other.

I contend: the continued use of Aristotle’s theory of drama has now placed the Domain of Film Screenwriting in a confused mess.

These Aristotle `followers’ have gots to go.

Writing a movie using Aristotelian `logic’ will likely get your movie to flop.

Seriously. 7 in 10 movies lose money.


7 in 10 feature films lose money

7 in 10 feature films lose money!

Also – please note: after a `paradigm change’ – ALL THE TEXTBOOKS HAVE TO BE REWRITTEN. (See: Syd Field’s `Screenplay’, Robert McKee’s `Story’, and any others that use Aristotle and `Poetics’ as a theoretical basis.)

These *old* ideas about Drama have got to go.

Fortunately, science progresses; knowledge evolves – there is now a far better way than using Aristotle’s ideas about ancient Greek plays.

i.e. – Using a scientific and empirical method, examining and comparing the top 20 and bottom 20 most successful (most viral) films:

The Film ROI (return on investment) bell curve

The Film ROI (return on investment) Gaussian bell curve

…Thoughts, feedback, comments?


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Chalmers, A. F. (2000), What Is This Thing Called Science? (3rd ed. edn.; Buckingham: Open University Press).

Kuhn, Thomas S. and Hacking, Ian (2012), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (4th edn.; Chicago ; London: University of Chicago Press) xlvi, 217 p.

Russell, Bertrand (1996), History of Western Philosophy (2nd ed. edn.; London: Routledge).

5 thoughts on “StoryAlity #30 – Abandon Aristotle(!)

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity #36 – On Empirical vs Non-Empirical film story research | StoryAlity

  2. Pingback: StoryAlity #39 – The StoryAlity Movie-Story Study Methodology | StoryAlity

  3. Pingback: StoryAlity #41 – On Scientific Paradigms – and Screenwriting Paradigms(!) | StoryAlity

  4. Pingback: StoryAlity #66 – Scientific and Empirical Proof that the StoryAlity™ Theory works: `The Devil Inside’ (2012) | StoryAlity

  5. Pingback: StoryAlity #26 – “3 Acts”? Did Aristotle ever say that? | StoryAlity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.