Arabic Sciences and Philosophy

The Poetic Syllogism according to al-Farabi: an Incorrect Syllogism of the Second Figure

Maroun Aouad  a1 and Gregor Schoeler a2
a1 Centre d'histoire des sciences et des philosophies arabes et médiévales, 7 rue Guy Môquet, B.P. no 8, 94801 Villejuif Cedex, France
a2 Orientalisches Seminar der Universität Basel, 64a Missionsstrasse, 4055 Basel, Switzerland


It is well-known that the Arab philosophers of the Aristotelian tradition, like some of their Alexandrian predecessors, attached rhetoric and poetics to logic, and supported this inclusion by the idea that the principal poetic procedure - that is, essentially, metaphor - is a kind of syllogism: the poetic syllogism. However, until now, no texts prior to those of Avicenna had been identified which render the structure of this syllogism explicit. In the present contribution, we present and translate a passage from al-Farabi which shows that for him, the poetic syllogism is an incorrect syllogism of the second figure - a different interpretation from that which will be given by Avicenna.