Translated by Yusuf Ali
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God created human beings with the ability to speak, and gave them a tongue as a tool by which to talk. Yet to be able to converse, humans must learn to speak the same language in order to communicate. To undertake this task, a human being will initially need instruction in the rules of the language and how to speak correctly.
This is the knowledge of grammar and linguistics.
In a similar fashion, God has created the human race with thinking as part of its essential nature, and he has bestowed upon humankind the faculty of rational thinking. Yet in spite of this, one finds that people commit a great number of mistakes in their thinking.
As such, humans are always in need of something to correct his/her thoughts and guide him to the path of sound thinking.
It has been said that the science of logic (ilm al-Mantiq) is a tool by which human beings may protect himself/herself from errors, and be a means for correcting their thoughts. Just as grammar and linguistics do not teach human beings how to speak per se, but rather teach him how to speak correctly, so logic does not teach the human being how to think, rather, it gives human beings a means for correcting their thoughts.
As such, our need for logic is only for the sake of correcting our thought.
In the traditional Sh'ia schools, the focus is on Aristotelian Logic (Mantiq aristu) as it is found in Arabic works of philosophy and logic.
In the pre-modern period, the logic section of Sabzawari’s Manzuma and Mulla Abd Allah’s al-shamsiyya constituted the standard works of logic in schools.
In the modern period the detailed work of al-Allama Mohammed Rida Mudhaffar, known as 'Mantiq al-Mudhaffar', is now the standard textbook of logic in all Sh'ia seminaries.
In some academic institutions a shorter summary of logic, written by Abd al-Hadi al-Fadli, is also quite popular.
God created human beings with the ability to speak, and gave them a tongue as a tool by which to talk.
Yet, to be able to converse, humans must learn to speak the same language in order to communicate. To undertake this task, a human being will initially need instruction in the rules of the language and how to speak it correctly. This is the knowledge of grammar and linguistics.
As such, a human being is always in need of something to correct his/her thoughts and guide him to the path of sound thinking.
It has been said that the science of logic (ilm al-Mantiq) is a tool by which the human being may protect himself/herself from errors, and be a means for correcting their thoughts. Just as grammar and linguistics do not teach human beings how to speak per se, but rather teach him how to speak correctly, similarly logic does not teach us how to think; rather, it gives us a means for correcting thoughts. As such, our need for logic is only for the sake of correcting our thought.
If a refusal to the study of logic is that: ‘Human beings study logic, yet they still make mistakes hence, there is no benefit in logic’, the proponents of the study of logic would reply:
People study logic and linguistics, yet still make mistakes in speech. The only reason for this is that the student studying this science has not become sufficiently proficient; and has not taken heed of its principles when they are needed.
Meaning and Definition
Logic is a widely accepted tool, and understanding how to use it will greatly minimize the margin for error.
Logic is a division of the practical sciences, which are used to obtain a certain purpose. It is not the same as the study of knowledge, its only task is to clarify the general paths which will allow us (by means of our thoughts) to grasp realities which were previously unknown. Similar is the case of algebra, which studies the paths by which a mathematician may unravel equations and grasp previously unknown quantities.
A clearer explanation would be:
The science of logic teaches you the general principles for correct thinking, so that your mind will think correctly. It will teach you in every shape, and organizes your thinking in such a way that it will lead from images present in your mind to things which are hidden from you.
As such, this science is defined as a scale or measure, as well as the custodian of sciences (even algebra, to which we will compare this knowledge, insofar as algebra bases its method of analyzing its problems and propositions on logic).
The Syriac Christians had adopted a teaching tradition which included a truncated version of the Alexandrian ‘Organon’ (Porphyry's ‘Eisagoge’ followed by the ‘Categories,’ ‘On Interpretation,’ and the first seven chapters of the ‘Prior Analytics’).
This teaching tradition continued without disruption through the Arab conquests and under the Umayyad Caliphate (40AH/661AD-132AH/750AD). During this period, however, it evoked little, if any, interest on the part of the Muslim conquerors.
It was the advent of the Abbassid Caliphate (132AH/750AD-656AH/1258AD) that signalled the beginnings of a greater interest in philosophy on the part of the ruling elite. This was to usher in a translation movement, which in the first place, translated the Syriac extractions of philosophy into Arabic, but which later turned to the Aristotelian texts and the commentaries written on them before the fall of the Roman Empire.
An example of an Arabic translation produced before the Aristotelian inclination is the translation by Ibn al-Muqaffa (d. 138/756) of a logic dissertation that probably came to him from the Syriac via the Pahlavi (probably from a late antique introduction to philosophy). The dissertation gestures towards the ‘Eisagoge,’ then turns to the ‘Categories, On Interpretation,’ and the introductory parts of the ‘Prior Analytics’ on true or false statements.
