Aristotle’s Peri hermeneias in Medieval Latin and Arabic Philosophy: Logic and the Linguistic Arts

Aristotle’s Peri hermeneias in Medieval Latin and Arabic Philosophy: Logic and the Linguistic Arts

By Deborah Black

Aristotle and His Medieval Interpreters. edited by Richard Bosley and Martin Tweedale. Canadian Journal of Philosophy suppl. vol. 17 (1992)

Introduction: In many fields within the history of medieval philosophy, the comparison of the Latin and Arabic Aristotelian commentary traditions must be concerned in large measure with the influence of Arabic authors, especially Avicenna and Averroes, upon their Latin successors. In the case of the commentary tradition on the Peri hermeneias, however, the question of influence plays little or no part in such comparative considerations.1 Yet the absence of a direct influence of Arabic philosophers upon their Latin counterparts does have its own peculiar advantages, since it provides an opportunity to explore the effects upon Aristotelian exegesis of the different linguistic backgrounds of Arabic and Latin authors. This is especially evident in the discussions in Peri hermeneias commentaries devoted to the relationship between logic and language, and to the question of the differences between a logical and a grammatical analysis of linguistic phenomena. While both Arabic and Latin exegetes inherited, directly or indirectly, some of the same materials of the late Greek commentary tradition, and of course, some of the same issues inherent in Aristotle‟s own text, Arabic and Latin authors filtered that same philosophical material through very different linguistic traditions, each with its own indigenous grammatical and linguistic theories. Given these circumstances, the very linguistic gulf separating the Latin and Arabic authors, which in many areas of philosophy remains merely incidental, becomes essential to the philosophical issues posed by certain parts of Aristotle‟s Peri hermeneias.

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