Linguistic and format aspects of Farabi’s logic

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Al- Farabi’s writings on logic and the philosophy of language include both loose commentaries on the Aristotelian Organon and independent treatises. al- Farabi produced a full set of epitomes of the Organon, including, as had been the custom since the days of the Alexandrian commentators, Porphyry’s Isagoge and Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics. He also wrote a great commentary (sharh) on the De interpretaione. His epitomes are not detailed efforts at exegesis of the Aristotelian texts, nor mere summaries of them, but take their overall organization and inspiration from Aristotle while developing personal interpretations of Aristotle logic the school tradition that had developed from it. Of his more personal writings, the Kitab al-huruf (“Book of Letters” and Kitab al- alfaz al- musta’ malah fi’l –mantinq (Book of Utterances Employed in Logic”) are also devoted in large part to logical and linguistic topics, emphasizing the need to understand the relationship of philosophical terminology to ordinary language and grammar.

Relationship between logic and grammar
One of the overriding concerns of al- Farabi’s logical writings is to delineate precisely the relationship between philosophical logic and the grammar of ordinary language. The historical reality of the importation of philosophy in to Arabic from a foreign language and culture, that of ancient, Greece, and the attendant difficulties created by the need to invent a philosophy of Aristotelian logic produced territorial disputes with the practitioners of the indigenous science of Arabic grammar, who were concerned that the philosopher’s interest in Greek logic was nothing but an attempt to substitute the grammar of Greek of the grammar of Arabic. Al- Farabi’s logical and linguistic writings represented one of the most systematic efforts to harmonize these competing approaches to the study of language.

Throughout his linguistic writings al- Farabi upholds a conception of logic as a sort of universal grammar that provides those rules that must be followed in order to reason correctly in any language whatsoever. Grammar, on the other hand, is always confined to providing the rules established by convention for the use of the particular language of a particular culture. As al- Farabi puts it in a well- known passage from his Ihsa’ al-ulum (“Catalogue of the Sciences”), “this art [of logic] is analogous to the art of grammar, in the relation of the art of logic to the intellect and the intelligibles is like the relation of the art of grammar to language and expressions. That is, to every rule for expression which the science of grammar provides us, there is a corresponding [rule] for intelligibles which the science of logic provides us” 68).

philosophical logic and study of language
By arguing in this way that logic and grammar are two distinct, rule –based sciences, each with its own proper domain and subject matter, al- Farabi strives to establish logic as an autonomous philosophical study of language that complements, rather than conflicts with, traditional grammatical science. But though logic and grammar remain distinct and autonomous sciences, al- Farabi also holds that the logician and the philosopher are dependent upon the grammarian for their ability to articulate their doctrines in the idiom of a particular nation. Hence “ the art of grammar must be indispensable for making known and alerting us to the principles of the art [ of logic]” Al- Farabi’s Kitab al- alfaz is one attempt to implement this co- operating of logic with grammar. It illustrates, however, the extent of independence from conventional grammatical constraints that the logician still retains in al- Farabi’s scheme. For while the text opens with a declaration of the need to classify Arabic particles along logically perspicuous lines, it goes on to make the bold assertion that the classification of particles offered by the Arabic grammarians themselves is inadequate for this purpose, thereby, forcing al- Farabi to borrow the underlying grammatical theory from the works of Greek grammarians, declaration hardly likely to appease the champions of Arabic grammatical theory