One must bear in mind, however, that there are important differences between second/eighth century Arabic logic and the Old Logic of the Latin tradition. First, there were Syriac translations of other Aristotelian logical texts available throughout this period (e.g. the ‘Posterior Analytics;’ secondly, soon after Ibn al-Muqaffa had produced his work, other scholars were translating complete Aristotelian works into Arabic.) It is clear, for example, that the Abbassid Caliph al-Mahdi (reg. 158AH/775AD-168AH/785AD) had commissioned translations of the ‘Topics’ and the ‘Sophistical Fallacies,’ presumably for use in inter-religious dialogue.
The translation movement continued to pick up momentum through the third/ninth century, and by around 214AH/830AD a circle of translators were loosely coordinated around Abu Yusuf Yaqub b. Ishaq al-Kindi (d. 256AH/870AD).
Al-Kindi produced a short overview of the whole of the ‘Organon,’ and members of his circle produced: an epitome of and commentary on the ‘Categories; an epitome of ‘On Interpretation;’ a version of the ‘Sophistical Fallacies;’ and probably an early translation of the ‘Rhetoric.’
Somewhat later, perhaps from the 235AH/850AD, the great Syriac Christian translators Hunayn b. Ishaq (d. 259AH/873AD), and his son Ishaq b. Hunayn (d. 297AH/910AD), began to produce integral translations of complete works from the ‘Organon,’ generally by way of Syriac translations, some of which dated back to before the Arab conquests. One or the other (it is uncertain from the sources) translated the ‘Categories,’ Ishaq translated ‘On Interpretation,’ Hunayn seems to have collaborated with the otherwise unknown Theodorus to translate the ‘Prior Analytics,’ father and son both seem to have had a hand in producing a new Syriac translation of the ‘Posterior Analytics,’ and Ishaq provided revised translations of the ‘Topics’ and the ‘Rhetoric.’ Perhaps it was someone in this circle who translated the ‘Poetics’ into Syriac.
In spite of these achievements, Hunayn's circle is not unequivocally Aristotelian. Hunayn himself was interested above all in Galen, and what we know of Galen's greatest logical work we know from citations in Hunayn's summaries.
Soon after, however, Baghdad philosophy was dominated by self-styled nomads who presented themselves as re-establishing Aristotle's true teachings after a period of rupture. The leading lights of this movement were the Syriac Christian Abu Bishr Matta b. Yunus (d. 328AH/940AD) and his younger Muslim colleague, Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d. 338AH/950AD). In the early 280sAH/900sAD, Abu Bishr added translations from the Syriac of the ‘Poetics’ and the ‘Posterior Analytics’ to the growing Arabic ‘Organon.’ He and his colleagues also contributed to a commentary tradition on each component of the ‘Organon.’
Abu Bishr lumbers into every piece that has been written on the history of Arabic logic as the clumsy advocate of the view that speakers of Arabic need to learn Greek logic. In a disputation on the relative merits of grammar and logic, convened for the amusement of the Vizier, he confronts a dashing young opponent, Sirafi, who confounds him with a series of grammatical subtleties.
To these, Abu Bishr responds:
This is grammar, and I have not studied grammar. The logician has no need of grammar, whereas the grammarian does need logic. For logic enquires into the meaning, whereas grammar enquires into the expression. If, therefore, the logician deals with the expression, it is accidental, and it is likewise accidental if the grammarian deals with the meaning. Now, the meaning is more exalted than the expression, and the expression humbler than the meaning.
Whatever the merits of Abu Bishr's view of the relation of logic to language, it weathered Sirafi’s storm of criticism badly. Assessments differ as to what we should learn from this discussion, but it serves at least to show that some were skeptical of the utility of Aristotelian logic.
Other Muslim scholars went further than Sirafi and considered the study of logic which showed a lack of respect for religion, mainly because of its association with metaphysics. As one scholar put it many years later, “the access to something bad is also bad”.
The Aristotelian Project
It was Abu Bishr's younger colleague, al-Farabi, who was the outstanding contributor to the Aristotelian project, though not as a translator. On the question of the relation of logic to language, al-Farabi offers a view somewhat more nuanced than Abu Bishr's. He also claimed that logic was indispensable for analysing the argument-forms used in Jurisprudence and theology, a claim that was to be taken up a century later by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 504AH/1111AD), thereby introducing the study of logic into the major Muslim centres of learning.
