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Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Arabic and Islamic Philosophy of Language and

First published Wed Jul 23, 2008; substantive revision Mon Nov 11, 2013
Arabic logic is a philosophical tradition which has lasted from the mid-eighth century down to today. For
many years, western study of Arabic logic tended to concentrate on the early parts of its history, especially
on the Greek antecedents of Arabic logic, and on the writings of the foundational philosophers, Alfarabi
(d. 950), Avicenna (d. 1037) and Averroes (d. 1198). Recently, however, there have been notable
excursions beyond these areas of traditional concentration, and I make a special effort in this entry to
mention the contributions of post-twelfth-century logicians to the philosophical resolution of disputed
Section 1 of this entry gives some historical context for a vast array of logical works, and section 2
provides a number of texts as samples of the philosophical arguments they contain. The philosophical
assessment of the arguments is a task that is now underway in the secondary literature, and I refer to some
of these assessments in the notes. My primary interest, however, is in presenting a set of texts which
illustrate the trajectory of arguments carried on through a formative period of the discipline.
My own preferred term for the material I cover is Arabic logic. The term as I use it refers to a tradition
of logic rooted in the texts translated from Greek into Arabic in a movement beginning in the eighth
century CE. The tradition gradually settled on a set of technical terms with which to translate and discuss
the Aristotelian corpus and its associated late antique commentaries; it also came to agree on what were
the major problems in the corpus which demanded resolution. Focussed at first on these problems, a
continuous line of discussions has evolved and carried forward in one form or another down to today.
Arabic logic can be said to be Islamic in two senses, bothin my opinionof limited significance. First,
it is as a result of the Muslim conquests from the seventh century on that Arabic came to be the primary
language of learning. Beyond determining the language into which the founding texts of the movement
were translated, however, the religion of the conquerors played no significant role in the development of
the subject. Secondly, the tradition of Arabic logic after the thirteenth century was to find a place in the
madrasa education and, as a result, had to jostle with various Islamic disciplines treating grammar,
rhetoric and forensic argument; in the process, Arabic logic gave up its claims to deal with dialectical,
rhetorical and poetical discourse. But by the time Arabic logic was established in the curriculum of the
institutions of learning, most of the formal aspects of what was forever after to be called logic (mantiq)
had already crystallised.
Being conducted in Arabic ison my understandingneither necessary nor sufficient for a logic to be
considered Arabic logic. The problematic of Arabic logic has been adopted and its register of technical
terms calqued or translated into other languages such as Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and Urdu. To take one
of many possible examples, Nasr al-Dn al-Ts's Ass al-Iqtibs, though written in Persian, was apt for
exact rendition in Arabic in the fifteenth century precisely because it was Arabic logic written in another
language. By the same token, other traditions of logic have been conducted in Arabic but are not, on my
usage, Arabic logic. The modern logic in the tradition inaugurated by Frege taught in most modern Arab
universities, often in Arabic, is not Arabic logic. So too, if it is true that eighteenth-century Maronites
wrote logical treatises in Arabic based solely on the logic they had studied in Rome, they were writing
Latin logic in Arabic, not Arabic logic.

1. Historical Outline
1.1 The Early Translations
1.2 Farabian Aristotelianism
1.3 Avicennan Aristotelianism
1.4 Logic in the Twelfth Century
1.4.1 Ghazl and Logic
1.4.2 Averroes and the End of Textual Aristotelianism
1.4.3 The Avicennan Tradition of the Twelfth Century
1.5 The Avicennan Tradition in the Madrasa and Beyond
1.5.1 Rz and Khnaj
1.5.2 Ts and the Maragha School
1.5.3 Logic and the Madrasa
1.6 The Delineation of Logical Traditions
2. Logical Doctrines under Dispute
2.1 The Subject Matter of Logic
2.1.1 Expressions, Meanings and Intelligibles
2.1.2 Secondary Intelligibles
2.1.3 Conceptions and Assents
2.2 The Contents of the Treatise on Logic
2.2.1 Logic as a Formal Science
2.2.2 Assent and the Context Theory
2.2.3 An Alternative Organon?
2.3 Modal Propositions and Modal Syllogisms
2.3.1 Avicenna
2.3.2 Post-Avicennan Logicians
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1. Historical Outline
1.1 The Early Translations
It was the advent of the Abbasid Caliphate (7501258) that signalled the beginnings of an 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 decoctions of philosophy into Arabic, but which later turned to the Aristotelian
texts themselves and the commentaries written on them in late antiquity.[2] An example of an Arabic
translation produced before the Aristotelian turn is the translation by Ibn al-Muqaffa (ex. 756) of a logic
treatise that probably came to him from the Syriac via the Pahlavi (probably from a late antique
introduction to philosophy; see Gutas 1993: 44 fn. 68). The treatise gestures towards the Eisagoge, then
turns to the Categories, On Interpretation, and the introductory parts of the Prior Analytics on assertoric
syllogisms (Danishpazhuh 1978). As Pines pointed out long ago, this material corresponds to the Old
Logic (logica vetus) of the Latin West (Pines 1996). One must bear in mind, however, that there are
important differences between 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; Elamrani-Jamal and Hugonnard-Roche 1989), so there were scholars about who had
a good idea of what later texts in the Organon had to offer. Secondly, soon after Ibn al-Muqaffa had
produced his treatise, other scholars were translating complete Aristotelian works into Arabic. We know,
for example, that the Caliph al-Mahd (reg. 775785) had commissioned translations of the Topics and the
Sophistical Fallacies (Gutas 1993: 43).

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 (661750). During this period, however, it evoked little
if any interest on the part of the Muslim conquerors.
The translation movement continued to pick up momentum through the ninth century, and by the 830s a
circle of translators were loosely coordinated around Ab Ysuf Yaqb b. Ishq al-Kind (d. c. 870).
Kind produced a short overview of the whole of the Organon (translated in Rescher 1963a), 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.[3]
Somewhat later, perhaps from the 850s, the great Syriac Christian translators Hunayn ibn Ishq (d. 873)
and his son Ishq ibn Hunayn (d. 910) 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, Ishq 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 Ishq provided revised translations of the Topics and the Rhetoric. Perhaps it
was someone in this circle who translated the Poetics into Syriac.[4]
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 reverential listing (Boudon 2000: 458 On Demonstration).

1.2 Farabian Aristotelianism

Soon after, however, Baghdad philosophy was dominated by self-styled Peripatetics who presented
themselves as reestablishing Aristotle's true teachings after a period of rupture. The leading lights of this
movement were the Syriac Christian Ab Bishr Matt ibn Ynus (d. 940) and his younger Muslim
colleague, Ab Nasr Alfarabi (d. 950). In the early 900s, Ab 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.
Ab 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, Srf, who confounds him with a series of grammatical subtleties. To these, Ab Bishr
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 Ab Bishr's view of the relation of logic to language, it weathered Srf's storm of
criticism badly. Assessments differ as to what we should learn from this discussion,[6] but it serves at least
to show that some were sceptical of the utility of Aristotelian logic. Other Muslim scholars went further
than Srf and considered the study of logic impious, mainly because of its association with metaphysics.
As one fideist scholar put it many years later, the access to something bad is also bad (Ibn as-Salh
(d. 1245), quoted in Goldziher 1981: 205206).

It was Ab Bishr's younger colleague, Alfarabi, who was the outstanding contributor to the Aristotelian
project, though not as a translator (see now Rudolph 2012). On the question of the relation of logic to
language, Alfarabi offers a view somewhat more nuanced than Ab Bishr's (see 2.1.1 below). 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 Ab Hamid al-Ghazl (d. 1111), thereby
preparing the way to introduce logic into the madrasa (see 1.4.1 below). To support his claim, Alfarabi
wrote The Short Treatise on Reasoning in the Way of the Theologians.
in which he interpreted the arguments of the theologians and the analogies (qiyst) of the
jurists as logical syllogisms in accordance with the doctrines of the ancients.[7]
But Alfarabi's main contribution to the Aristotelian project was a series of commentaries on the books of
the Organonmany of them sadly lostwhich 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 treatises;
and this marks him out as clinging to a major hermeneutical commitment of late antiquity (see Wisnovsky
2003: 15, 266). The quality of Alfarabi's arguments is clear from his remaining long commentaries on
Aristotle.[8] He is the first truly independent thinker in Arabic logic, a fact commemorated by the
honorific bestowed upon him by Avicenna: the Second Teacher (after Aristotle). When Avicenna laid out
his own syllogistic, he noted each point on which he differed from Alfarabi (Street 2001).
The tradition with which Alfarabi was associated, a tradition centred on exegetical problems in the
Organon, reached its crowning achievementa superb and heavily glossed translation of the Organon[9]
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 is 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 shrank away so quickly that even by
the late twelfth century, to study Farabian logic meant traveling to North Africa.[10] Spain and North
Africa were its last strongholds, and the work of Averroes (see 1.4.2 below) is best understood as a
commentary on Aristotle determined in its focus and direction by the criticisms of Avicenna.