The relations between abstract linguistic and historical discussions in ketab al- huruf
The kitab al- huruf shows another facet of al- Farabi’s approach to the philosophy of language. (6=The title of the work is usually translated as Book of Letters, although Book of Particles is equally possible. For studies of this text see Arnaldez (1977),Vajda( 1970),Mahdi (1972b.)) It opens with an extended classification of Arabic particles in relation to the Aristotelian categories. The discussions of individual particles in turn explore the relation between popular use of these terms in non- philosophical Arabic and the modifications they undergo when they are transformed into technical philosophical terms for a study of al- Farabi’s treatment of jawhar (“substance”). The second part of the text presents a discussion of the origins of language, the history of philosophy, and the relations between philosophy and religion. One of its purposes is to situate the more abstract linguistic discussion into historical and anthropological context, explaining how language itself originates and branches out into popular and technical forms. The theme of the relations between philosophy and religion is also cast in linguistic terms. Religion is viewed as the expression of philosophical truth in popular language, using the tools provided by the logical arts of rhetoric and poetics. There is also a normative side to this discussion, in so far as it lays out the ideal scenario for the development of philosophical vocabulary from ordinary language, and for the establishment of a religion suitable for translating the fruits of the philosophy back into popular terms. In passages that are meant to evoke the historical reality of Islam’s encounter with Greek philosophy, al- Farabi’s also identifies and ranks variety of possible deviations from the ideal developmental pattern, in which neither the philosophy nor the religion of a nation springs from its indigenous linguistic and logic developmental, they are instead imported from another culture. In the third and final part of the Kitab al-huruf al- Farabi returns to the theme of philosophical terminology, offering an elaborate classification of interrogative particles, their use in different types of philosophical inquiry and their relation to the types of explanations offered by Aristotle’s four causes.

Formal aspects discussions.
Although a large proportion of al- Farabi’s logical output is dedicated to linguistic topics, he also made important contributions to the more formal aspects of logic, such as syllogistics, the theory of demonstration and related epistemological issues. A predominant strand in al- Farabi’s logic epistemology is the adoption of a hierarchical interpretation of the syllogistics, are arts (including rhetoric and poetics), in which demonstration is identified as the proper method of philosophy, and all the other methods are relegated to the status of tools for non- philosophical communication. This strand is most evident in those writings where al- Farabi is echoing the logical theory of the Alexandrian commentators, although it is also closely linked to al- Farabi’s personal teaching that religion is a popular imitation of philosophy whose tools are the non- demonstrative arts An excellent summary of this hierarchical approach is given in the following statement found in the logic chapter of al- Farabi Ihsa’al-ulum:

The fourth [part of logic ] contains the rules by which demonstrative statements are tested, the rules which pertain to those things from which philosophy is welded together, and everything by which its activity becomes most complete, most excellent, and most perfect …And the fourth part is the most vigorous of them, pre-eminent in dignity and authority. Logic seeks its principal intention only in this fourth part, the remainder of its part having been invented only for its sake.

Al- Farabi goes on to identify two principal roles for these non- demonstrative arts: to act as tools to sustain the fourth part in its proper function, and to provide safeguards that keep the demonstrator from error.

Dialectic as pedagogical and ancillary art
It would be misleading, however, to take the attitude expressed by this text as an accurate reflection of al- Farabi’s overall approach to either demonstration or the remaining arts of dialectic, rhetoric and poetics. When al- Farabi’s discusses each of these art in its own right, his own right, his views emerge as far more complex, and seem to allow the non- demonstrative arts to play an integral rather than a peripheral role within philosophy. In the opening discussions of his Kitab al- jadal (“Book of Dialectic”), for example, al- Farabi tries to show hoe dialectic functions to serve and support philosophy by identifying five way in which it contributes to the attainment of demonstrative knowledge (1) by offering training in the skills of argumentation. (2) by providing an initial exposure to the principles of the individual demonstrative sciences, (3) by awakening awareness of the innate self –evident principles of demonstration, in particular for the physical sciences, (4) by developing the skills useful for communicating with the masses, and (5) for refuting sophistry. While all of these uses continue to reflect the general conception of dialectic as a pedagogical and ancillary art, the breadth of the contributions that are outlined by this list, and the inclusion of the second and third used in particular, seems to elevate dialectic from the status a mere hand maiden to de facto partner with demonstration in philosophical pursuits.

