The Logical Dimensions of Rhetoric and Poetics: Aspects of Non-Demonstrative Reasoning in Medieval Arabic Philosophy

Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada) (1987)

This dissertation examines the view in medieval Arabic philosophy that Aristotle's Rhetoric and Poetics are logical texts, to be included in the scope of the Organon. The principal philosophers on whom the study focuses are al-Farabi Avicenna, and Averroes. The study attempts to show that this taxonomy is philosophically defensible and internally consistent. To illustrate this, not only are the commentaries by these authors on the Rhetoric and Poetics examined, but also relevant discussions in their more general works on logic, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. ;After an initial defense of this doctrine against some common misconceptions, the study examines its historical roots in the writings of the sixth-century Greek commentators on Aristotle from the school of Alexandria. ;The remainder of the thesis is devoted to the writings of the Arabic philosophers themselves. Attention is focused first upon some general logical and epistemological topics that have a bearing upon the Arabic philosophers' interpretation of rhetoric and poetics: the relationship between language and argumentation; the identification of the end of logic as the production of conception or assent ; the orientation of logic towards demonstration; and the relationship between logic and syllogistic. The reflection of these themes in the Arabic philosophers' specific expositions rhetoric and poetics is then taken up. Consideration is given to the epistemological and psychological bases of rhetorical and poetic methods, and detailed analyses of the formal structures of the enthymeme, the argument from example, and the "poetic syllogism" are also presented. ;While the Arabic philosophers tend to relegate the role of rhetorical and poetic methods to the propagation of philosophical truths to the non-philosophical masses, their logical analyses of rhetoric and poetics themselves are shown to be both logically and epistemologically sophisticated. While the philosophical importance of these two logical arts is adamantly denied by the Arabic tradition, their writings nonetheless provide the means for recognizing the plurality of modes of discourse and methods of reasoning that we have at our disposal
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