What is Logic?

Logic, The First Method: Concerning the Purpose of Logic Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) was a Persian scientist of encyclopedic knowledge, philosopher, physician, chemist, astronomer, theologian, and poet. He is considered to be the most influential thinker of the Islamic Golden Age. In Part I of his work Remarks and Admonitions, titled Logic, The First Method: Concerning the Purpose of Logic, in chapters 5-8 he explains the correspondence between an expression and a concept, draws the line between the reality of a word and a concept, and broadly explains the difference between the single, composite, individual and universal expressions. In Chapter 5, Ibn Sina says that it is of central importance to differ a concept and a word that expresses it. According to him, a concept can be divided into two parts, namely an expression (the signifier) and a certain object that is signified, when both of them correspond to the same concept. As an example, he provides an analogy of the word “triangle” on the one hand and the “figure bounded by three sides”, the signified object, on the other. Both these parts relate to the concept referred as “triangle” in a sentence. Long before Gottlob Frege, Ibn Sina introduces the triangle of reference that includes a symbol, thought of reference, and a referent, possibly conveying or paraphrasing Aristotle’s ideas. Chapter 6 is a short comment on the implicit function of a predicate in the proposition. He writes about the distinction between the realities of a triangle as a subject, figure as a predicate, and a thing that they both express. What needs tracing here is his phrase the thing which is called ‘triangle’ is itself called ‘figure’. By that he relates to the previous chapter to explain that in cases when a predicate is already a part of a concept, it (the predicate) might be unnecessary, however, the reality of the triangle and reality of the figure are not the same thing. In Chapter 7, Persian scientist defines a single and a composite expression. By the term “single expression” he means a grammar unity that signifies something certain when used in its whole, but each single word in this unity does not convey this semantic when taken apart. For instance, a word “Abd” (servant) ceases to express a “servant of God” when is separated from the single expression “Abd al-Lah”. A composite expression is a phrase that can be either complete or incomplete. Complete phrase possesses a complete signification, which means that it includes both subject and predicate joined with a correct particle. An incomplete phrase is one that includes only subject or predicate, however, it is not just random words. Admittedly, incomplete phrases leave a listener with a feeling that something is missing here. An example of the incomplete phrase is “Mr. Smith is” (lack of predicate) or “is a human being” (lack of subject). In Chapter 8, Avicenna explains the notion of individual and universal expressions . He emphasizes that some expressions permit sharing their essence through different concepts whereas the others do not. What is interesting in this passage is that Ibn Sina stresses the role of speaker’s comprehension in the division of expressions into individual and universal: for someone who considers that another sun is not possible, the word “sun” is the individual expression; for those who know or suppose that there are other suns, this word is the universal expression. To conclude, in these mentioned chapters of Remarks and Admonitions, Ibn Sina investigates some relations between language, comprehension, and the reality that relate to the terms “expression”, “concept”, “phrase”, and signifier and signified. His strong point here is that he takes into account a speaker’s mindset instead of considering the words as something that can have the same meaning regardless of the context.

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