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Logic and Literature in Early Times

Panel X-29, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
  • A study of the key features of Ibn Kammuna’s (d. ca. 1285) interpretation and critique of Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi’s logical views as expressed in his commentary on the latter’s Talwihat. Though Suhrawardi (d. ca. 1191) is best known as a mystic and metaphysician, he wrote extensively on logic in the Aristotelian-Avicenan tradition. At present, his logcal views are best known from the almost satirically simplified logical section of his famous metaphysical work, The Philosophy of Illumination. However, his so-called “Peripatetic works” each contain a section on logic, the largest over 500 pages. The most widely read of these works in the later tradition was the Talwihat, usually through Ibn Kammuna’s commentary, the logical portion of which is about 350 pages. I will look at several issues raised by or in this commentary. —As the first known proponent of Suhrawardi’s views, what did he think was his significance? —What does he actually do in this commentary? While giving the “author of the book” the benefit of the doubt, to what extent does he correct him? correct omissions? add proofs to assertions? make major additions? —What are his sources, particularly among Suhrwardi’s other works? —How does he deal with the obvious differences among this work, the other Peripatetic works, and The Philosophy of Illumination? —How do he and Suhrawardi deal with classic issues in Aristotelian-Avicennan logic, such as the validity of the fourth figure of the syllogism? On the significance of this project, first, Ibn Kammuna’s commentary was an important book with more than sixty extant manuscripts. This commentary and Qutb al-Din Shirazi’s commentary on The Philosophy of Illumination were the main channels by which Suhrawardi’s philosophy was studied. Second, this will shed some light on the most vexed issue in Suhrawardi studies: the relation between The Philosophy of Illumination and his other works, a problem that is fundamental to the interpretation of his thought. Finally, it is now known that Ibn Kammuna lived at the beginning of a period of transition in Islamicate logic. Where do these two philosophers fit in relation to the major logical developments of the 14th century and later?
  • During the ‘Abbasid period, considered the climax of classical Arabic literature, imā’ shawā‘ir (slave-girl poets) played a formidable role in literary society. These women were typically purchased as children, receiving rigorous and expensive training in poetry, music, and the Arabic language in preparation for careers in performance and lyrical composition. Some, when engaged with male patrons, could reap distinct social benefits by means of their literary talent and attractive appearance. They might appear to be an obedient slave—a woman in love, reciting touching verses to her lover, a girl in tears at the death of her master or patron, or even a capable defender, lampooning anyone who might affront her verses or personality. In addition to their personal diwān (collection of poems), references to some slave-girl poets have survived, mostly through the compilations in al-Iṣfahānī’s (d.356/967) Kitāb al-Aghānī (Book of Songs) and al-Imā’ al-Shawā‘ir (The Book of the Poet-slaves). This paper will examine the ijāzah (dueling) poems composed by the ‘Abbasid slave poetess ‘Inān (d.226/841)—considered the first woman to achieve literary fame under the ‘Abbāsids—to ascertain how her wit and eloquence played a pivotal role in an intricate system of verse-capping exchanges with the famous poet Abū Nuwās (c.198/813–200/815), who is generally recognized as the most renowned wine poet, particularly for his use of erotic elements and the licentiousness generally associated with his works. The majority of the verse exchanges between ‘Inān and Abū Nuwās were built on frivolous and lustful themes and expressed in a satirical tone. Through the poems I examined, ‘Inān clearly exploited her mental agility and mastery of words, reacting with skillful poetry and even challenging whatever Abū Nuwās presented. She made the voice of a woman more than a mere physiological faculty. She not only developed her narration from the conventional motifs of the tradition of Arabic literature, but also produced her own style by utilizing intertextual elements to compose her statement. Her verses display how she controlled the narrative process, defined her own essence, played the game of textual sexual politics with a male poet, and developed and made her feminine voice heard, memorized, and cherished.
