An Introduction to the Critique of the Theory of Definition in Arabic Logic: Is Complete Definition Circular?


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ÖZTURAN M.

NAZARIYAT-JOURNAL FOR THE HISTORY OF ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCES, cilt.4, ss.85-117, 2018 (ESCI İndekslerine Giren Dergi)

  • Cilt numarası: 4 Konu: 3
  • Basım Tarihi: 2018
  • Doi Numarası: 10.12658/nazariyat.4.3.m0062en
  • Dergi Adı: NAZARIYAT-JOURNAL FOR THE HISTORY OF ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCES
  • Sayfa Sayısı: ss.85-117

Özet

This study focuses on Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's thesis of the impossibility of giving a complete definition (al-badd al-tamm) and discusses its impact, the parties to the debate, and especially the positive argument contra al-Razi by the Ottoman savant Taskoprizade. The negative argument of al-Razi postulates that the complete definition is strictly circular, for the totality of parts that makes up the defined object are included in the definition, and the object is identical to the sum of its parts. Therefore, complete definition strictly commits the fallacy of defining a thing by itself. Taskoprizade argues against this view by defending the possibility of complete definition. According to him, although in complete definition the defined object and the defining features include the same set of things, the modes of their presentation to the mind are different. Thus, a complete definition becomes circular only if both the content of the defined object and its mode of presentation to the mind are the same. If it can be shown that the contents of the definiendum and definiens have distinct modes of presentation, then the charge of circularity is discarded. In this article, I illustrate the two opposing approaches by distinguishing between form and content, or sense and reference. Both parties take for granted that the contents of the definiens and the definiendum are the same when it comes to the complete definition. The main point of contention lies in the modes of apprehending the contents. This article analyzes the arguments of two opposing semantic theories particular to the complete definition and shows that the question emerges as a result of the theories of constant form and variable form concerning meaning. In the period between al-Rdzi and Taskoprizade, Tusi bolstered the complete definition whereas al-Iji refuted it. Both Tusi's and arguments will be discussed, though briefly, in the body of paper as well.