To support his claim, al-Farabi wrote:
‘The Short Treatise on Reasoning in the Way of the Theologians’ in which he interpreted the arguments of the theologians and the analogies (qiyasat) of the jurists as logical statements of truth in accordance with the doctrines of the ancients’.
But al-Farabi's main contribution to the Aristotelian project was a series of commentaries on the books of the ‘Organon’ - many of them sadly lost - which represent the finest achievement in the study of Aristotelian logic in Arabic. His work in this area aims at the Lesser Harmony, the “project of forging a single, consistent doctrine out of the sometimes incongruent theories found in Aristotle's many dissertations;” and this marks him out as clinging to an outdated interpretation. The quality of al-Farabi's arguments is clear from his remaining long commentaries on Aristotle. He is the first truly independent thinker in Arabic logic, a fact commemorated by the honor bestowed upon him by Ibn Sina, known in the west as Avicenna: the Second Teacher (after Aristotle). When Avicenna laid out his own beliefs, he noted each point on which he differed from al-Farabi.
The tradition with which al-Farabi was associated, a tradition centred on exposing problems in the ‘Organon,’ reached its crowning achievement—a superb and heavily glossed translation of the ‘Organon’- at the same time that Avicenna was setting about his work in the East, work which was to make the ‘Organon’ irrelevant for the vast majority of subsequent Arabic logicians.
This was a watershed moment:
The Farabian tradition continued its work on the Aristotelian texts, though ever more defensively and reactively to challenges posed by Avicenna.
The Avicennan tradition, by contrast, simply ignored the Aristotelian texts.
The Farabian tradition withered away so quickly that even by the late twelfth century, to study Farabian logic meant traveling to North Africa. Spain was its last stronghold, and the work of Ibn Rushd known in the West as Averroes is best understood as a commentary on Aristotle determined in its focus and direction by the criticisms of Avicenna.
At the same time that the Baghdad philosophers were finalizing the translation of the ‘Organon’ and adding to it with extensive summaries, Avicenna (d. 428AH/1037AD) was beginning his career far away in the east, in Khurasan. His style of philosophy was to make the Aristotelian texts irrelevant for the dominant tradition of Arabic logic after him. Led by his intuition, he presented himself as a self taught authority, able to assess and reform the Aristotelian tradition. In other words, Avicenna's Doctrine of Intuition delivered him Aristotelianism unaffected by the interpretational limitations of the ‘Lesser Harmony.’
In the modal logic, for example, he cut through the problems in the Aristotelian account by taking them either as tests of the student's ability to think clearly, or mistakes by Aristotle in implementing principles. Here is what he says in the ‘Syllogism of the Cure,’ written midway through his career:
You should realize that most of what Aristotle's writings have to say about the modal mixes are tests, and are not genuine opinions—this will become clear to you in a number of places…
In his later writings, Avicenna was increasingly blunt in what he regards as inconsistencies in Aristotle's work, and writes of problems in the ‘Prior Analytics’ as arising through negligence. An example of a late text is ‘Twenty Rare Questions,’ which consists of answers to questions on works, sent by the learned men of Shiraz (a text which incidentally shows how odd Avicenna's system must have seemed to his contemporaries). Why, they ask, has Avicenna produced a series of statements that differs so radically from Aristotle's? At one point, we find Avicenna presenting Aristotle's decisions (about mixes with possibility propositions as minor premises) as follows:
It is strange that Aristotle judged… Stranger than this… Even stranger than that are the definitions… Strangest of all…A further matter that confounds Aristotle…
Avicenna's Intuition not only set aside important parts of Aristotle's logic, it also differed from al-Farabi's interpretation of that logic. Avicenna has, however, more consistently courteous ways of declining to follow al-Farabi. He refers to al-Farabi as the “eminent later scholar to whom we are most concerned to direct our remarks” as he constructs his alternate system.
Of all his many works, it is Avicenna's ‘Pointers and Reminders’ that had the most impact on subsequent generations of logicians.
It became, as his critics claimed, ‘the Qur’an of the philosophers.’ From it we may note a few broad but typical differences from the ‘Prior Analytics’ in its substance..
First, the “absolute” (mutlaqat, often translated “assertoric”) propositions have truth-conditions stipulated, somewhat like those stipulated for possibility propositions (so that, for example, the contradictory of an absolute is not an absolute, absolute propositions do not convert, second-figure statements with absolute premises are sterile).
Secondly, Avicenna begins to explore the logical properties of propositions of the form.
Thirdly, Avicenna divides statements into connective (iqtirani) and repetitive (istithnai) forms, a division which replaces the old one into categorical and hypothetical.
As a rough guide, we may call a logician “Avicennan” if he adopts these doctrines.
