Aristotelian Logic and the Arabic Language in Alfārābī

By Shukri B. Abed

Subjects: Language, Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791403983, 201 pages, December 1990
Hardcover : 9780791403976, 201 pages, January 1991

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Table of contents



1. Particulars and Universals: An Introduction to Alfarabi's Logical Lexicon

Particulars and Universals in Alfarabi's Writings

"Genus" and "Species" in Alfarabi

Essential Difference [Fasl Dhati ]

Property [Al-Khassah]

Accident [Al-'Arad]

2. Definition and Description in Alfarabi's System

General Types of Phrases and Sentences in Alfarabi

The Place of Definition and Description in This Scheme: The Structural Point of View

Subject Matter of Definitory Clauses [ Hadd]

Subject Matter of Descriptive Clauses [Rasm]

3. The Concept of Essence in Alfarabi

The Role of Question Particles in Definition

The Many Facets of Essence

Essence as a Combination of Form and Matter: The Role of the Kayfa Particle

4. The Concepts of Demonstration, Division, and Classification and Their Relationship to Definition

'How?' and 'Why?' [Kayfa and Lima] Questions

Madha, Li-Madha, Bi-Madha, and 'An Madha Questions

Theory of Demonstration

Division [Qismah ] and Classification [Tarkib] in Alfarabi's Writings

5. The Term Mawjud in Nonlogical Contexts

The Question Particles Hal and Alif

Hal and its Uses in the Syllogistic Arts

Mawjud and the Concept of Truth

6. Alfarabi's Linguistic Philosophy

The Arabic Verb System versus Aristotelian Logic

The Dual Character of Arabic Verbs: The Existential Verb as Copula

Filling a "Gap" in Predication: The Pronoun Huwa as Copula

The Elusive Present Tense and Other Anomalies of the Arabic Verb System

The Elusive Present Tense Continued: The KufianView

The Copula as a Timeless Connector

Language Acquisition

The Concept of Mithal Awwal in Alfarabi's System

Abstract Nouns of the Form '. .. iyyah'


Appendix I: Primary Substance in Aristotle

Appendix II: Avicenna (Ibn Sina) on the Concept of 'essential' [dhati ]




This book explores the reaction of tenth-century Arab philosopher Abu Nasr Alfarabi to the logical works of Aristotle. From numerous short treatises the author develops a systematic and comprehensive topical survey of Alfara bi's logical writings.

The book is divided into two major parts: language as a tool of logic (Chapters 1-5) and logic as a tool with which to analyze language (Chapter 6). The first five chapters deal with Alfarabi's analysis of the meanings of various terms as they are used in logic and philosophy. Alfarabi refutes the Arab grammarians who claimed that Arab logicians were building a language within a language and shows that the philosophical meanings of terms are in fact their most original and essential meanings. The final chapter deals with Alfarabi's analysis of certain aspects of the Arabic language (such as copula) and demonstrates that Arabic, like any natural language, conforms to universal logical structures of which natural languages are only a concrete expression.

Shukri B. Abed is a Senior Research Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.