1.3 Avicennan Aristotelianism

At the same time that the Baghdad philosophers were finalizing the translation of the Organon and
furnishing it with extensive glosses, Avicenna (d. 1037) 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,[11] he presented himself as an autodidact able to assess and
repair the Aristotelian tradition. In other words, Avicenna's doctrine of Intuition delivered him an
Aristotelianism unfettered by the hermeneutic commitments of the Lesser Harmony.
In the modal logic, for example (a subject voluminously contested in the Arabic tradition; see 2.3 below),
he cut through the problems in the Aristotelian account by taking them either as tests of the student's
acuity, or mistakes by Aristotle in implementing principles. Here is what he says in the Syllogism of the
Cure, written about 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 opinionsthis will become clear to you in a number of
places (Avicenna Qiys [1964] 204.1012)
In his later writings, Avicenna is less solicitous in explaining away what he regards as inconsistencies in
Aristotle's syllogistic, and writes of problems in the Prior Analytics as arising through negligence; an

example of such a text is Twenty Questions, which I think is written on the eve of Avicenna's Eastern
period (Street 2010: 100103; see periodization in Gutas 1988: 144). It consists of answers to questions
on syllogistic sent by the learned men of Shiraz (and thus shows how odd Avicenna's system must have
seemed to his contemporaries). Why, they ask, has Avicenna produced a syllogistic system that differs so
radically from Aristotle's? At various points, we find Avicenna presenting Aristotle's decisions (about
mixes with possibility propositions as minor premises) as failures to implement general principles
(Avicenna al-Masil al-Gharba: [1974] 94.14, 94.20, 94.22, 95.5, 95.11).
Avicenna's Intuition not only set aside important parts of Aristotle's logic, it also differed from Alfarabi's
interpretation of that logic. Avicenna has, however, more consistently courteous ways of declining to
follow Alfarabi. He refers to Alfarabi as the eminent later scholar to whom we are most concerned to
direct our remarks as he constructs his different system (see Street 2001).
For a general overview of Avicenna's logic, there is now an English translation of the logic of Avicenna's
Salvation (see Avicenna 2011a). But of all his many works,[12] it is Avicenna's Pointers and Reminders
that had most impact on subsequent generations of logicians. It became, as Ibn Taymiyya declared, the
Koran of the philosophers (Michot 2000: 599). From it we may note a few broad but typical differences
from the Prior Analytics in the syllogistic. First, the absolute (mutlaqa, often translated assertoric)
propositions have truth-conditions stipulated such that they are temporally modalised (by an elided at
least once, so that, for example, the contradictory of an absolute is not an absolute, absolute epropositions do not convert, second-figure syllogisms with absolute premises are sterile; see also 2.3.1
below). Secondly, Avicenna begins to explore the logical properties of propositions of the form every J is
B while J. Thirdly, Avicenna divides syllogistic into connective (iqtirn) and repetitive (istithn) forms,
a division which replaces the old one into categorical and hypothetical (Avicenna al-Ishrt [1971] 309,
314, 374).
According to what we have verified ourselves, the syllogism forms two divisions, connective and
repetitive. The connective is that in which one of the two sides of the contradiction in which we find
the conclusion does not appear [in the premises] explicitly, but only potentially The repetitive is
that in which [the conclusion or its contradictory] does explicitly appear. (Avicenna al-Ishrt
[1971] 374)
As a rough guide, we may call a logician Avicennan if he adopts these doctrines. Pointers was not the
only important Avicennan text in later Arabic logic: post-Avicennan logicians mined the Cure's volume
on the Prior Analytics for the syllogistic with conditional premises, a syllogistic which they modified
perhaps even more than they modified Avicenna's modal syllogistic (see Khnaj 2010: section 10; see
also El-Rouayheb's Introduction, xlvxlviii).

1.4 Logic in the Twelfth Century

The twelfth century is one of the most complex periods of transformation in Muslim intellectual history.
The century before had seen the advent of the madrasa as the prime institution of learning in the Islamic
world (Makdisi 1981: 2732, especially 31), and Ab Hmid al-Ghazl (d. 1111) had been appointed to
the most prestigious of these new institutions. One of the most revered Muslim thinkers of all time, he
took up Alfarabi's arguments in support of the utility of logic for theology and law, especially in his last
juridical summa, Distillation of the Principles of Jurisprudence, a text which soon became a mainstay of
the madrasa. The late twelfth century also saw Averroes produce what was effectively the last of the work
in the Farabian tradition of logic, work which was to be translated into Hebrew and Latin but which was,
with minor exceptions, neglected by Arabic logicians. Finally, through the course of the twelfth century,
the modified Avicennan logic that would be adopted by the logic texts of the madrasa began to emerge.
1.4.1 Ghazl and Logic

Before, and especially through, the tenth and eleventh centuries, a deal of effort was expended in defining
which sciences constitute the proper focus of a scholar's education and how these sciences relate to each
other. A fourteenth-century polymath divided the sciences of civilization into those natural to man and to
which he is guided by his own ability to think, and a traditional kind that he learns from those who
invented it. (Ibn-Khaldn Muqaddima [1858] 2:385). Earlier scholars had made a parallel distinction
between the Foreign Sciences and the Islamic Sciences. Philosophy was the preeminent science of the first
kind, and theology and jurisprudence sciences of the second. Although logic was originally part of
philosophy, and due to this association despised by many theologians and jurists (noted above in 1.2), a
change in attitude came about in the twelfth century:
It should be known that the early Muslims and the early speculative theologians greatly
disapproved of the study of this discipline. They vehemently attacked it and warned against
it. They forbade the study and teaching of it. Later on, ever since Ghazl (d. 1111) and
Fakhraddn ar-Rz (d. 1210), scholars have been somewhat more lenient in this respect.
Since that time, they have gone on studying logic, except for a few who have recourse to the
opinion of the ancients concerning it and shun it and vehemently disapprove of it (IbnKhaldn Muqaddima [1858] 113.13-u; cf. Ibn-Khaldn 1967: 3:143144).
Ghazl had most impact in this regard (see Rudolph 2005). I deal with Rz's contribution below (see
Ghazl argued that, properly understood, logic was entirely free of metaphysical presuppositions
injurious to the faith. This meant that logic could be used in forensic reasoning:
We shall make known to you that speculation in juristic matters (al-fiqhiyyt) is not distinct
from speculation in philosophical matters (al-aqliyyt) in terms of its composition,
conditions, or measures, but only in terms of where it takes its premises from (Ghazl Miyr
[1961] 28.24).
Ghazl tended to an even stronger position towards the end of his life: more than being merely harmless,
logic was necessary for true knowledge. Here is what Ghazl has to say at the beginning of his famous
Distillation of the Principles of Jurisprudence (referring back to two of his earlier works on logic):
In this introduction we mention the condition of true definition and true demonstration and
their divisions in a program more concise than what we set out in our Touchstone for
Speculation and Yardstick of Knowledge [respectively, Ghazl 1966 and Ghazl 1961]. This
introduction is not part of the sum of the science of [juristic] principles, nor among the
preliminaries particular to it; rather it is an introduction to all the sciences, and he who does
not comprehend [logic] is not to be trusted at all in his sciences. (Ghazl Mustasf [1322
AH] 10.1517)
For all his historical importance in the process of introducing logic into the madrasa, the logic that
Ghazl defended was too dilute to be recognizably Farabian or Avicennan.
1.4.2 Averroes and the End of Textual Aristotelianism
Averroes was one of the last representatives of a dying Aristotelianism that bent all its efforts to the task
of the Lesser Harmony, reconciling all of Aristotle's texts with each other. A student of the Baghdad
philosophy that had been transplanted to al-Andalus (Dunlop 1955), Averroes was trained in the logic of
Alfarabi, many specifics of which he later came to discard:
One of the worst things a later scholar can do is to deviate from Aristotle's teaching and
follow a path other than Aristotle'sthis is what happened to Alfarabi in his logical texts
(Averroes Maqlt [1983] 175.68)

For Averroes, Alfarabi's attempts to make sense of the difficulties in Aristotle's texts were too weak to
anticipate and answer Avicenna's criticisms. In one such area, the modal logic, Averroes was to return to
the problems four times through his career (see Elamrani-Jamal 1995), and 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 Maqlt [1983] 181.610)
Averroes' project in its full flowering is driven by the demands of this rigorously construed Lesser
Harmony andin spite of everythingby Avicenna's increasingly popular reformulation of Aristotelian
doctrine. Both aspects of the Averroist project are in full evidence in his Philosophical Essays, a number
of which are on logical matters. So, for example, Averroes defends and refines Alfarabi's account of the
conversion of modal propositions against Avicenna's attack, and then uses that account as the basis of a
new interpretation of the modal syllogistic (see Thom 2003: chapter 5, working with fourth system
described in Elamrani-Jamal 1995). A second example of the way Averroes works is his reappraisal and
vindication of Aristotle's doctrines of the hypothetical syllogistic against Avicenna's alternative division
into connective and repetitive syllogisms (see Averroes Maqlt [1983] essay 9, 187207). Those Arabic
logicians who make use of Averroes tend to come from North Africa, or from Persia at certain moments
of nostalgia for a time before the coming of the great logicians of the thirteenth century (see section 1.6
below). Further, Averroes' deep concern with the Aristotelian texts made his work transportable to both
Hebrew and Latin philosophical traditions.
1.4.3 The Avicennan Tradition of the Twelfth Century
But the work on logic which was both technically advanced (and therefore unlike Ghazl's) and
influential on later Arabic logicians (and therefore unlike Averroes') was done by Avicennan logicians
who had begun to repair and reformulate Avicenna's work. Just as Avicenna had declared himself free to
rework Aristotle as Intuition dictated, so too these logicians working on Avicenna's logic regarded
themselves as free to repair the Avicennan system as need arose, whether from internal inconsistencies, or
from intellectual requirements extrinsic to the system. A major early representative of this trend is Umar
ibn Sahln as-Sw (d. 1148) who began, in his Logical Insights for Nasraddn, to rework Avicenna's
modal syllogistic.[13] It was to be his students and their students, however, who would go on to make the
final changes to Avicennan logic that characterized the subject that came to be taught in the madrasa.

