Logic first came of interest in the Islamic world through the need to argue with members of other religions in the Middle East who had a good grasp of how to argue. The Qur’an advises that people should be introduced to Islam with ‘beautiful preaching’ (16.125; 29.46). To a certain extent this involves argument, and the Qur’an does constantly call on its hearers and readers to consider the strength of the points made in the text. The encounter with Greek texts led to a good deal of translation into Arabic of Greek logic, but this was not uncontroversial. There was a celebrated debate in front of the court in Baghdad on the merits of a logic that originates outside the Islamic world and becomes the judge of Arabic culture. Those who defended logic said it was just a tool or instrument and had nothing to do with any particular subject matter, since it applied to every subject matter. This was met by the counter-argument that in fact logic brings a lot of theoretical baggage along with it, and is not appropriate as a technique to be used by Muslims. They have their own theoretical sciences, such as grammar, Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence, theology and so on, disciplines that arose in the Islamic world and are specifically designed to deal with Islamic texts. The best-known debate took place between the Muslim al- Sirafi, opposing logic, and Abu Bishr Matta, a Christian, defending it. Al-Sirafi wonders why people think that Greek logic applies to Arabic texts, and the reply is that logic applies to statements in any language. Al-Farabi expressed this best later on, arguing that logic is the deep grammar of language itself, and has to be utilized if we are to analyze language.
   There were three major attacks on Greek logic within the Islamic world, one from the perspective of Sufism, one from the traditionalists and finally the ishraqi or Illuminationist thinkers. The Iberian thinker Ibn Sab‘in accused logicians of analyzing things by breaking them down into their parts, thus violating the basic unity (tawhid) of everything in God. Logic implies that it is the parts that are real, whereas from the Sufi point of view it is the whole. Ibn Taymiyya directly attacked the Aristotelian notion of definition (hadd) for its assumption that there is a basic distinction between the essential and accidental properties of a thing. He is a nominalist, and argues that universals or general terms should be analyzed in terms of the individuals that constitute them. We can think in terms of universals, but they are merely a way of bringing together particulars in our minds, and possess no independent existence of their own. Another problem with the notion of definition is that we never know whether or not we really distinguish between its essential and its accidental properties, since our experience will not provide us with this sort of information. We can experience the existence of objects, but what features they must possess and which they could do without, and yet stay the same sort of object, is not something we get from experience. So we cannot really have the confidence that logic says we can about how to define things. Only God can enlighten us on these topics, and for that we need not Greek logic but the Qur’an and other Islamic texts. Aristotle’s Organon is an account of the whole variety of deductive techniques that apply to concepts, so that there is a hierarchy of argumentative or deductive power, with demonstration (burhan) at the summit, where we operate with true premises and use them to arrive at valid and entirely general conclusions. The Peripatetic philosophers used the organon of Aristotle to argue that every human enterprise is characterized by some reasoning process or other. After demonstration comes dialectic (jadal), where the premises we use are those supplied by the side with which we are debating, and so we have no reason to think they are true. They might be, but they might not, and we might not be able to find out. Then we descend in logical strength, reaching rhetoric (khitaba) and poetry (shi‘r), for example, where the point is to affect emotions by the use of imagination, and where the validity of the conclusion may be restricted, limited to a particular audience within a certain context on a unique occasion. Religions are replete with such examples of logic, since their purpose is to persuade and warn, and for that the emotions need to be affected through some attempt at explaining why the audience should have those feelings.
   See Aristotle; al-Farabi; al-Ghazali; Ibn Rushd; Ibn Sina; Ibn Taymiyya; al-Suhrawardi
   Further reading: Abed 1991; Black 1990; Gwynne 2004; Hallaq 1993; Ibn Sina 1984; Lameer 1994; Leaman 1997, 2000; Mahdi 1970; Margoliouth 1905; McAuliffe 2001; Walbridge 2000a

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.


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