Rhetoric, Poetics, and the

Authored by: Terence Kleven

The Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415881609
eBook ISBN: 9781315708928
Adobe ISBN: 9781317484332

10.4324/9781315708928.ch7

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Abstract

The Prophet of Islam had given his followers a book and it was their responsibility to learn its teachings and to determine how these teachings were to be practiced in the various political and religious contexts into which they were introduced. The internal conversations within the Islamic community regarding what constituted right teaching and right law led to the development of various schools of thought, both theological and legal. Therefore, within the community there was need for rigorous learning if one was to persuade others of the best understanding of Islam. Moreover, by the time of the emergence of Islam, the Hindus, the Persians and the Greeks, to name the most prominent peoples for the Middle East, had long-standing philosophic traditions, and the wisdom they provided in the study of medicine, physics, and logic, amongst other subjects, could not easily be avoided if scholars of Islam were to articulate Islam’s unique teachings with credibility. The Greeks, in particular, had been the most vigorous source of philosophic and scientific learning for the Middle East, especially the books of Plato and Aristotle. Thus, scholars of the Islamic community turned to various sciences in Greek philosophy for assistance, whether it was rhetoric to articulate the meaning of the Qurᵓān and Ḥadīth, poetry to praise or blame an action, idea, or person, dialectic to refute false teaching, physics to understand natural laws, or medicine to cure the ill. To be sure, there was much debate over what subjects of Greek philosophy were legally acceptable within Islam. Among the sciences, logic, as articulated in Aristotle’s Organon or “instrument” of knowledge, occupied a key position because it was, or at least claimed to be, the instrument of all the sciences and of all knowledge. As an instrument it was not obviously controversial, if used for the right purposes, and it could be helpful in distinguishing true from false opinions. It was necessary, however, to know what logic was, and there was more than one opinion on the matter. One particular question that emerged in this inquiry of the nature and scope of logic was which books of Aristotle actually constituted his “instrument” of study. Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics were included as two of the syllogistic arts by some ancient and medieval scholars and excluded by others. Classical Islamic philosophy devoted considerable attention to the place of these two books among the logical arts, and thus the title of this chapter introduces a topic for inquiry that is forcefully present in Islamic philosophy. The purpose of this chapter is to articulate the reasoning on the basis of which two of the finest Arabic philosophers—al-Fārābī and Ibn Rushd (Averroes)—included rhetoric and poetry in the corpus of logical arts in the Islamic world.

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