1.5 The Avicennan Tradition in the Madrasa and Beyond

Ghazl had successfully introduced logic into the madrasa (though it was studied in other venues as well
(Endress 2006)). What happened to it after this time was the result of the activities of logicians much
more gifted than Ghazl. This period has tentatively been called the Golden Age of Arabic philosophy
(Gutas 2002). It is in this period, and especially in the thirteenth century, that the major changes in the
coverage and structure of Avicennan logic were introduced; these changes were mainly introduced in freestanding treatises on logic. It has been observed that the thirteenth century was the time that doing logic
in Arabic was thoroughly disconnected from textual exegesis, perhaps more so than at any time before or
since (El-Rouayheb 2010b: 4849). Many of the major textbooks for teaching logic in later centuries
come from this period.
1.5.1 Rz and Khnaj
In the fourteenth century, Ibn Khaldn (d. 1406) noted the ways that Arabic logic had changed from the
late twelfth century on (he mentions a growing restriction of the subject to the syllogistic, and a

concentration on the formal aspects of logic; see Text 14, 2.2.3 below), and names the scholars he thinks
are responsible for the change.
Treatment of [the subject as newly conceived] has become lengthy and wide-rangingthe
first to do this was Fakhraddn ar-Rz (d. 1210) and, after him, Afdaladdn al-Khnaj
(d. 1248), on whom Eastern scholars rely even now The books and ways of the ancients
have been abandoned, as though they had never been (Ibn-Khaldn Muqaddima [1858] 113;
cf. Ibn-Khaldn 1967: 3:143).
Let us consider the nature of the work of the first logician named, Fakhraddn ar-Rz. Recent scholarly
efforts have seen a number of Rz's important works published, but there has been relatively little
analysis of his logic, with the exception of the commentary on his Compendium by A. Karamaleki & A.
Asgharinizhad (see the second half of Rz 2002). His teacher in logic was Majdaddn al-Jl, who may
have been Sw's student.[14] In spite of this pedigree, the polite manner of correcting Avicenna's system
that we find in Sw's work is missing from Rz's. In Gist of Pointers, Rz 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. (Rz Lubb [1355AH] 22.1415)
For all his dismissive comments, Rz's logic is above all a development of the logic of Pointers,
presented in ways that derive from Avicenna's methods of exposition. One way to understand thirteenthcentury Arabic logic, at least the logic developed in Persia and surrounding territories, is as attempts to
solve the dialectical aporia set up by Rz; an example of this dynamic will be given in section 2.3 below.
And this is Avicennan logic: Rz, like Sw, never refers to an Aristotelian text, and refers to Alfarabi in
such a fashion as to suggest that he is simply paraphrasing Avicenna's references.
It is the second logician Ibn Khaldn mentions who, it would seem, made more, and more substantive,
changes to Avicennan logic: Afdaladdn al-Khnaj (d. 1249). His major work on logic, the Disclosure of
Secrets about the Obscurities of Thoughts, has recently been edited (Khnaj Kashf [2010], with a long
introduction including a biography of this important logician, and an overview of some of his more
important innovations). He was described, probably pretty loosely, as one of Rz's students; Bar
Hebraeus writes of a group who were famed as authors of major works on logic and philosophy
[among them] Khnaj in Cairo (translated in Pococke 1663: 485.713 (Arabic)). The sense in which he
could have been Rz's student is presumably that he studied under someone who had studied under Rz.
It will be some time before we are able to assess Khnaj's importance accurately; he seems to have
exercised extraordinary influence, often taking a strong stand against both Rz's position and Avicenna's.
In their different ways, both the North African and the Eastern traditions of logic are strongly influenced
by Khnaj (see section 1.6 below).
1.5.2 Ts and the Maragha School
Khnaj's Disclosure inspired work by other great Eastern logicians not mentioned by Ibn Khaldn,
namely, Athraddn al-Abhar (d. 1265) and Najmaddn al-Ktib (d. 1276). Bar Hebraeus claims that
Abhar was also one of Rz's students, though as in the case with Khnaj, opportunity for direct contact
must have been virtually non-existent. Ktib was Abhar's student. So too, perhaps, was the great Sh
scholar Nasiraddn at-Ts (d. 1274); at any rate, he had read Rz's commentary on Avicenna's Pointers
under Abhar (Endress 2006: 411). These three men are among the greatest logicians working anywhere in
the thirteenth century. Two of them, Ktib and Abhar, produced the two texts which became mainstays
of the madrasa teaching of logic, studied from the late thirteenth century down to the present day: the
sghj and the Shamsiyya (see Calverley 1933 and Ktib 1948).
All three were also involved in a major intellectual project established by the l-Khnid rulers in 1259: the

Maragha Observatory. Ts had been given the task by the Mongols of setting up an astronomical
observatory, and he asked Ktib (among others) to help him. At some stage in the early years of the
observatory, Abhar joined them. We know that Ktib was teaching both Rz's Compendium and
Khnaj's Disclosure to students during this period, and that Abhar and Ts were debating how best to
deal with the challenges raised by Khnaj to Avicenna's logic. Ktib's major works on logic (a long
treatise, Summa of Subtle Points, and the textbook, the Shamsiyya) were written after these discussions,
and used many of the arguments raised in them. Ktib's Shamsiyya was commented on by Qutbaddn atTahtn (d. 1365), among many others (for details about these other commentaries, see Schmidtke 1991,
2013; Wisnovsky 2004). Tahtn's commentary records a great many of the technical debates going on
among the scholars at the Maragha observatory. Ktib's textbook and Tahtn's commentary together
constitute the impressive preparation most Muslim scholars underwent in logic.
Ts is a particularly interesting logician in terms of his historical affiliations. He had come to Avicenna's
Pointers by way of Rz's students, but he developed a deeper respect for Avicenna's formulations than
any of his contemporaries. Rz's hostility in characterizing the Avicennan exposition in Pointers is
confronted by Ts in Solution to the Difficulties of Pointers. The nature of Ts's response to Rz is
generally taken to be entirely negativehe relayed a description of Rz's work as being a butchery, not
a commentarybut in fact Ts acknowledged the value of Rz's work. The rhetorical engagement with
Rz is really part of a broader campaign to defend not only Avicenna's logic but also his exposition of
that logic. To take one example: Avicenna's account of different kinds of absolute proposition had long
raised questions among post-Avicennan logicians. Ts explains why Avicenna explores it the way he
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. (Ts Sharh al-Ishrt [1971] 312.57)
It is in his other works that Ts took a more solid stand against substantive changes proposed for
Avicennan logic, especially in his Setting the Scale for an Evaluation of Revealing Thoughts, an
extended assessment of Abhar's Revealing Thoughts (Ts 1974b), in which Abhar adopted a number of
Khnaj's positions. Here we find not merely a sympathetic exposition of Avicennan logic as Avicenna
would have wanted it to be understood, but a reasoned attack on the thinking behind alternative proposals.
Ts went on with this project in a series of exchanges with Ktib (Ts 1974a).
Among his other works, Ts wrote the Book of Abstraction as a non-polemical exposition of logic. His
famous and influential student, al-Allma al-Hill (d. 1325), who had also studied under Ktib, wrote a
commentary on it, the Facetted Jewel on the Book of Abstraction (Hill 1363 SH). It is only relatively
recently (the late nineteenth century) that the text and commentary were printed and came to be used in
Sh seminaries to introduce logic (El-Rouayheb 2010b: 108 n77). On the face of it, the text is quite
conservatively Aristotelian, its rubrics following the traditional course of topics covered in the Organon,
and in the same order; for all that, the substantive doctrine seems on the whole to be pristine Avicennan,
precisely the doctrine Ts defended against Rz, Khnaj, Abhar and Ktib.
1.5.3 Logic and the Madrasa
The texts of Abhar and Ktib were used in the madrasa by Sunnis and Shs (though the Shs turned to
the texts of Ts and Hill in the nineteenth century). But the tradition was much more dynamic than the
entrenchment of these texts in the syllabus would suggest. First, whatever introductory texts were used in
teaching the discipline, it is clear that students who were attracted to logic studied well beyond these texts
with teachers at the madrasa who were often engaged to teach other subjects. Secondly, other places such
as hospitals and observatories provided less formal venues for the advanced study of logic (see Endress

But 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 kifya, that is, a religious
duty such that it is incumbent on the community to ensure at least some scholars are able to pursue its
As for the logic that is not mixed with philosophy, as in the treatise of Athraddn alAbhar called sghj and the works of al-Ktib [i.e., ash-Shamsiyya] and al-Khnaj
[Afdaladdn (d. 1249), i.e., al-Jumal] and Sadaddn [at-Taftzn, i.e., Tahdhb al-Mantiq],
there is no disagreement concerning the permissibility of engaging in it, and it is rejected only
by he who has no inkling of the rational sciences. Indeed, it is a fard kifya because the
ability to reply to heretical views in rational theology (kalm), which is a fard kifya, depends
on mastering this science, and that which is necessary for a religious duty is itself a religious
Of course, a fatw like this invites us to consider what logic mixed with philosophy might look like; one
scholar mentioned in the study just quoted offers Baydw's Ascending Lights as such a logic (Baydw
2001). Baydw's logic itself seems harmlessa generalized Avicennan logic, but it is placed directly
before an exposition of a speculative theology strongly influenced by Avicennan philosophy. Different
scholars would have held different positions, but for the fatw quoted, perhaps the context surrounding a
logic text is all that matters in making it acceptable or not.