  • The 6th/12th century was a period of thriving critical assessment of Ibn Sina’s legacy (Griffel). Like al-Ghazali (d.1111), Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d.1211) and Abu al-Barakat al-Baghdadi (c.1161), Suhrawardī (d.1192) critically appraised various components of Ibn Sīnā’s philosophical system, proposing indeed novel philosophical ideas in logic, physics, psychology, metaphysics, epistemology, ontology, etc. This presentation will focus on Suhrawardī’s critical appraisal of Ibn Sīnā’s Peripatetic noetics, i.e. the study of the “nous” or ‘aql. Ibn Sīnā’s Peripatetic noetics derives from the works of earlier Arab philosophers, some versed in the Aristotelian and Neoplatonic traditions (for example Farabi). The presentation will attempt to answer the following questions: Can we identify some of the more important and distinctive “Illuminationist” elements of Suhrawardī’s “ishrāqī noetics”? How does Suhrawardî reconfigure important components of traditional Peripatetic noetics? To achieve this, we will focus primarily to the second part of his “opus magnum”, “The philosophy of Illumination” (Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq) (completed in 582/1186) in which Suhrawardī develops his distinctive “ishraqi” metaphysics of Light. Noteworthy is the fact that Suhrawardī rejects, modifies, innovates, and develops a very different kind of noetics within the confines of his new Illuminationist (ishrāq/ẓuhūr) model (Kaukua; van Lit, Sinai). For instance, at the heart of Suhrawardī’s new “science of Lights” (‘ilm al-anwār) rests an ontology and an epistemology of light in which Light becomes tantamount to the presence (ḥuḍūr), the appearance or the manifestation (ẓuhūr) of various intensities of luminosity. Light not only partakes in the process of intellection (abstraction), but also in the processes of self-awareness and intuitive apprehension. Suhrawardī also increases the number of active celestial intelligences/Light (quasi ‘aql), angels are also redefined in terms of their partaking of the same active light principle. Suhrawardi’s metaphysics of Light both encompasses and reconfigures ontology and epistemology, important dimensions for his reconfiguration of a novel ishrāqī “philosophy of appearance” noetics, that has some affinities with Ghazali’s light epistemology in his “Niche of Light” (Mishkat al-Anwar) (Sinai; Lange). What then might the place left to noetics in Suhrawardi’s Illuminationism (Kaukua).
  • This paper explores the reception of the eighth-century naqaid (lampoon) poetry of Jarir and al-Farazdaq. The paper proposes a new reading of the naqaid by examining original manuscripts of this poetry together with secondary sources (akhbar) that range from near contemporaneous with the poets to ca. two centuries after their deaths. These akhbar give us information not only about Jarir and al-Farazdaq’s performances, but provide insight into the akhbar recorders themselves in the recounting of this poetry. I show that the recorders of these akhbar in recounting Jarir and al-Farazdaq’s poetry were in fact a type of performers themselves, reperforming this poetry in a sense as they committed it to paper. In doing so, these recorders appropriated the voice of Jarir and al-Farazdaq, incorporating passages of the poets’ highly comedic poetry into their own accounts, displaying Jarir and al-Farazdaq’s skillfully crafted passages in passages of their own. By doing so the recorders linked the poetry of Jarir and al-Farazdaq to their own writings, thus connecting the poets in a way to themselves. I divide the paper into two parts. In the first I conduct a close reading of select passages from Jarir and al-Farazdaq’s naqaid. In the second part I examine akhbar sources that comment on some aspect of Jarir and al-Farazdaq’s naqaid, including the poetry itself, the venue of its performance, and the relationship of the audience to it. This approach is the first to suggest that recorders and preservers of Jarir and al-Farazdaq’s poetry were themselves a type of performer, appropriating the poets’ voice in their own reperformance of this poetry. By exploring the naqaid alongside comments about it found in the akhbar, my thesis challenges conventional interpretation. The result is a new picture of eighth-century Arabic lampoon poetry as a dynamic genre, not only surviving, but thriving over centuries, as it was performed and reperformed over time.