Averroes was one of the last representatives of a dying Farabian Aristotelianism, an Aristotelianism that focused all its efforts to the task of the Lesser Harmony. A student of Baghdad philosophy, who had been transplanted to al-Andalus, Averroes was trained in the logic of al-Farabi.
However, there were parts of al-Farabi’s teachings he was at odds with:
Near the end of his life, having assessed the problems in his colleagues' interpretations, he wrote:
“These are all the doubts in this matter. They kept occurring to us even when we used to go along in this matter with our colleagues, in interpretations by virtue of which no solution to these doubts is clear. This has led me now (given my high opinion of Aristotle, and my belief that his theorization is better than that of all other people) to scrutinize this question seriously and with great effort.”
Averroes' project in its entirety is driven by the demands of this rigorously construed Lesser Harmony and—in spite of everything—by Avicenna's increasingly popular reformulation of Aristotelian doctrine. Both aspects of the Averroist project are contained in his ‘Philosophical Essays,’ a number of which are on logical matters. Averroes defends and refines al-Farabi's account of the work against Avicenna's attack, and then uses that account as the basis of a new interpretation of the main message. A second example of the way Averroes works is his reappraisal and vindication of Aristotle's doctrines of the hypothetical statement against Avicenna's alternative division into connective and repetitive statements.
No Arabic logician of note makes any use of Averroes, though his deep concern with the Aristotelian text made his work transportable to both Hebrew and Latin philosophical traditions.
In the fourteenth century, Ibn Khaldun (d. 437AH/1406AD) observed that Arabic logic had changed considerably since the late sixth/twelfth century. He attributes the changes to the works of two main scholars:
His treatment of the subject as newly conceived had become more lengthy and wide ranging. His teacher in logic was Majd-‘l-DIn al-Jili, who may have been Sawi's student. In spite of this pedigree, the polite manner of correcting Avicenna's system that we find in Sawi's work is missing from Razi's. In ‘Gist of Pointers,’ Razi sets out his own remarkably compact account of the modals, and then says of Avicenna's exposition:
When you have understood what we have mentioned, you will come to realise that [my book], in spite of its brevity, is more explanatory and better verified than what is found in [Pointers], in spite of its length.
For all his dismissive comments, Razi's logic is unclear without reference to Pointers, nor does it strike off in new directions other than to offer what Razi claims are clearer ways to understand the points Avicenna is trying to make. Razi, like Sawi, never refers to an Aristotelian text, and refers to al-Farabi in such a fashion as to suggest that he is simply paraphrasing Avicenna's references.
According to Ibn Khaldun, al-Khunaji made more and more substantive changes to Avicennan logic. He was apparently one of Razi's students; in the sense that he likely studied under someone else who had studied under Razi . Only one short text by Khunaji has been published, and all assessment of his impact has been by way of references made to him by other Arabic logicians. However, there are many such references in later works.
Khunaji's work inspired, or at least prefigured, work by other great logicians not mentioned by Ibn Khaldun, namely; Athiral-Din al-Abhari (d. 663AH/1265AD) and Najmal-Din al-Katibi (d. 674AH/1276AD).
Bar Hebraeus (Harun b. Tuma al-Malati (d. 684AH/1286AD) also claims that AbharI was one of Razi's students, though again, opportunity for direct contact must have been virtually non-existent. Katibi was Abhari's student. The pair produced the two texts which became the mainstay of the ‘Madrasa Teaching of Logic,’ which was prevalent from the late thirteenth century until the present day. Katibi's text, the ‘Logic for Shams al-Din,’ was commented on by Qutb al-Din al-Tahtani (d. 766AH/1365AD). This particular commentary records a great many of the technical debates going on between the two major wings of the Avicennan logical tradition.
Twelver Shi’a Interpretation of Avicennan Logic
The great Twelver-Shi‘a scholar Nasr al-Din al-Tusi (d. 672AH/1274AD) responded directly to Fakhr al-DIn al-Razi. He also responded indirectly to the changes Khynaji introduced by responding to the work of the like-minded Abhari. As it happens Tusi had studied alongside Abhari for a time under Kamal al-Dinb. Yunus (d. 639AH/1242AD).
Razi's hostility in characterizing the Avicennan exposition in ‘Pointers’ is confronted by Tusi in, ‘Solution to the Difficulties of Pointers.’
The nature of Tusi's response to Razi is generally taken to be entirely negative—he relayed a description of Razi's work as being butchery, not a commentary.” However, his criticism is really part of a broader project to defend not only Avicenna's logic, but also his own interpretation of that logic. Avicenna's account of different kinds of absolute statements had long raised questions among post-Avicennan logicians.
