What is language? How did it originate and how does it work? What is its relation to thought and, beyond thought, to reality? Questions like these have been at the center of lively debate ever since the rise of scholarly activities in the Islamic world during the 8th/9th century. However, in contrast to contemporary philosophy, they were not tackled by scholars adhering to only one specific discipline. Rather, they were addressed across multiple fields and domains, no less by linguists, legal theorists, and theologians than by Aristotelian philosophers.
In response to the different challenges faced by these disciplines, highly sophisticated and more specialized areas emerged, comparable to what nowadays would be referred to as semantics, pragmatics, and hermeneutics, to name but a few – fields of research that are pursued to this day and still flourish in some of the traditional schools. Philosophy of language, thus, has been a major theme throughout Islamic intellectual culture in general; a theme which, probably due to its trans-disciplinary nature, has largely been neglected by modern research.
This book brings together for the first time experts from the various fields involved, in order to explore the riches of this tradition and make them accessible to a broader public interested both in philosophy and the history of ideas more generally.
Germann, Nadja and Najafi, Mostafa (2021), eds., Philosophy and Language in the Islamic World (Philosophy in the Islamic World in Context, 2) Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter. (online version: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110552409). ISBN: 9783110552171.
The annual colloquium of the SIEPM in Freiburg, Germany, was groundbreaking in that it featured a more or less equal number of talks on all three medieval cultures that contributed to the formation of Western philosophical thought, the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian traditions. Indeed, the subject of the colloquium, ‘The Origin and Nature of Language and Logic in Medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian Thought’, lent itself to such a cross-cultural approach. In all these traditions, partially inspired by ancient Greek philosophy, partially by other sources, language and thought, semantics and logic occupied a central place. As a result, the chapters of the present volume effortlessly traverse philosophical, religious, cultural, and linguistic boundaries and thus in many respects open up new perspectives. It should not be surprising if readers delight in chapters of a philosophical tradition outside of their own as much as they do in those in their area of expertise. Among the topics discussed are the significance of language for logic; the origin of language: inspiration or convention; imposition or coinage; the existence of an original language; the correctness of language; divine discourse; animal language; the meaningfulness of animal sounds; music as communication; the scope of dialectical disputation; the relation between rhetoric and demonstration; the place of logic and rhetoric in theology; the limits of human knowledge; the meaning of categories; the problem of metaphysical entailment; the need to disentangle the metaphysical implications of language; the quantification of predicates; and the significance of linguistic custom for judging logical propositions.
Germann, Nadja, and Steven Harvey, eds. The Origin and Nature of Language and Logic: Perspectives in Medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian Thought. Rencontres de Philosophie Médiévale 20. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020. ISBN: 2-503-58892-1.