Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle’s De Interpretatione

Alfarabi’s Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle’s De Interpretatione. Trans. F.W. Zimmerman. London: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Book Review:

“This book represents a comprehensive study of Alfarabi’s expositions of Aristotle’s logical treatise, the De Interpretatione. It includes a substantial Introduction, a translation of Alfarabi’s lengthy commentary and his much shorter treatise on the De Interpretatione, extensive notes and pertinent appendices and indices. The main text studied and translated, the Commentary, is one of Alfarabi’s very important works. It is also a difficult text, not without its share of the problematic. The Short Treatise is also important, particularly as it complements and sheds light on the former.

Alfarabi wrote different kinds of commentaries on Aristotle, including several of the type sometimes referred to as “large” or “great,” in which the translated text is quoted and commented on section by section. The Commentary on De Interpretatione is the only of of Farabi’s works of this type that is known to have survived. The translation of Aristotle’s text it includes is that of Ishaq Ibn Hunayn and in its comments it offers expansions that go considerably beyond Aristotle. This is seen, for example, in Alfarabi’s pursuance of the view that logic is concerned with the form of propositions, not their content, and that logical and linguistic forms are not identical. It is also seen in his comments on the notorious Chapter 19 of the De Interpretatione where he gives expression to one tradition of interpreting Aristotle on the truth status of statements about future contingents. According to this interpretation, a pair of contradictory statements about a future possible event must be exclusively either false or true. This, however, does not mean that one of the statements rather than the other is true. Their division of truth and falsity remains indefinite. Thus their truth value remains unknowable – unknowable to man, that is, not to God, Alfarabi maintains. He then offers a discussion in which he argues that God’s knowledge of future possible events deprives neither the events of their intrinsic contingency nor man of his freedom of the will.”

(Reviewer: Professor Michael E. Marmura, U. Toronto)

Recommended Edition