Tusi explains why Avicenna explores these issues in his trademark way:
What spurred him to this was that in the assertoric syllogistic Aristotle and others sometimes used contradictories of absolute propositions on the assumption that they are absolute; and that was why so many decided that absolutes did contradict absolutes. When Avicenna had shown this to be wrong, he wanted to give a way of construing those examples from Aristotle.
It is in his other works that Tusi takes a more firm stand against substantive changes proposed for Avicennan logic, especially in his ‘Setting the Scale for an Evaluation of “Revealing Thoughts”,’ an extended assessment of Abhari's ‘Revealing Thoughts.’
Here we find not merely a sympathetic summary of Avicennan logic, as Avicenna would have wanted it to be understood, but a reasoned attack on the thinking behind alternative proposals. Tusiwent on with this project in a series of exchanges with Kātibī.
Finally, Tusi wrote the ‘Book of Abstraction (Kitab al-tajrid)’ as a straight forward summary of logic.
His famous and influential student, al-Allamah al-Hilli (d. 725AH/1325AD), wrote a commentary on it, ‘Unveiling the Desired from the Book of Abstraction,’ and this text and commentary are now used in ShI‘a seminaries as an introductory text on logic. On the face of it, the text is quite conservatively Aristotelian, its content follows the traditional course of topics covered in the ‘Organon,’ and in the same order. The substantive doctrine is on the whole pristine Avicennan, precisely the doctrine Tusi defended against Abhari.
Madrasa Teaching of Logic
While the Tewlver Shi’a’s (at least after the tenth/sixteenth century) tended to use the texts of al-Tusi and al-Hilli, the Sunni’s adopted the texts of Abhari and Katibi.
While Abhari and Katibi’s texts served as the foundation of the study of logic at the Madrasa schools, the content was also spread in less formal venues such as hospitals and observatories, in a bid to advance the study of logic.
It is worth pointing out that it was the Madrasa that provided the backbone of the tradition, and a number of jurists came time and again to stress that the study of logic was so important to religion as to be a 'fard kifaya', that is, a religious duty such that it is incumbent on the community to ensure at least some scholars are able to pursue its study.
As for the logic that is not mixed with philosophy, for example, the treatise of Athir al-Din al-Abhari called Isaghuji and the works of al-Aatibi [i.e. al-Shamsiyyah] and al-Khunaji [Afdal al-Din, i.e. al-Jumal] and Sad al-Dīn [al-Taftazani, i.e. Tahdhib al-Mantiq], there is no disagreement concerning the permissibility of engaging in it. If there is a doubt about its validity, it is only from those who have little understanding of the rational sciences. Indeed, it is a fard kifaya because the ability to reply to heretical views in rational theology (al-Kalam), which is a fard kifaya, depends on mastering this science, and that which is necessary for a religious duty is itself a religious duty.
Main Debates and Arguments
The standard text books for al-Mantiq prevalent today – and especially the standard text books in the Twelver-Shi’a centres of learning - follow an Aristotelian methodology by, firstly, defining the subject matter of al-Mantiq, and secondly, defining al-Ilm (knowledge).
In his influential text book, ‘al-Mantiq,’ Mohammed Rida al-Mudhaffar defines knowledge in the following thought-experiment:
We would ask you to look at whatever is right in front of you at this moment, and then to close your eye and turn your soul towards that thing. You will find that it is as if you have not closed your eyes and continue to look at whatever is in front of you.
The same is true, for example, if you listen to the ticking of your clock, and then cover up your ears and cast your soul’s hearing towards that thing. You will sense something in your soul, as if you had not covered up your hearing. The same applies for every sense. If you test things like this and analyse them carefully, it will be easy for you to know that both perceptions and knowledge are nothing but the imprinting (intiba’) of images within your soul. You will also know and that there is no difference between any of your perceptions on any of their levels. It is just like the imprinting of an image in a mirror.
For this reason, knowledge is defined as: “The presence of something’s image in the intellect.”
There are two divisions of the assent: certainty (yaqin) and probability (zann). The assent assumes a consensus belief about whether or not the statement is true or not, whether or not there is only a chance (ihtimal) that it may be true or not, or whether there is another factor which will affect whether the statement is true. If the possibility of part of the statement being false is completely denied, then we call this certainty. But if there is a weak possibility of part of the statement not being true, then this is called probability.