1.6 The Delineation of Logical Traditions

After 1350 or so, logical traditions began to crystallise, often on a regional basis. Recent studies by ElRouayheb (2010b) and Ahmed (2012) have provided preliminary sketches of the seven or so centuries of
logical activity. Especially El-Rouayheb (2010b) makes it clear that we cannot assume that there is a point
at which original work stops and the tradition begins simply to restate ancient results. It is true that much
of the later material is, unlike the bulk of the thirteenth-century material, presented as commentary. There
is a temptation to conclude from this that there was a decline in logical studies in the realms under
Muslim control that corresponds with the sixteenth-century decline of the subject in early modern Europe;
such a conclusion is seemingly supported by a tradition of scholarship devoted to a luxuriation of layered
commentary on a five hundred year old primary text. But genre by no means dictates content, and we
often find original work presented in this way.[16]
Regionalism had been a significant factor especially in the tradition of logic studied in al-Andalus; more
generally, the crystallisation of traditions after Khnaj also tended to be regional. Although Khnaj was
read in North Africa, it would seem that the Maragha logicians were not read there, at least not
systematically. By contrast, Averroes was still read and taught in North Africa up to the end of the
fourteenth century, and so Ibn Khaldn would have been taught Averroes as well as a decoction of
Khnaj's logic; his teacher, Muhammad al-Sharf al-Tilimsn (d. 1370), had written a substantial
commentary on a short work by Khnaj, the Sentences (El-Rouayheb 2010b: 7179).
At this stage of research, early modern logic traditions may best be divided along the fault-lines of the
great empires: Ottoman, Persian, and Indian. All of these traditions produced massive amounts of work.
With respect to the Persian tradition, I would note merely that by the advent of the Safavids (1501), the
philosophical tradition was galvanized by a dispute between two leading scholars that had ground on for
the last quarter of the preceding century, and this marked a point at which it became philosophically
respectable to prefer the ancient scholars to the more recent, and Averroes enjoyed a revival of interest
from time to time as a result (see El-Rouayheb 2010b: 92104 for one aspect covered in the dispute, and
Pourjavady 2011: Introduction for the background). In the Ottoman tradition, we find a flurry of
impressive activity after 1600 among logicians dealing with relational syllogisms (presented in ElRouayheb 2010b: chapters 5, 6 & 7). Finally, with respect to the India, recent research shows the
complexities of the formation of teaching traditions of logic there (sketched in Ahmed 2012).

The coming of the metropolitan powers signals a convenient point at which we may speculate that
important new possibilities opened up in Arabic logic. At least some members of the Christian
communities in the capitulated territories in Syria and Lebanon trained in Europe. If the books on logic
they wrote in Arabic were simply Western logic, then their works fall outside the purview of this entry;
but I note that Butrus al-Tlw (d. 1745) in his 1688 Introduction gives a definition of the syllogism
which comes from Khnaj (see Khnaj 2010: 238.1314), which is presumably the result of a syncretic
process of great interest for the history of Arabic logic (pace El-Rouayheb 2010b: 114ff). Again, the
relevant texts must be edited and studied.[17]

2. Logical Doctrines under Dispute

Of many possible candidates for consideration, the discussions around three logical doctrines seem to me
to be particularly instructive. The first has to do with the subject matter of logic, something which needs
to be identified if there is any prospect of presenting logic as a science (something most parties to the
debate at least claim to want). The doctrine associated with Avicenna as to the subject matter of logic
came to have decisive impact in the Latin logical tradition, though it was not the only doctrine in play
through the later Arabic texts. The second and related set of doctrines has to do with offering an account
of how the various logical disciplinesdemonstration, dialectic, rhetoric and poeticsfit together.
Inherited expectations of what disciplines a logical treatise should cover came under pressure from new
disciplines derived from grammar and law; ultimately, the disciplines of dialectic, rhetoric and poetics
were no longer treated in the ways they had been in the Aristotelian tradition. Finally, modal syllogistic
was perhaps the most keenly disputed topic in logic through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and I
offer an overview of one line of discussion which took place. I look in particular at arguments coming
from eastern Iran in the thirteenth centurya tradition I call Maragha logic (see 1.5.2 above)because
this was a period of particularly intense logical activity culminating in textbooks overwhelmingly
important in the subsequent teaching of the discipline.
Let me go on immediately to acknowledge that these may not be the most philosophically sophisticated or
historically representative discussions which took place in the Arabic tradition (see e.g., Hodges 2011a (in
Other Internet Resources) on the subject matter of logic). They do however all have the advantage of
having been discussed by a number of Arabic logicians through the centuries, and of having been the
subject of at least some academic study. Other candidate topics illustrate what I seek to avoid. Consider
the impressive work by Avicenna on proof theory which has been translated and analysed by Hodges
(2009, Other Internet Resources); to the extent that I can follow this work, it exhibits a truly extraordinary
level of logical acumen. At the same time I have neverin my admittedly narrow reading in the tradition
seen another logician develop or even use Avicenna's results in this area. In short, the topic illustrates
Avicenna's logical genius rather than a common theme running through Arabic logic.
Consider next the work in the Avicennan tradition on syllogisms with conditional and disjunctive
premises (see 1.3 above). This important material is original to Avicenna, used among other things in the
analysis of the reductio argument. If we consult Khnaj's Disclosure, we find one quarter of the work's
four hundred pages given over to syllogisms with conditional or disjunctive premises, developing the
subject far beyond Avicenna's original insights in the Cure (and often in a manner fairly dismissive of
Avicenna's work). Khnaj clearly looked on his modifications to this part of Avicenna's logic as central to
his project, and his modifications were adopted by later logicians like Ktib. If anything, this would be a
better topic than the modals to illustrate the distinctive characteristics of the discussions that went on in
Arabic logic. In the present state of the field, however, although there have been major studies of
Avicenna's syllogistic with hypothetical premises (e.g., Rescher 1963c; Shehaby 1973; Gtje 1985), there
is none at allto the best of my knowledgeon its reception and modification in the subsequent
tradition. One or both of these reasons (that is, neglect by the subsequent tradition and neglect in the
secondary literature) rule out other major topics such as the theory of demonstration and what might be
called meta-syllogistic (but see, on the first, Hasnawi 2008; Strobino 2010, 2012; and on the second, ElRouayheb 2009; Hodges 2011c (in Other Internet Resources)).

2.1 The Subject Matter of Logic

It is common doctrine among medieval Latin logicians that logic is a linguistic science. An associated
doctrine is that logic makes up, with grammar and rhetoric, the trivium, or the three arts of language.
There never was a trivium in the Arabic-speaking philosophical world, and when scholars spoke of the
three arts (as-sint ath-thalth), they were referring to demonstration, dialectic and rhetoric. Clashes
between scholars working on Greek texts and scholars working on the Arabic language first served to
pose the question of how logic related to language, and specifically to the Arabic language. This in turn
forced the discussion of what the subject matter of logic is, and how its subject matter differed from that
of grammar.
2.1.1 Expressions, Meanings and Intelligibles
The unpromising proposal made by Ab Bishr Matt in response to Srf's attack on logic (see 1.2 above)
prompted Alfarabi to make a second attempt at explaining how logic, grammar and language relate to
each other.
Text 1. This art [of logic] is similar to the art of grammar, in that 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 (al-alfz). That is, to every rule for expressions which the science of
grammar provides us, there is an analogous [rule] for intelligibles which the science of logic
provides us.[18]
This allows Alfarabi to go on to characterize the subject matter of logic as follows:
Text 2. The subject matters (mawdt) of logic are the things for which [logic] provides the
rules, namely, intelligibles in so far as they are signified by expressions, and expressions in so
far as they signify intelligibles.

[Logic] shares something with grammar in that it provides rules for expressions, yet it differs
in that grammar only provides rules specific to the expressions of a given community,
whereas the science of logic provides common rules that are general for the expressions of
every community.[19]
This is to sayand here I follow Black's characterization of the doctrinelogic is something of a
universal grammar or, more strictly, providing a universal grammar is one of the tasks of logic. Other
philosophers of the Baghdad school like Yahy ibn Ad (d. 974) by and large adopt Alfarabi's doctrine
(see Endress 1977, 1978; cf. Black 1991: 48ff). (I think Alfarabi was being impelled towards holding that
the subject matter of logic is secondary intelligibles, and perhaps ultimately came to hold such a doctrine
(see Menn 2012: 68; Alfarabi Kitb al-Hurf [1970] 64, 6667), but the position described above
represents the doctrine Avicenna was to react against.)
2.1.2 Secondary Intelligibles
Aspects of this attempt to identify the subject matter of logic invite clarification. First, is the intelligible
corresponding to, say, horse, part of the subject matter of logic? Secondly, is reference to expressions
essential in a definition of logic, as is suggested by the phrase intelligibles in so far as they are signified
by expressions?
A more careful statement of what was probably much the same doctrine is provided by Avicenna.
Concepts like horse, animal, body, correspond to entities in the real world, entities which can have

