Logic and Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics in Medieval Arabic Philosophy

Black, Deborah. Logic and Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics in Medieval Arabic Philosophy. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990.

Overview: An important discussion of the reworking of Aristotle’s Organon in the medieval Islamic world. It is not exclusively devoted to Alfarabi but contains many discussions of him.


As the title of this book imitates, it investigates the logical dimensions and philosophical implications of the treatment of Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics in Islamic, or Arabic, philosophy. Actually, it is the big three of Muslim falasifa whose writings Black compares and analyzes: Alfarabi (870-950), Avicenna (980-1037), and Averroes (1126-98). The significance of these figures, as well as their numerous, diverse, and frequently contradictory remarks on these topics, more than justifies this selection. Moreover, Black adduces these philosophers views in related areas, arguing for the presence and importance of rhetorical or poetic features in all of philosophy’s pursuits, both theoretical and practical.

The far-reaching scope of this book may be gleaned from its chapter headings alone: “Rhetoric, Poetics, and the Aristotelian Organon: The Context Theory in the Middle Ages”; “Issues in the Greek Version of the Context Theory”; “The Frameworks of the Context Theory in Arabic Philosophy”; “The Epistemological Domain of Rhetoric”: “The Structures of Rhetorical Argumentation”; ” The Epistemological and Psychological Foundations of Poetics”; “The Imaginative Syllogism”; and “The Philosophical Implications of the Context Theory.”

Also indication of the thorough nature of this study is the presence of indices of Arabic and Greek terms, besides a general index and wide-ranging bibliography. As the reader of the ntoes alone soon learns, Black is au courant both with the primary sources in Arabic (as well as with Greek and Latin sources) and with contemporary secondary literature. Her translations of the source material are accurate and felicitous, her own style a model of clarity and eloquence.

– (From a review by Alfred L. Ivry, found in Speculum, Vol. 68, No. 4 (Oct., 1993), pp1067-1069.)