To elaborate on the situation further, if one is presented with a particular statement, then one will react to this in four possible ways. One may decide that this statement can only be true or only be false, or one may accept that the possibility that it could be true or could be false. The first is certainty. The second case, however, can take three possible forms. Either the proposition could be equally true or equally false, or there could be a higher probability of it being true, or a higher probability of it being false. If they are equal, Logicians call this doubt (shakk). If there is a consensus of belief [but not certainty] regarding the truth of the statement, it is called probability (zann). If there is a consensus of belief about it being false, it is called estimation (wahm). Estimation is one of the categories of ignorance (jahl), and it is the opposite of probability; these, then, are the four possible situations:
1) Certainty (yaqin). This is a complete assent of whatever is the import of the statement, without any possibility of it being false; or there is a complete assent of that statement’s falseness. This is the highest form of the assent.
2) Probability (zann). This is the likelihood of the statement being true. This is the lowest form of the assent.
3) Estimation (wahm). This where one holds some possibility for the statement being true, but his belief falls on the side of its negation.
4) Doubt(shakk).This is where the likelihood of the statements truth or falsehood is considered equal.
We can divide Knowledge into two divisions:
1) Necessary (Axiomatic or badihi) Knowledge, and this knowledge is one that does need recourse to acquired knowledge, reflection, or thought. It is obtained without any choice, and from axioms which are accepted spontaneously without any hesitation. An example would be our conceptions of existence and non-existence, and our assent that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, or that two contradictories cannot be joined, or that the sun has risen, or that one is half of two, and so forth.
2) Reflective Knowledge In this type of knowledge, it is necessary to base one’s belief on some sort of acquired knowledge, reflection, or thought. An example would be our conceptions about the existence of the spirit, or electricity, and our assents about whether the Earth is stationary, or if it orbits on its own axis, or orbits around the sun. This type of knowledge is also referred to as acquired knowledge (ilmkasabi).
An Explanation of the two types of knowledge:
Certainly, the knowledge of some affairs can be obtained without reflection or thought. A person can simply turn his soul towards something in any of the ways discussed below, and he will have no need for any kind of thought as an intermediary to obtain this knowledge. This is known as necessary or axiomatic knowledge, whether this knowledge takes the form of a conception or the form of an assent. There are other affairs, however, which the human being cannot grasp easily. He must use reflection, intellectual work, and rational equations like those of algebra. Through this, he is able to move from what is already known to that which is not known. He would be unable to do this immediately, without this pre-existing knowledge, and the organization of this knowledge in a sound and correct fashion. This is what we call reflective or acquired knowledge.
There is no doubt that the logician does not fulfill his basic purposes except through meanings; yet the logician cannot do without a study of the vocal expressions (alfaz) which lead to these meanings. It is obvious that making oneself understood to people and conveying one’s thoughts to other can only be done using a form of language. However, vocal expressions can be changed and mixed up, in a way that prevents them from being fully comprehended. As such, the logician needs to study vocal expressions from a general angle, without dealing with the particularities of a specific language. This is necessary for him to be properly understood, so that there will be a proper correspondence between his own words and the words of others. As such, we would say (from a general perspective): Logic is a general science that is not associated with any particular language. Nonetheless, there might be an occasion to study things which are particular to the language being used by this logician. However, he may also be able to do without such a study, relying only upon the general principles of language.
This is the logician’s need for studying vocal expressions, insofar as he needs such a study to make himself understood to others. However, the logician has another need for this study as well, which is related to himself and himself alone. This need is far greater and far stronger than the first need. In reality, it is probably the actual reason for including semiotics in the study of logic.
There are four modes of existence: two of them are actual modes of existence, while two of them are only expressive modes of existence.
1) External existence, such as one’s own existence, or the existence of a thing around one’s body and so forth, including individual human beings, animals, trees, rocks, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the other things of which there are too many to list.
2) Mental existence, this is our knowledge of an external thing, as well as concepts. It was said previously: The human being that a faculty by which the images of things may be imprinted on him, and this faculty is known as “the mind” (dhihn). The actual impressions therein are called mental existence, which is the same as knowledge (ilm).
3) Vocal Existence, Insofar as the human being is a social being by nature, and is required to work with others and make himself understood by others, therefore he needs a way of conveying his thoughts and making his thoughts understood to others. The most basic way of doing this is to actually take something from external reality and present to another, in order to give another a sense of perception of that thing. This method of making oneself understood will require great burden, insofar as it is impossible to use this method to convey an understanding of most things and most meanings. This is because some things have no external existence, while other things (while having external existence), find it impossible to make themselves present to another. As such, Allah the Exalted has inspired the human race to establish an easy and immediate way of making oneself known. He has blessed the human being with the power of words and speech, the ability to separate different letters, and to form these letters into words. With the passage of time, human beings felt the need to establish a special expression, which would allow them to make themselves understood. This would allow one to make a meaning present (to another) through vocal expressions, instead of having to bring the actual thing every time.