various properties. In the realm of the mental, concepts too can acquire various properties, properties they
acquire simply by virtue of existing and being manipulated by the mind, properties like being a subject, or
a predicate, or a genus. These are the subject matter of logic, and it seems it is only mental manipulation
that gives rise to these properties.
Text 3. If we wish to investigate things and gain knowledge of them we must bring them into
conception (f t-tasawwur); thus they necessarily acquire certain states (ahwl) that come to
be in conception: we must therefore consider those states which belong to them in
conception, especially as we seek by thought to arrive at things unknown from those that are
known. Now things can be unknown or known only in relation to a mind; and it is in
conception that they acquire what they do acquire in order that we move from what is known
to what is unknown regarding them, without however losing what belongs to them in
themselves; we ought, therefore, to have knowledge of these states and of their quantity and
quality and of how they may be examined in this new circumstance.[20]
These properties that concepts acquire are secondary intelligibles; here is an exposition of this part of
Avicennan doctrine by Rz:
Text 4. The subject matter of logic is the secondary intelligibles in so far as it is possible to
pass by means of them from the known (al-malmt) to the unknown (al-majhlt). The
explanation of secondary intelligibles is that man conceives the realities of things (haqiq
al-ashy) in the first place, then qualifies some with others either restrictively or
predicatively (hukman taqydiyyan aw khabariyyan). The quiddity's being qualified in this
way is something that only attaches to the quiddity after it has become known in the first
place, so it is a second-order [consideration] (f d-darajati th-thniya). If these considerations
are investigated, not absolutely, but rather with respect to how it is possible to pass correctly
by means of them from the known to the unknown, that is logic. So its subject matter is
certainly the secondary intelligibles under the consideration mentioned above (Rz
Mulakhkhas [2002] 10.110.8; see now El-Rouayheb 2012: esp. 7277 as to whether Rz's
clarification is ultimately compatible with Avicenna's).
Avicenna in his Metaphysics makes special mention of these secondary intelligibles.
Text 5. The subject matter of logic, as you know, is given by the secondary intelligible
meanings, based on the first intelligible meanings, with regard to how it is possible to pass by
means of them from the known to the unknown, not in so far as they are intelligible and
possess intellectual existence ([an existence] which does not depend on matter at all, or
depends on an incorporeal matter).[21]
In identifying the secondary intelligibles, Avicenna is able to place logic within the hierarchy of the
sciences, because it has its own distinct stretch of being which is its proper subject matter.
So much for the first problem in Alfarabi's formulation of what the subject matter of logic is. Avicenna
also has a view on the second problem, the question of whether or not expression is essential to a
definition of logic and its subject matter.
Text 6. There is no merit in what some say, that the subject matter of logic is speculation
concerning the expressions insofar as they signify meanings And since the subject matter
of logic is not in fact distinguished by these things, and there is no way in which they are its
subject matter, [such people] are only babbling and showing themselves to be stupid.[22]
One reason for this is that in Avicenna's psychology, language as a set of discrete expressions is not
essential for the intellect in its operations. Note, however, that whatever Avicenna's official doctrine is, he
recognizes and attempts to deal with the close nexus between language and thought.

Text 7. Were it possible for logic to be learned through pure cogitation, so that meanings
alone would be observed in it, then this would suffice. And if it were possible for the
disputant to disclose what is in his soul through some other device, then he would dispense
entirely with its expression. But since it is necessary to employ expressions, and especially as
it is not possible for the reasoning faculty to arrange meanings without imagining the
expressions corresponding to them (reasoning being rather a dialogue with oneself by means
of imagined expressions), it follows that expressions have various modes (ahwl) on account
of which the modes of the meanings corresponding to them in the soul vary so as to acquire
qualifications (ahkm) which would not have existed without the expressions. It is for this
reason that the art of logic must be concerned in part with investigating the modes of
expressions But there is no value in the doctrine of those who say that the subject matter of
logic is to investigate expressions in so far as they indicate meaningsbut rather the matter
should be understood in the way we described.[23]
As Sabra says, Avicenna seems to hold that the properties constituting the subject matter of logic would
be inconceivable without the exercise of a particular function of language (Sabra 1980: 764).
2.1.3 Conceptions and Assents
Avicenna's doctrine on the subject matter of logic was not adopted by the majority of logicians who
followed him (pace Sabra 1980: 757). Quite the contrary, Khnaj claimed in the second quarter of the
thirteenth century that the subject matter of logic was conceptions and assents, a claim which was
energetically resisted by remaining Avicennan purists like Ts. A recent study has clarified what is at
issue in this debate (El-Rouayheb 2012).
To understand the background to Khnaj's claim, it is necessary to bear two points in mind. The first is
Avicenna's doctrine concerning the states of knowledge that logic aims at producing: conception and
assent.[24] The second is what is means for something to be a subject of an Aristotelian science.
Text 8. [] A thing is knowable in two ways: one of them is for the thing to be merely
conceived (yutasawwara) so that when the name of the thing is uttered, its meaning becomes
present in the mind without there being truth or falsity, as when someone says man or do
this! For when you understand the meaning of what has been said to you, you will have
conceived it. The second is for the conception to be [accompanied] with assent, so that if
someone says to you, for example, every whiteness is an accident, you do not only have a
conception of the meaning of this statement, but [also] assent to it being so. If, however, you
doubt whether it is so or not, then you have conceived what is said, for you cannot doubt
what you do not conceive or understand but what you have gained through conception in
this [latter] case is that the form of this composition and what it is composed of, such as
whiteness and accident, have been produced in the mind. Assent, however, occurs when
there takes place in the mind a relating of this form to the things themselves as being in
accordance with them; denial is the opposite of that.[25]
Note that an assent is not merely the production of a proposition by tying a subject and predicate together;
Assent, however, occurs when there takes place in the mind a relating of this form to the things
themselves as being in accordance with them. All knowledge, according to Avicenna, is either
conception or assent. Conception is produced by definition, assent by proof. All Avicennan treatises on
logic are structured in accordance with this doctrine: a first section deals with definition, which conduces
to conception, a second with proof, which conduces to assent.
The subject of an Aristotelian science is investigated with a view to identifying its per se attributes, that is,
its necessary but non-constitutive properties. The subject of geometry is spatial magnitude and its species
(such as triangle); finding, for example, that internal angles summing to two right angles belongs to

triangle is the proper task of the science of geometry. If the subject matter of logic is secondary
intelligibles, then the proper task of logic will be identifying the per se attributes of secondary
intelligibles. According to Khnaj, however, some of the properties investigated by the logician are
attributes of primary intelligibles; in consequence, the subject matter of logic must be something more
general than secondary intelligibles. This prompted Khnaj to declare that conceptions and assents are
the subject matter of logic. Ktib accepted this line of reasoning:
Text 9. The logician may investigate matters that do not accrue to second intentions at all
but rather to single notions (man) that occur in the mind. For he investigates the concept of
essential, accidental, species, genus, differentia, subject and predicate and
other things that accrue to single notions that we intellect.[26]
Another logician who followed Khnaj in this was Abhar; here is his statement of the doctrine:
Text 10. The subject matter of logic, I mean, the thing which the logician investigates in
respect of its concomitants in so far as it is what it is, are precisely conceptions and assents.
[This is] because [the logician] investigates what conduces to conception and what the means
[to conception] depends upon (for something to be universal and particular, essential and
accidental, and such like); and he investigates what conduces to assent and what the means to
assent depends upon, whether proximately (like something being a proposition or the
converse of a proposition or the contradictory of a proposition and such like) or remotely
(like something being a predicate or a subject). These are states which inhere in conceptions
and assents in so far as they are what they are. So certainly its subject matter is conceptions
and assents. (Ts Tadl [1974b] 144.1420)
And here is part of Ts's response:
Text 11. If what he means by conceptions and assents is everything on which these two nouns
fall, it is the sciences in their entirety, because knowledge is divided into these two;
whereupon what is understood from [his claim] is that the subject matter of logic is all the
sciences. Yet there is no doubt that they are not the subject matter of logic
The truth is that the subject matter for logic is the secondary intelligibles in so far as
reflection on them leads from the known to [understanding] the unknown (or to something
similar, as do reductio arguments or persuasive arguments [146] or image-evoking arguments
and the like). And if they are characterised by the rider mentioned by the masters of this craft,
conceptions and assents are among the set of secondary intelligibles in just the same way as
definition and syllogism and their parts, like universal and particular and subject and
predicate and proposition and premise and conclusion (Ts Tadl [1974b] 144.21u,
But as we have seen, for Ts's colleagues at Maragha, Avicenna's identification of secondary intelligibles
as the subject matter of logic excludes things which are properly investigated in logic. (I note but do not
attempt to cover the counter-arguments offered in the later tradition against Khnaj's position; see ElRouayheb 2012: 82 et seq.)

2.2 The Contents of the Treatise on Logic

When the full Organon was finally assembled in Arabic, it included the whole range of texts in the order
given them by the Alexandrian philosophers. There was an inherited expectation that this was the full and
proper stretch of logical inquiry, an expectation which was to come under pressure in the Muslim world. It
had already come under revision in Avicenna's Pointers and Reminders, but more substantial change was

