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Poetic Syllogism: The Logic of Imagination in Medieval Arabic Philosophy

From: 2019-05-20 To:2019-05-20

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  • Thematic Line

    Medieval & Early Modern Philosophy
  • Research Groups

    Aristotelica Portugalensia
    Reason, Politics & Society
  • Conference by Una Popović

    20 May 2019 | 17h30 | Sala de Reuniões 2 (2nd Floor)
    Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto 


    Una Popović (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, Serbia)

    Poetic Syllogism: The Logic of Imagination in Medieval Arabic Philosophy



    Medieval Arabic philosophy gave birth to a quite special interpretation of poetry and poetics; namely, for Avicenna, Al-Farabi and Averroes, poetics is a subdiscipline of logic, and poetical speeches (poetry) are the products of imagination, a human cognitive faculty. This unique interpretation had no predecessors, since Aristotle did not claim logical character for poetics, nor did he proclaim phantasia to be the origin of poetry. However, it also had no successors, since Latin medieval philosophers largely ignored these ideas, although they've learned from Arabs with respect to metaphysics, natural philosophy, and logic. Later, Renaissance philosophy stressed the connection between poetry and imagination, but declined logical character to any of them, even contrasting poetry with logic, and humanistic education with the medieval trivium. Communicating with the Arabic culture and the important role poetry played in it, medieval Arabic philosophy presents us with the proper redefinition of the relation between philosophy and poetry – to be matched only by Baumgarten's. 

    Arabic philosophers, however, interpreted poetry and imagination as truth-bearing; as such, they conceived the inner form of poetry in terms of a syllogism. In analogy to proper science, poetry also has its inner logical form, its proper 'syllogistic' figures. However, just as imagination is not reason, so these poetical syllogisms are not proper syllogisms; they signify the attempts of genuine formalization of imagination's inner workings, which are, of course, never to be fully rationalized. Therefore, poetic syllogism is a form of argumentation adequate to the imagination; however, the imagination is a free and creative faculty, so its arguments are never to be strictly and fully conceptualized. Medieval Arabic philosophy, thus, proclaims the inner logic of imagination, the inner form of poetical discourse, that cannot be reduced to the purely rational one; the logic of imagination is the logic of creation, which, even in cases of human creators, is elusive and ambiguous. Nevertheless, such poetical discourse is not only comprehensible, but is also a discourse that can communicate the truth of human existence and its constitutive values; by no means such discourse is to be neglected as 'merely' imaginative and non-logical. Problems of poetry and poetics, as the only acknowledged philosophical and scientific discourse on art at the time, captured the attention of medieval Arabic philosophers in a special way: nothing similar is to be found in Latin tradition.

    Una Popović is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, where she has been a faculty member since 2009; she also teaches at the Academy of Arts, University of Novi Sad. She teaches courses on Medieval Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, Logic, Philosophy of Mathematics, and Philosophy of Art.
    Una Popović completed her BA studies in philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, in 2008. She has a PhD in philosophy (aesthetics, ontology) by the same University (2014); thesis titled ‘Heidegger’s Philosophy of Language’.
    Una Popović is a member of the executive committee of the Aesthetic Society of Serbia and Serbian Philosophical Society. Her research interests lie in the philosophy of language, philosophy of art and phenomenology; recently she is working on projects concerning Baumgarten’s idea of aesthetics, aesthetics of dance, and the image-word relationship in medieval philosophy.


    Organization: Vítor Guerreiro (IF / Petrus Hispanus Project)
    Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy
    Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto - FIL/00502

    Funding: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia.

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