The role of epistemological teary end poet
Al- Farabi’s rhetorical and poetical theories display a similar appreciation of the autonomy of these arts. In the case of his poetics, al- Farabi is one of the first Islamic authors to identify for poetical discourse a unique epistemological aim which is distinct from the aims of all the other logical arts, takhyil, the evocation of an imaginative depiction of an object. This theory of imaginative evocation was to become the cornerstone of subsequent Islamic interpretations of poetic imitation, and though its psychological underpinnings, which are outlined in the next section, it became the means whereby the emotive and cognitive appeal of poetry and poetic discourse could be explained, and its role in prophecy and religion established. (7=For further consideration of al- Farabi’s poetics see Black (1989 and 1990), Galston (1988), Heinrichs (1978) and Kemal (1991)). In his discussions of rhetoric al- Farabi makes a similar effort to explain the unique epistemic character of rhetorical persuasion as dependent upon what al- Farabi calls assent to propositions “widely accepted at first glance” (ft badi al-ra’y), basing his explanation upon a detailed analysis of the role of social consensus and inchoate rational intuitions in every day human beliefs, Al- Farabi even extends this analysis to the formal aspects of rhetoric, offering an explanation of how the truncated form of rhetorical enthymemes and example –arguments reflects the peculiar epistemic goals of rhetoric, and contributes to its utility n communicating with the masses, whose formal logical skills are merely inchoate, for studies of al- Farabi rhetoric see Aouad.

Finally, in considering the role non- demonstrative arts within philosophy purists, we would do well to note al- Farabi’s assertion in his Tahsil al- sa’adah (“Attainment of Happiness”): “To be truly perfect philosopher one has to possess both the theoretical sciences and the faculty for exploiting them for the benefit of all others according to their capacity. Al- Farabi, following Plato, holds that all true philosophers are charged with the task of attempting to communicate their philosophy to others, and that this task is essential to the fulfillment of the philosophical ideal. Form this it follow that the arts of rhetoric, poetics and dialectic, in so far as they represent the principal means of communication with the mass of humanity, are an integral part of philosophy and a necessary complement to demonstrative science.

Conceptualization and assent
Al- Farabi’s theory of demonstration itself centers on an analysis of knowledge (ilm=Greek episteme). Like the other Islamic Aristotelians who were to follow him, al- Farabi’s bases this analysis upon a distinction between two fundamental cognitive acts, conceptualization (tasawwur) and assent (tasdiq) The former act is that whereby we apprehend simple concepts, and when it is complete or perfect, it enables us to extract the essence of the object conceived. The latter act of assent issues in a judgment of truth or falsehood, and when it is perfect or complete, it yields certain knowledge. These two cognitive acts are in turn identified as the respective goals sought by definitions and demonstrative syllogisms, the two principal topics treated in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics so that the analysis of the conditions for complete conceptualization and assent becomes the keynote of al- Farabi’s ensuing interpretation of Aristotle’s theory of demonstration.

The role of certitude in knowledge
One important face of this interpretation is al- Farabi’s analysis of the certitude that characterizes perfect assent. Al- Farabi’s defines absolute certitude in terms of what we would now cal second- order knowledge, arguing that certitude comprises both(1) a belief that the truth to which we have assented cannot otherwise, and (2) a belief, in addition to this, that no other belief, than the one held is possible. (Al- Farabi’s adds that this process can in fact go on ad infintum). Certitude, in short, requires not merely our knowing that something is the case but also our knowing that we know it. Having defined certitude in this way, al- Farabi is able to free it from its traditional modal interpretation, thereby allowing for the existence of both necessary certitude, in which what one believes to be case cannot to be otherwise at any time, and non- necessary certitude, which is certitude “only at some [particular] time .” Necessary certitude requires an object which exists necessarily and immutably, non- necessary certitude does not “Necessary certitude and necessary existence are necessarily existent”.

Despite this broadening of the notion of certitude, al- Farabi holds with Aristotle that demonstration in the strictest sense pertains only to matters that can be known with necessary certitude. But al- Farabi has none the less added a new dimension to the theory of demonstration that takes account of the subjective element within certitude –one’s aware- ness of knowledge that one knows- as well as the more traditional objective element rooted in the necessity and immutability of the object known.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:179184


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