to follow.
One factor at work in determining the structure of Avicennan logic treatises was the doctrine of secondary
intelligibles, a doctrine which led to the exclusion of parts of the Organon from the realm of the strictly
logical, specifically, the Categories. The arguments that excluded the Categories must also have
problematized the inclusion of some other parts of the Organon, such as the Topics.
Another factor at work was the doctrine of conceptions and assents. If, as was commonly accepted,
argument is designed to bring about an assent, then one might ask what kinds of assent there are, and what
variables in an argument lead to different kinds of assent. This doctrine was to replace the Alexandrian
doctrine of the context theory, in which logic is taken to cover different material implementations of
syllogistic reasoning, whether in demonstration, dialectic, rhetoric, poetics or sophistry. According to the
Alexandrian version of the theory, a stretch of discourse was to be analysed according to the context in
which it was found: in poetry, one expected to find false and impossible statements, in demonstration,
necessary and true statements. The Arabic logicians were to reject this version, though they ultimately lost
interest in the range of disciplines coordinated by the theory.
A final factor, or range of factors, at work on the shape of the logic treatise that emerged in the thirteenth
century arose out of discussions in law, especially the tradition of legal dialectic; this tradition was
ultimately to crystallise as a new discipline that replaced the discussion of the Topics and Sophistical
Fallacies. Similarly disciplines grew out of grammar and theology which replaced the logical study of
rhetoric and poetics. I examine each of these factors in turn.
2.2.1 Logic as a Formal Science
Avicenna's doctrine of secondary intelligibles assigns logic a subject matter whose essential properties the
logician studies; this makes logic a science in the Aristotelian sense of the term. Butaccording to the
strictures applying to an Aristotelian scienceno science can probe the existence of its subject matter, but
rather must take it as given from a higher science (in this case, metaphysics). Yet the Categories shuttles
between secondary intelligibles and the primary intelligibles which are the pre-condition for the existence
of the secondary intelligibles.
Avicenna himself adverted to the problem of whether or not Categories was a properly logical book, and
decided that it was not, though he treated it in the Cure out of deference to Peripatetic custom. His
arguments for deeming it not to be properly logical have been gathered together in the past (see esp. Gutas
1988: 265267), but the line of argument had already been stated neatly by later logicians. Here is Hill
dealing with why Ts moves from the five predicables (or five categories) to the ten categories:
Text 12. When Ts finished investigating the five categories which inhere in the ten
categories, he began the investigation of [the ten], even though [such investigation] is not part
of logic. [This is] because the subject matter of logic is the secondary intelligibles which
inhere in the primary intelligibles. How can the primary intelligibles be investigated even
though [such investigation] is a [presupposed] part of the science [of logic]? This would be
circular. But rather, [the ten categories] are investigated in logic to aid in properly realizing
the genera and specific differences. [Such investigation], then, will be a help in discovering
(istinbt) what is defined and inferred, even though it is not part of logic (Hill Jawhar [1410
A.H.] 23.48).
A study of the categories will, in short, be helpful in giving concrete examples of the logical doctrines
presented. The same arguments in removing the Categories from logic should apply to texts which
investigate the commonplace reasoning of the Topics, though I have not seen such an argument made by
an Arabic logician. It is not clear to me that the argument to exclude the Categories from logic which, in
Hill's version, depends on taking secondary intelligibles to be the subject matter of logic, still works for
those who do not accept logic's subject matter to be secondary intelligibles; none the less, the Categories

were excluded from their works too.

2.2.2 Assent and the Context Theory
Arguments aim to bring about assent; more precisely (see Text 8 above), when conceptions have been
gained that produce in the mind both the meaning of the terms in a given proposition, and the form of
composition of these terms, assent occurs when there takes place in the mind a relating of this form to
the things themselves as being in accordance with them In fact, different kinds of discourse can bring
about one or other kind of assent, or something enough like assent to be included in a general theory of
discourse. I give Ts's statement of the Avicennan version of the context theory; it is the neatest
statement I know of the criteria that divide kinds of discourse and the assents for which each aims.
A few preliminary words by way of introduction to this dense passage. Arabic logicians, like most
Aristotelian logicians, speak of form and matter in propositions and proofs, and they have quite specific
distinctions in mind when they do so. The matter in a proposition is what underwrites as true or false the
modality the proposition has. When the dummy variables in a proposition are filled in with concrete
terms, the resulting claim may be semantically determinate (as in every man is an animal and no man
is a stone), and this will make the proposition's matter either necessary or remote and, if necessary, make
the proposition true as a necessity proposition. Alternatively, the resulting claim may be semantically
indeterminate (as in every man is writing), and this will make the proposition's matter contingent, and
the proposition true as a contingency proposition. The matter in an argument, by contrast, is the epistemic
status or persuasive force each of the premises has which, given a formally appropriate proof, will confer
a similar or lesser epistemic status or persuasive force on the conclusion. (Note that jzim is rendered by
Black as apophantic (Black 1990: 53), which I give here as truth-apt. For the terms of art used to deal
with syllogistic matter, see now Gutas (2012).)
Text 13. Since Avicenna had finished explaining the formal and quasi-formal aspects of
syllogistic, he turned to its material aspects. With respect to these, syllogistic divides into five
kinds, because it either conveys an assent, or an influence of another kind (I mean an evoked
image or wonder). What leads to assent leads either to an assent which is truth-apt or to one
which is not. And what is truth-apt is either taken [in the argument] as true (haqq), or is not
so taken. And what is taken as true either is or isn't true.
That which leads to true truth-apt assent is [1] demonstration; untrue truth-apt assent is [2]
sophistry. That which leads to truth-apt assent not taken as true or false but rather as [a matter
of] common consent (umm al-itirf) isif it's like this[3] dialectic (jadal), otherwise it's
eristic (shaghab) which is, along with sophistry (safsata), under one kind of fallacy
production (mughlata). [And what leads] to overwhelming though not truth-apt assent is [4]
rhetoric; and to evocation of images rather than assent, [5] poetry (Ts Sharh al-Ishrt
[1971] 460.1461.12).
Ts immediately goes on to lay out grounds for assent to propositions, for example, because they are
primary, or because they are agreed for the purposes of discussion. Propositions to be used as premises for
demonstration make the most irresistible demands for our assent; premises for lower kinds of discourse
make weaker demands.
The vast majority of the later Arabic logicians no more than nod towards the context theory in a paragraph
towards the end of their treatises. A logician should only be interestedin so far as he is interested in
material implementation of formal reasoning at allin demonstration because it leads him to what is true
and certain, and in sophistry, because it may confuse him in the search for demonstrative truth.
Philosophically, the context theory is an attempt to account for the cognitive and communicative impact
of every kind of discourse. It examines in extraordinary detail the Aristotelian claim that the syllogism
lies at the heart of all human reasoning and, in an attempt to make good the claim, presents an account of

syllogistic forms attenuated in accordance with the epistemic matter of their premises. It also recognizes
that communication depends on more than merely objective truth and formal validity, and offers an
account of what motivates the assent of the human knower to any given stretch of discourse. As a theory,
its global reach may be more impressive than its analytical grasp, but it is a marked advance on a theory
only partly developed in the Alexandrian school.[27]
2.2.3 An Alternative Organon?
The doctrine of secondary intelligibles cut down the number of subjects treated within the logic treatises,
or at least, treated as strictly logical subjects, and the doctrine of dividing knowledge into conception and
assent determined the structure of what was left in Avicennan logic treatises. Formal interests of postAvicennan logicians further limited interest in demonstration; syllogistic, for example, became a central
focus of research from the thirteenth century on. Further changes were introduced for clarity of
Text 14. The later scholars came and changed the technical terms of logic; and they appended
to the investigation of the five universals its fruit, which is to say the discussion of definitions
and descriptions which they moved from the Posterior Analytics; and they dropped the
Categories because a logician is only accidentally and not essentially interested in that book;
and they appended to On Interpretation the treatment of conversion (even if it had been in the
Topics in the texts of the ancients, it is none the less in some respects among the things which
follow on from the treatment of propositions). Moreover, they treated the syllogistic with
respect to its productivity generally, not with respect to its matter. They dropped the
investigation of [the syllogistic] with respect to matter, which is to say, these five books:
Posterior Analytics, Topics, Rhetoric, Poetics, and Sophistical Fallacies (though sometimes
some of them give a brief outline of them). They have ignored [these five books] as though
they had never been, even though they are important and relied upon in the discipline (IbnKhaldn Muqaddima [1858] 112113; cf. Ibn-Khaldn 1958: 3, 142143).
It is clear that whether the structure of the Organon was appropriate for Arabic logic treatises was
contested at least until the end of the thirteenth century. At the same time Hill was setting out his logic
according to the Avicennan outline of the Organon (see section 1.5.2 above), Shamsaddn as-Samarqand
(d. c. 1310) was writing a book laid out after the fashion described by Ibn Khaldn in the text above, with
one major difference. Samarqand concluded his Qists al-Afkr with a long section covering what he
called the etiquette of debate and fallacies. He consciously adopted the etiquette of debate from treatises
on forensic argument, and he told his readers that he intended it to replace study of the Topics and the
Sophistical Fallacies.
Text 15. It has been the custom of our predecessors to place a chapter on dialectics (jadal) in
their logical works. But since the science of juristic dialectic (khilf) of our times does not
need it, I have brought in its stead a canon for the art of disputation and its order, the proper
formulation of speech [in disputation] and its rectification. This [art] is, with respect to
establishing a thesis and explaining it, just like logic with respect to deliberation and thought;
for, through it we are kept on the desired path and are saved from the recalcitrance of speech.
I have set it out in two sections, the first, on the ordering and etiquette of debate, the second,
on error and its causes.[28]
In one sense, Samarqand was unsuccessful: few if any later authors followed him in making the etiquette
of debate a section of their logic treatises. But in another, much more significant sense, Samarqand was
entirely successful; his work by and large supplanted the Topics and Sophistical Fallacies, and gained a
place in the madrasa system along side Ktib's Shamsiyya; treatises on the etiquette of debate are often
found in codices along with the logic treatises.
Other language sciences also went into the codices with the logic manuals. Of the cluster of disciplines

