Alfarabi, Book of Letters (<em>Kitab Al-Huruf</em>)

Alfarabi, Book of Letters (Kitab Al-Huruf)

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Alfarabi, Book of Letters (Kitab Al-Huruf)

English Translation with Introduction, Interpretive Essay and Annotations, plus Muhsin Mahdi's revised edition of the Arabic text.

About the Book

In this work, in what seems to be a discussion of Aristotle’s Metaphysics—often referred to by the letters of its chapters—and thus something like a “book of letters,” Alfarabi traces the development of logic and language as they affect the relationship between syllogistic inquiry, philosophy, and religion.

Presented here is a complete translation of the work—the first in English or any language—and a new Arabic edition of the text Muhsin Mahdi was working on prior to his death. 

The work is divided into three parts. Part 1 introduces the letters or particles termed “categories” by Aristotle in his logic and discussed summarily in the Metaphysics. Alfarabi shows how they lead from the Categories through De Interpretatione to the beginnings of syllogistic reasoning and the concepts investigated in the Physics, De Anima, and Metaphysics: substance, essence, and being or existence. Part 2 begins with an exploration of the origin of human religion, turns to a narration about the origin of language, and concludes with an account of philosophy’s relation to religion. It also provides an exposition of the development of the syllogistic arts. Part 3 continues that exposition by exploring how the interrogative particles used in those arts contribute to investigations carried out in philosophy and the sciences, especially divine science. In the process, Alfarabi questions the limits of demonstrative reasoning and points to the epistemological advantages offered by dialectic.

About the Author

Charles Butterworth is emeritus professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. His publications include critical Arabic editions of most of the Middle Commentaries written by Averroes on Aristotle’s logic and English translations of three of them. He has also translated many of Alfarabi’s political treatises, including the Selected Aphorisms, Book of Religion, Harmonization of the Two Opinions of the Two Sages: Plato the Divine and Aristotle, Political Regime, and Summary of Plato’s Laws, in addition to Averroes’s famous Decisive Treatise, and various writings by Alrazi and Maimonides. 

Trained in political philosophy and Arabic as well as Islamic civilization at the University of Chicago, where he received an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science, Charles Butterworth also studied at the University of Ayn Shams in Egypt and the University of Bordeaux as well as the University of Nancy in France (receiving a doctorate in philosophy from the latter). He received his B.A. from Michigan State University.

For several years, he was the Principal Investigator for the Smithsonian-sponsored Medieval Islamic Logic project in Cairo, Egypt. He has also been the Principal Investigator for a similar project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and has organized a two-week Salzburg Seminar, “The Commonality of Cultural Traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.”

Author: Charles E. Butterworth

Foreword By Hamza Yusuf

Binding: Hardcover


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