To clarify this expression, one may think of the following explanation offered by Moḥammed Rida Mudhaffar:
Allowing one to make a meaning present [to another] through vocal expressions, instead of having to bring the actual thing every time. Contemplate this well! Know that this “making present” is only possible through the forging of a strong relationship between vocal expressions and meanings, and to form these relationships in the mind. This fixed relationship derives from knowledge of the way these words have been coined, and from frequent use of these words. Through this, such a firm relationship is obtained, so much so that the vocal expression and the meaning are united. If a speaker makes present a given expression, it is the same as if he brought the actual meaning to the one listening to him. As such, there is no difference between externally bringing the actual meaning, and bringing the vocal expression which has been established for this meaning. In both situations, the mind of the listener will be conveyed to the meaning. Because of this, it is possible that the mind of the listener may be conveyed to the meaning, while he is actually unaware of the specific phrase and its special characteristics, as if he never heard the phrase at all. This is true, even though the conveyance of his mind from this vocal expression to that meaning does not occur except through hearing the expression.
What this all means is that the semiotic relationship unites the vocal expression and the meaning, making it like a single entity. If one finds the expression, it is as if one finds the meaning. For this reason, one can say "the existence of the vocal expression is the existence of the meaning." However, this is a kind of vocal existence, meaning that the thing which actually exists is the phrase and nothing else. Attributing the existence of the vocal expression to the existence of the meaning is, in fact, purely metaphorical, derived from this relationship, which itself derives from the actual coining of the expression.
This relationship and unity is obvious from the way that ugliness and beauty are transferred to vocal expressions, and vice-verse. The name of the beloved is the sweetest vocal expression for the lover, even though it could be a bestial vocal expression which irritates the ears and the tongue. Meantime, the name of the enemy is the ugliest of names, even if this vocal expression itself is rather pleasant. Whenever this kind of relationship is increased, the mental conveyance is increased, and so one sees variation in the ugliness of vocal expressions and the ugliness of the meanings. For example, the terms for the sexual organs of people; frequent use of these vocal expressions is uglier than infrequent use of them. In fact, there may be no ugliness in these terms at all. Similar is the case for colorless terms or sweet terms; they may have a beauty which one would not find in the vocal expression themselves.
4) Written Existence, an explanation of verbal existence. Verbal statements, by themselves, are not sufficient for fulfilling the needs of human beings, because one can only use verbal statements to express meaning to people who are actually present. As for those who are absent, or those who have not yet come, there must be another means for people to make themselves known. As such, the human race decided to create lined engravings in order to make present his (verbal) vocal expressions, and the vocal expressions which determine meaning. This would be an alternate means of making things known, instead of speech. As such, a written line is the existence of an expression, and a vocal expression is the existence of meaning. Therefore one can say that “the existence of the written line is the existence of the vocal expression and the existence of the meaning as well.” However, this is only written existence, since the only actually existing thing is the writing itself.
Attributing existence to the vocal expression and the meaning is metaphorical, based on an intentional determination, just as attributing the existence of a vocal expression to a meaning is also metaphorical, based on an intentional determination. As such, writing makes vocal expressions present, and vocal expressions make meanings present to the mind, and the mental meaning confirms the external existence. It should then be clear that vocal and written existence is metaphorical and nominal based on an intentional association, and common usage.
Signification (al-dalalah), which constitutes one of the essential sections in Logic text books, has been defined by al-Mudhaffar via another articulate thought-experiment:
If you hear a knock on your door, your mind is immediately conveyed (without a doubt) to the conception that there is someone at the door who wants your attention. This is for no other reason than this knock on the door reveals to you the existence of a person who wants your attention. As such, one can say: The knock on the door signifies the existence of that person. The knock on the door is a signifier, and the existence of the person calling you is signified.
These attribute which come about through the process of signification. This is how we describe every situation where something existent conveys your mind to the existence of something other. The first thing we refer to as the signifier, and the second as the signified. These are the attributes which arise through the process of signification. In order to make this clear, then, we define signification as the state where “the existence of one thing, if you are aware of its existence, conveys your mind to some other thing.”
Signification is divided into:
1) Rational Signification (dalalah aqliyyah). Rational signification occurs when there is an essential relationship between the signifier and the signified in terms of their external existence. An example would be cause and effect. For example, if a human being knows that the morning light of the sun is the effect of the sun’s rising, and if he sees this light on a wall, his mind will be conveyed to the rising of the sun without any doubt. As such, the morning light signifies the sun through rational signification. Another example would be hearing somebody speak from behind a wall; one would then know that there is someone speaking present there.