that make up the grammatical sciences, especially ilm al-wad (roughly, semantics) and ilm al-balgha
(roughly, rhetoric) compete to cover material covered by parts of Aristotelian logic. Like the logic
textbooks, the textbooks for both ilm al-wad and ilm al-balgha that were incorporated into a typical
madrasa education were achieved fairly late.
Ilm al-wad was named and consecrated as a separate discipline by the work of the great Asharite
theologian, Adudaddin al-j (d. 1355). In his Epistle on Imposition j drew together the views of his
predecessors on the way language came about. All agreed that language was the result of a conscious
assignationimpositionof units of vocal sound (or expressions, alfz) to units of thought (or meanings,
man). It made no difference what position one adopted on the origin of language, because either God or
the community could function as the one imposing language. Note that the units of thought are at least
logically prior to language, so language is not considered a pre-condition of thought. Language is the
totality of expressions together with the totality of their meanings. Once expressions have been assigned
their meanings by the impositor, this is irrevocable. Having stated these common assumptions about
language, j turned to set out a typology of imposition. j noted thatin what he took to be
unproblematic casesthe meaning in the mind of the one imposing the expression is identical to the
meaning it has in actual speech situations. But what about the pronoun, he, which will have a different
meaning in different speech situations? This is the problem on which j dwelt in his epistle. Its solution
turned out to be, as Tashkprzade was later to say, only a drop in the ocean of problems in ilm al-wad;
once one took the notion of imposition seriously, implementing it as a general explanation for the relation
between expression and meaning turned out to be an immense project which carried on into the twentieth
century (Weiss 1987: especially 341345).
Ilm al-balgha was standardly presented in a textbook by Khatb Dimashq al-Qazwn (d. 1325), The
Abridgement of the Key. Ilm al-balgha was a science that includes a deal of material deriving from the
work of the great eleventh-century grammarian and Asharite theologian, Abdalqhir al-Jurjn (d. 1078).
Spurred by debate about how to judge the inimitability of the Koran, Jurjn had tried to develop a method
for evaluating rhetorical excellence.
The basic tenet he wishes to emphasize from the outset is that stylistic superiority resides in
the meanings or ideas (man) of words and how they are associated with each other in a
given composition (nazm), and not in the utterances or words (alfz) themselves. (Larkin
1982: 77)

2.3 Modal Propositions and Modal Syllogisms

There were a number of modal systems developed and debated among the Arabic logicians. The material
devoted to the topic is too voluminous for anything more than a sketchy account of one line of
development and debate. I follow a few aspects of Avicenna's syllogistic through its treatment in the
thirteenth century, and its transformation into a compact body of doctrine taught in the madrasa. With
regret, in this redaction of the entry I omit mention of Alfarabi and Averroes, not because they are not
important, but because, first, Alfarabi's most important treatment of the syllogistic is lost and, secondly,
Averroes stands outside the Avicennan tradition of logic.
It will become clear that Avicenna's syllogistic puzzled those who came after him, and still puzzles those
today who try to work out what Avicenna was doing. There is some ground to think that Avicenna's
syllogistic is, from a systematic point of view, something of a failure; that was a fairly common
assessment among thirteenth-century logicians. This in turn gives rise to the thought that perhaps
Avicenna wasn't trying to produce a systematic syllogistic, that he had other goals in mind as he dealt with
material descended ultimately from Aristotle's Prior Analytics (some of it, from the commentators,
seemingly in conflict with what Aristotle is doing). If I understand correctly, this is broadly speaking how
Hodges approaches Avicenna (see Hodges 2011b, 2012a, and 2012b in Other Internet Resources). On the
other hand, it may be that Avicenna has a complex system that repays close analysis; Thom's studies of
Avicenna's syllogistic proceed on that assumption. I tend to think the Thom approach is the more

promising. In any event, thirteenth-century logicians took Avicenna to have tried and failed to present a
coherent system.
In this brief overview, I describe one aspect of Avicenna's truth-conditions for modal propositions which
became common doctrine among later Arabic logicians. I go on to examine some of what Avicenna said
about the subject term of a proposition, and some of the inferences he defended. Avicenna's doctrines on
both subject term and modal inferences became much-debated issues in thirteenth-century logic; I follow
one line of the debate.
2.3.1 Avicenna
In a famous and much-quoted passage, Avicenna lays out six conditions under which a proposition may
be said to have a given modalization (all his examples are of necessity propositions, but the same
conditions apply to propositions under all modalizations); the first two conditions are the most important:
Text 16. Necessity may be absolute (al l-itlq), as in God exists; [265] or it may be
connected (muallaqa) to a condition (shart). The condition is either [1] perpetual [relative]
to the existence of the substance [of the subject] (dht), as in man is necessarily a rational
body; by which we do not mean to say that man is and always will be a rational body, because
this is false taken for each human individual. Rather we mean that while he exists as a
substance (m dma mawjda dh-dht) as a human, he is a rational body. Likewise for every
negative which resembles this affirmative statement.
Or [the condition may be] [2] the duration (dawm) of the subject's being described with
what is set down with it, as in all mobile things are changing; this is not to be taken to mean
[this is so] absolutely, nor while the subject exists as a substance, but rather while the
substance of the moving thing is moving. [266]
Distinguish between this condition and the first condition, because the first condition has set
down [as the condition] the principle of the substance, man, whereas here the substance is set
down with a description which attaches to the substance, moving thing; the moving thing has
a substance and an essence (jawhar) to which movement and non-movement attach; but man
and black are not like that (Avicenna Ishrt [1971] 264266).
Avicenna takes a proposition under condition [1]later termed, for obvious reasons, the dhtto be the
right proposition to use while laying out the system Aristotle should have laid out in the Prior Analytics,
and for laying out the central claims of his own metaphysics. Avicenna focussed most of his attention on
the dht, and when he looked for the strongest converse of a dht proposition, he ignored wasf
converses. Later logicians approached the issue of wasf/dht conditions differently, and often found
wasf converses for dht propositions; they had integrated the two readings in a way Avicenna had not.
Avicenna stipulated for the subject term of all his propositions, whether explicitly modalized or not:
Text 17. Know that when we say every J is B, we do not mean the totality (kulliyya) of J is
the totality of B. Rather, we mean that every single thing described as J, be it in mental
supposition or extramental existence, be it described as J always, or sometimes, or whatever;
that thing is described as B without further adding that it is so described at such and such a
time (waqt), or in such and such circumstances (hl), or perpetually. All of these
[modalizations would make for a proposition] stronger than one being described as absolute
(mutlaq). So this is what is understood from every J is B, with no addition of modal operators
attached. On this understanding it is called a general absolute (Avicenna Ishrt [1971]
280 & 282).
The phrase be it in mental supposition might be taken to mean that the subject term is ampliated to the

possible, so that every J is B is to be taken as every possible J is B. This is how Fakhraddiin al-Rz
understood Avicenna (and two recent models for Avicenna's syllogistic ampliate the subject term; Thom
2003, 2008b).
Avicenna gave a number of accounts of modal propositions and syllogisms. Here, I follow a few points
made in the one given in Pointers and Reminders, the cynosure of thirteenth-century logicians (though I
also refer to Salvation which, like Pointers, is available in English translation). Avicenna's syllogistic
includes propositions without explicit modalization (an absolute proposition, taken by Avicenna to contain
an elided temporal modality at least once, so the a-proposition is understood as every J is at least once
B, the e-proposition as no J is always B) both one- and two-sided, possibility propositions both onesided (every J is possibly B) and two-sided, and necessity propositions (every J is necessarily B, eproposition no J is possibly B).
Early in his presentation, Avicenna considered whether the absolute e-proposition, no J is B, converts to
no B is J (a conversion accepted by his predecessors and contemporaries). Avicenna rejected absolute econversion and offered a counter-example found in Aristotle, no horse is sleeping (Avicenna Najt
[1985] 39), and one of his own, no man is laughing (Avicenna Ishrt [1971] 322). He accepted that
absolute a- and i-propositions convert:
(1) Every J is B and some J is B convert to some B is J.
He offered an ecthetic proof for the conversion (Avicenna Ishrt [1971] 330; Avicenna Najt [1985] 44).
And he proved the conversion of the necessity e-proposition:
(2) No J is possibly B converts to no B is possibly J.
Text 18. The universal negative necessity proposition converts as itself, that is, as a universal
negative necessity. If necessarily no B is A, then necessarily no A is B; were that not the case,
then possibly a given A is Blet that be J, such that at a given moment what has become A
will have become B, so that it will be B and A, so that that B is an A; this is impossible.
(Avicenna Najt [1985] 4445)
Avicenna shifted on whether the necessity a- and i-propositions convert to absolute i-propositions
(Avicenna Najt [1985] 45), or to possibility i-propositions; his later position is that they convert as
possibility i-propositions (Avicenna Ishrt [1971] 335336).
(3) Every J is necessarily B and some J is necessarily B convert to some B is possibly
Avicenna rejected the conversion of the possibility e-proposition (no J is necessarily B) with the same
counter-example used to reject absolute e-conversion (no man is necessarily laughing). And he argued
for the conversion of the possibility a- and i-propositions as i-propositions:
(4) Every J is possibly B and some J is possibly B convert to some B is possibly J.
Text 19. If every J is possibly B or some J is possibly B, then some B is possibly J (as
a one-sided possibility proposition); were that not the case, then no B is possibly J, which as
you know amounts to necessarily no B is J, which converts to necessarily no J is B; this
is absurd. (Avicenna Ishrt [1971] 339ff.)
Notice that the proof for necessity e-conversion depends on possibility i-conversion, and the proof for
possibility i-conversion on necessity e-conversion. Alternative proofs could be proposed; for econversion, for example, one could argue that no J is possibly B converts to no B is possibly J, if not,
then some B is possibly J, but this with the first proposition produces by Ferio some J is not possibly
J, which is absurd. This proof is open to Avicenna, given that he took first-figure syllogisms with a

