I was looking through John Henry Newman's Idea of a University this morning, searching for examples of good writing to show students in my expository writing class (but can Newman, perhaps the greatest prose stylist in English, still be used in this way?--I am doubtful) and once again came upon one of my favorite quotations on Aristotle. Newman is explaining what it is for study to be liberal, as not directed to any end beyond itself; he quotes Aristotle from the Rhetoric in support, and then adds, in defense--since he is engaged in founding a university that conceives of itself as modern:
Do not suppose, that in thus appealing to the ancients, I am throwing back the world two thousand years, and fettering Philosophy with the reasonings of paganism. While the world lasts, will Aristotle's doctrine on these matters last, for he is the oracle of nature and of truth. While we are men, we cannot help, to a great extent, being Aristotelians, for the great Master does but analyze the thoughts, feelings, views, and opinions of human kind. He has told us the meaning of our own words and ideas, before we were born. In many subject-matters, to think correctly, is to think like Aristotle; and we are his disciples whether we will or no, though we may not know it (Idea of a University, 5.5).
The complete text may be found here.
Is Newman correct? Could something similar be said about Plato, or Kant ... or Hume? If not, why not? And if Newman is correct, is this an argument for studying Aristotle, or is it enough if one is an Aristotelian 'in spite of oneself'?