2) Natural Signification (dalalah taba`iyyah). This is a relationship between two things that are natural, and by this it means something that the nature of human beings would necessitate. This time of signification will vary with the differences of human beings. It is not like the relationship of cause and effect, in which there is no disagreement. There are many examples of this kind of indication. The nature of human behavior would indicate that the vocal expression “Agh!” comes when people are in pain. Other types of natural indication would include people cracking their fingers, or yawning when they are bored, or playing with something he has with him, or fiddling with ones beard or nose, or placing his fingers between the tops of his ears when he is thinking, or yawning when he is tired. If a person is aware of these connections, then his mind will be conveyed from one of the two necessary terms to another. Whenever someone hears someone else say “Agh!,” then their mind is conveyed to the person making this sound, and they know that this person is in pain. And if a person sees someone playing with his rosary, then they know that this person is thinking.
3) Determined Signification (dalalah waza`iyyah). This is a necessary relationship between two things that is derived from some kind of intentional determination of meaning, that the existence of one thing indicates the existence of another. An example would be lines, for which it has been defined that they should indicate upon certain vocal expressions, or like the sign language of mute people, or the symbol of lighting or radio waves, or mathematical and engineering symbols, or any of the symbols found in other sciences. Also included in this are the vocal expressions which have been signifiers for the intentions of the soul. If a person is aware of these necessary relationships [between signifiers and signified], then his mind will be conveyed to the signified.
The Universal [kulli]and the Particular [juzʿi]
The human being creates concepts for those existing things which he experiences through sense perception, such as “Mohammed,” “this book” or “this pen.” If one contemplates this, one finds that all of these expressions indicate upon a single individual only. These are called “particulars” (juzi). One can define a particular as a “concept which cannot be applied to more than one thing.” If a human being sees many particulars, and compares them to each other, then he will find that they may all share a certain attribute. A person would then derive a conceptual image which can be applied to all these particulars. This comprehensive concept [mafhumshamil] or derived [conceptual] image is a “universal” (kulli). A universal can be defined as a “concept which can be applied to more than one thing.” Examples of this would include “human,” “animal,” “mineral,” and so forth.
The universal may be divided into essential [dhati] and accidental (arz). The essential universal may be divided into species (naw), genus (jins), and differential (fasl). The accidental universals can be divided into concomitant accidental [khasah] and general accident (am).
A person may ask about someone “Who is he?” or they mask about someone “What is he?” Does one find a difference between the two questions? The first question is clearly a question about a particular person, and so the response would be “he is the son of so-and-so,” or “he is the author of such-and-such a book,” and so forth. These types of responses seek to determine who a particular person is. An incorrect response to these questions would be “he is a human being,” because such a response does not distinguish between various human individuals. In modern times, such a response would be a response about the ipseity [huwiyyah] of the person, derived from the word “him” (huwa).
As for the second category, however, it is a question about the reality of the person, and what this person has in common with other beings like him. The intention of the question is to specify all of that being’s reality (haqiqah) in contrast to other realities, not this person’s individuality amongst other individuals. The only correct response to such a question would be one that establishes the entirety of this beings reality. And so one would say: “human being” as opposed to “the son of so and so,” and so forth. Logicians refer to the response given as a response about the beings’ as species.
The highest goal and objective of the logician is the study of proofs. By this, Logicans mean the study of that assented knowledge which is used by a person to reach all unknown assented knowledge. In reality, all the prior arguments outlined so far have been an attempt to lay the ground for this study. This is even true about the study of definitions, for this is usually discussed in order to give one an understanding of the singular words that make up a proposition’s subject and predict.
As for defining the concept of proof (hujjah): This is a merging of statements that will lead one towards a given solution indicated by the previous statements. Logicians call this evidence (dalil) as well, insofar as it is necessary for one to be able to ground and confirm one’s solution in the face of opposition. It is evidence insofar as it indicates a solution, and the process of merging and compiling all that leads one to this evidence is called “inference” (istidlal).
The study of Logic serves as a tool for the entire body of Islamic Sciences and all other areas of research affiliated to Islamic Studies. Logic, as has been mentioned earlier, protects human thinking from making flawed conclusions and doxa, i.e. incorrect and superstitious beliefs unrelated to the pristine teachings of Islam.
Bibliography and Further Reading
Usul al-Fiqh is the term used by Muslim experts of law to describe the processes required to extract laws from their sources.
Spoken by more than 340 million people as a first language, Arabic is one of the world’s main languages and a member of the Semitic class of linguistic registers spoken widely in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Al-Falsafa al-islamiyyah, Islamic Philosophy, is a discipline that is concerned with the study of: Al-Ilahiyat (Things Concerning the Divine), Al-Wujud (Existence)
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