Review was published in:
A. V. Smirnov. Logika smisla: teoriya i yeyo prilozheniye k analizy klassicheskoi arabskoi filosofii i kulturi (Logic of Sense: Theory and Its Application in the Analysis of Classical Arabic Philosophy and Culture), Moscow: Yaziki slavyanskoi kulturi, 2001, 504 p, hardback
A.Smirnov is a leading scholar of Islamic Philosophy currently working in Russia. He is the Russian translator of such essential texts as Ibn al-'Arabi's "Fusus al-hikam", Hamid al-Din Kermani's "Rahat al-'aql" and Suhrawardi's "Hikmat al-ishraq". He begins his book by questioning the basic possibility of establishing the meaning of linguistic signs arbitrarily, through mutual agreement. The recent theories of modern philosophy and linguistics, he claims, have only questioned our ability to set the meaning of such signs precisely and have doubted the clarity of their meaning, whereas, according to the author, it is our basic freedom to give the signs their meanings (thus turning them into language signs) which itself ought to be questioned first. Hence, Smirnov's attention is focused on the relationship between the sign and the signified. The relationship of the sign to the signified, he argues, should be described as a complex and logically consistent process, allowing variable realizations and, at least partially, should be accountable for the formation of meaning.
What makes logic of sense different from different systems of formal logic is the former's approach to the notion of sense as a logically consistent entity while the latter investigates the laws of form irrespective of context (and, therefore, is compelled to treat as abstract the things - first and foremost the copula, negation and affirmation - which in fact are not devoid of concrete meaning).
The book consists of an introduction, three chapters and a conclusion. The Introduction examines the approaches to similar problems in modern philosophy (Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, Derrida etc.) and gives a general outline of the category of sense. The first chapter investigates samples of ordinary language usage in classical Arabic culture. The second concentrates on the logic of sense generation on the basis of evidence provided by classical Arabic philosophical thought. The third chapter describes the ultimate intuitions that constitute the foundation for any logic which can generate sense. The conclusion summarizes the theory of sense generation.
To characterize the content of the book in one sentence, it sets down the foundations of a theory which explains laws of sense formation in language. The author makes an attempt to analyze these laws down to their intuitive ("intuition" meaning to him "a capability to arrange (organize) the atoms of thought" (p.399)) foundation which makes it possible for the meaning to emerge as a transformation of certain evidences recognized as valid by our consciousness. Smirnov claims that the basic sense-setting intuitions are different in different (European and classical Arabic) cultures (the author understands "culture" as "culture of thought" (p.451)). These basic intuitions, which he calls "the intuitions of ordering" or "the intuitions of space-time relations", differ in the two logics of sense investigated in the book as the intuitions of "concurrence" (European culture) and "replacement" (Arabic culture).
According to the author, "the logic of sense presents the content of philosophical theories as a result of the development of a limited number of concepts (which he calls "procedural"): unity in its relation to multiplicity, opposition, negation, affirmation and copula" (p.501). These concepts immediately reflect the structure of sense by describing theoretically its constitutive procedure. The way in which they (the procedural concepts) are filled with concrete content is directly determined by the particular set up of the structure of sense. At the higher levels of sense generation they become less obvious - but never disappear completely. Hence, "the irreducible and non-analyzable reminder of any analysis of semantic content is represented by these procedural factors which by that virtue constitute the basis for semantic content generation at any level" (p.502).
In a nutshell, the author believes the main categories of formal logic (copula, negation and affirmation) not to be content-free themselves (as we are inclined to think), since the possibility of an alternative content always exists. Hence, the logical axioms which can be formulated on the basis of these categories also are of an alternative character. This presupposes the existence of at least two systems of formal logic (European and classical Arabic).
To explain his ideas in detail and demonstrate their applicability, the author provides us with a vast number of quotations from classical Arabic philosophical texts, representing virtually every significant branch of classical (up to the fourteenth century) Arabic philosophical thought (Kalam, Peripateticism, the school of illumination, Sufism, Ismailism). An excellent biobibliographical dictionary and an English summary are provided as well. Let us hope that the author will prepare and publish an English (perhaps slightly abridged) version of this pioneering work in the not too distant future.
University of Latvia, Latvia