possibility proposition as its minor premise to be perfect, or nearly so; this syllogistic mix was rejected by
most later logicians, along with the other proofs.
2.3.2 Post-Avicennan Logicians
By and large, logicians who came after Avicenna adopted many of his assumptions and distinctions: his
understanding of the absolute proposition (at least with respect to the modalization of its predicate), the
wasf/dht distinction, the division of the syllogistic into repetitive and connective. They worried,
however, about a number of his claims concerning modal propositions and the productive syllogisms that
can be built from them. By the middle of the thirteenth century, a primary concern was about finding
truth-conditions for propositions that could be useful for the sciences (see Text 24 below), though
everyone started from Avicenna's formulations. A central distinction in these later discussions was
between externalist and essentialist readings of the propositions. This is what the terms externalist and
essentialist mean:
Text 20. Every J is B is considered at times according to the essence (whereupon it's called
essentialist, as though [the subject] is an essence in a proposition used in the sciences), and
at other times according to external reality (whereupon it's called externalist, and what is
meant by external is what is external to the senses). (Tahtn 1948: Tahrr 94.68)
Fakhraddn al-Rz was the first to introduce the distinction between externalist and essentialist readings
(see notes to Rz 2002: at 400). When we say every J is B,
Text 21. we don't mean by it what is described as J externally, but rather something more
general, which is: were it to exist externally it would be true of it that it is J, whether it exists
externally or not. For we can say every triangle is a figure even if there are no triangles
existent externally. The meaning is rather that everything which would be a triangle were it to
exist would bein so far as it existeda figure. (Rz Mulakhkhas [2002] 141.610)
By the second reading, we mean by every J every single thing which exists externally
among the individual Js On this hypothesis, were there no septagons existent externally, it
wouldn't be correct to say every septagon is a figure; if the only figures existent externally
were triangles, it would be correct to say every figure is a triangle. On the first reading,
both of these would be false. (Rz Mulakhkhas [2002] 142.13143.1)
Rz went on to investigate inferences in both readings, and found the inferences from propositions with
essentialist readings lined up closely with Avicenna's. The readings gave Rz all the conversions
mentioned in section 2.3.1 above except 1 (he took the absolute affirmative to convert as a possibility
proposition). He also accepted syllogisms with possibility propositions as minor premises to be
productive. Interpretive considerations may have been at play in his clear preference for the essentialist
reading, but what explicitly motivated the distinction is the need to have propositions refer to things
which do not exist externally; the examples are always of non-instantiated geometric figures.
Rz was clear that he did not intend the essentialist reading to amount to an ampliation of the subject
term to the possible such as he attributed to Alfarabi (Alfarabi claimed that with respect to every J one
shouldn't [only] take account of actually occurring Js, but everything whose description as J is possible;
Rz Mulakhkhas [2002] 142.45). But with the phrase were it to exist externally it would be true of it
that it is J, Rz posited a domain of discourse including non-instantiated Js, and he seemed to take his
propositions thereby to refer to possible-Js.
That at least is how Khnaj understood Rz's solution; he took it to amount to no more than an
ampliation of the subject term to the possible. Unlike Rz, Khnaj understood the phrase were it to

exist as a J to include reference to impossible Js, and modified or rejected the conversions 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Before turning to how Khnaj used the essentialist reading, consider his assessment of Rz's reading at
the end of the chapter on conversion in Disclosure.
Text 22. Know that these valuations relating to conversion which we have mentioned don't
differ much from the claims of the ancients, even though they may differ from what some
recent logicians have said. Were we to be satisfied, as Alfarabi was, that for something to be a
subject the possibility [of its coming under the subject term would be enough], and not
consider [the subject term's] affirmation of it in actuality, it would follow that the [universal]
negative necessity proposition would convert as a necessity proposition, affirmative
possibility propositions would convert as a possibility proposition, the conversion of absolute
propositions wouldn't result in more than possibility, and the syllogism in the first figure with
a minor possibility proposition would be productive, as will be clear to you after coming to
know what has gone before, and having given due consideration to the propositions under
this technical usage. Since the later scholars have changed the technical usage without
changing the valuations they arrive atsuch that the valuation differs accordingly to the
difference in technical usage, they have been mired in nonsense. Perhaps Avicenna
hesitated over the conversion of absolute propositions as either possibility or absolute
propositions just because of his hesitation over technical usage. When he says that they
convert as possibility propositions, he doesn't consider affirmation in actuality with respect to
the subject; when he says they convert as absolute propositions, he does (because the fact the
absolute follows on this technical usage is just about patently evident, such that it wouldn't be
appropriate for Avicenna to deny it). (Khnaj Kashf [2010] 145.3-u)
Having rejected Rz's understanding of the essentialist reading, Khnaj deployed his own modified
essentialist reading to come to different inferences. Take absolute e-conversion, which Avicenna and Rz
agreed fails (according to Rz, it fails on either externalist or essentialist reading). Khnaj agreed that it
fails on the externalist reading (which he took in the same way Rz did). Taken in Khnaj's essentialist
reading, however, no J is always B converts as a perpetuity o-proposition, some B is never J. To show
this is so, Khnaj had to offer a proof for the conversion, then resist counter-examples to it. I skip the
proof, and go straight to how Khnaj dealt with the counter-examples.
Text 23. They argue conversion fails for these propositions because it is true, no moon is
eclipsedand no animal is breathing yet [130] their converses are not true, namely,
some eclipsed is not a moon, and some breathing is not animal
The answer to this is that we reject that some eclipsed is not a moon and similar statements
are false if the subject is taken according to the essentialist reading. This is because, in this
case, its meaning is some of what would be eclipsed, were it to come to exist, would not be a
moon, insofar as it had come to exist. [The claim this is false] is to be rejected; the most that
can be said in this matter is that every eclipsed that has come to exist is a moon, but from this
is does not follow that it is true that everything that is eclipsed, were it to come to exist,
would be a moon insofar as it comes to exist. This is because [the proposition with an
essentialist subject] deals with actual, possible and impossible items [that come under the
subject term]. Were we to stipulate the possibility [of these items] along with [the other
stipulations], their status would be that of externally existent things. So the eclipsed-which-isnot-a-moon, even though it is impossible, is among those individuals which would be
eclipsed, were they to come to exist, even though it is not necessary that any would be a
moon if they came to exist.
Overall, if these propositions are taken in the essentialist reading, the proof we have given for
their conversion works, the counter-arguments are not compelling, and the proper view must
be that the conversion is correct. (Khnaj Kashf [2010] 129.14130.12)

What this means for the counter-example considered before, no man is always laughing, is that it
converts on this account to some laughing is not ever a man. This is because we may, under Khnaj's
essentialist reading, posit the impossible laughing-which-is-not-a-man. With this modified essentialist
reading, Khnaj ended up with the following conversions:
(1*) Every J is at least once B converts as some B is necessarily J (Khnaj Kashf [2010]
(2*) No J is possibly B converts as no B is ever J (Khnaj Kashf [2010] 135);
(3*) Every J is necessarily B converts as some B is necessarily J (Khnaj Kashf [2010]
(4*) Every J is possibly B has no provable converse (Khnaj Kashf [2010] 144).
The Maragha logicianswhose work included the compositions on logic most frequently taught in the
Islamic worldreflected critically on Avicenna, Rz and Khnaj. Everyone accepted that there were
problems with Avicenna's inferences, but also that Khnaj's critique of Rz's essentialist reading (which
had saved most of Avicenna's inferences) was correct. Khnaj's alternative development of the
essentialist reading led to its own problems, however; first Abar proved that an e-proposition couldn't be
true on Khnaj's version of this reading, then Ts proved, nor could an a-proposition. By the time Ktib
came to deal with the problem, he took Khnaj's comment in Text 23 above seriously:
the proposition with an essentialist subject] deals with actual, possible and impossible
items [that come under the subject term]. Were we to stipulate the possibility [of these items]
along with [the other stipulations], their status would be that of externally existent things.
Ktib further modified Khnaj's reading to limit propositions with essentialist subjects to those with selfconsistent subjects. In the Shamsiyya, in consequence, the externalist and essentialist readings are taken to
be of the same status, which is to say, all and only the inferences provable in one reading are provable in
the other. On the conversions in question, Ktib held:
(1) Every J is at least once B converts as some B is at least once J;
(2*) No J is possibly B converts as no B is ever J;
(3**) Every J is necessarily B converts as some B is at least once J while B;
(4*) Every J is possibly B has no provable converse.
Tahtn, writing in the early fourteenth century, looked back over the efforts of his thirteenth-century
predecessors and summed up the nature of their inquiries. If his account is correct, the thirteenth-century
logicians limited their investigations to scientifically useful propositions, acknowledging at the same time
that there are many other propositions with different truth-conditions they could be investigating.
Text 24. It is not to be leveled as a criticism that, because the craft should have general rules,
there are propositions that cannot be taken under either of these two considerations (namely,
those whose subjects are impossible, as in the co-creator is impossible, and every
impossible is non-existent). Because we say: No one claims to limit all propositions to the
essentialist and the externalist. They do however claim that propositions used in the sciences
are used for the most part under one of these two considerations, so they therefore set these
readings down and extract their qualifications so they may thereby benefit in the sciences.
The qualifications of the propositions that cannot be taken under either of these two
considerations are not yet known; the generalization of rules is only to the extent of human
capacity. (Tahtn 1948: Tahrr 95.pu96.11)


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Other Internet Resources

Islamic Philosophy Online.
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Max van Berchem Foundation.
Wilfrid Hodges' papers and talk slides on Avicenna:
2009, Ibn Sn on analysis: 1. Proof search. Or: Abstract state machines as a tool for the
history of logic.
2011a, A note: Ibn Sn on the subject of logic.
2011b, Ibn Sn: analysis with modal syllogisms.
2011c, Ibn Sn's explanation of reductio ad absurdum.

2012a, What would count as Ibn Sn having a first order logic?.

2012b, Ibn Sn's modal logic.
See Hodges' home page for translations of Avicenna and other papers on Arabic Logic.

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