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Reviewed by:
  • Against the Greek Logicians
  • Charles E. Butterworth
Ibn Taimiyya . Against the Greek Logicians. Translated with an introduction and notes by Wael B. Hallaq. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Pp. lviii + 204. $55.00.

Wael Hallaq's most readable translation of Ibn Taimiyya's famous work is complemented by a masterful introduction and intelligent, relevant footnotes. In addition, he has taken care to help the reader in many ways, adding, for example, a list of the emendations he has made to the Arabic text as well as a table that details the correspondence between the paragraphs of his translation and the pages and lines within the more standard Arabic texts.

The editor-translator's introduction sets forth Ibn Taimiyya's teaching in a clear and well-argued manner, something that is necessary given the repetitiveness and confusing arguments that characterize the original. Though Hallaq tends to reveal himself to be something of a partisan of Ibn Taimiyya's doctrines and thus to overstate the case for his author, this is a minor flaw. The strength of the Introduction is such that the student of logic or philosophy is compelled to indicate the problems in Hallaq's presentation, that is, to identify the reasons for not being persuaded by his exposition. [End Page 273] To do so, however, is merely a means of carrying the argument a step further and thus a compliment of sorts to Hallaq.

As I see it, there are five areas where one might take issue with the editor-translator's presentation of Ibn Taimiyya's teaching. First, because he follows his author too closely, Hallaq relies too much on Avicenna and on Avicenna's commentators to present the position of the philosophers. He seems to ignore that the teaching of Avicenna—he whom Averroes would identify only as "that man"-—is problematic even for the philosophers. Second, Hallaq relies too much on secondary literature in order to present the history of philosophy. He would have been far better advised to trace the history of philosophy for himself, especially the history of medieval Islamic philosophy. By relying on others, especially those whose interpretations are open to major objections, he weakens his own presentation. This tendency becomes especially evident in what I take as a third point of criticism, namely, Hallaq's too ready conflation of the history of philosophy and consequent willingness to blame ancient and medieval philosophers for the folly of modern philosophers (see xxx, n. 98 and xviii:17-18). Worse, Hallaq eventually becomes so carried away with the desire to refute the ancient and medieval philosophers that he no longer cares about the evil consequences of modern philosophy (see xviii:8-xlix:20, esp. xlviii:8-29). Indeed, and this is the fourth criticism, so intent is Hallaq on confirming that Ibn Taimiyya has refuted the philosophers that he is content to call anyone a philosopher, even al-Suhrawardī, al-Baghdādī, al-Tūsī, and, wonder of wonders, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (see xliv:4). Though he has good guidance for this from Ibn Taimiyya, one would hope for more objectivity from the critical scholar than from the engaged defender of the faith. Finally, Hallaq actually introduces Ibn Taimiyya's wider teaching rather than the argument of this book, thereby neglecting the primary function of an introduction to a book. Thus, of 91 notes in the Introduction that refer to Ibn Taimiyya's works, only slightly more than half (52) cite this work. The other 39 are to Ibn Taimiyya's other writings. Moreover, many of the 52 notes to this work also refer to other writings by Ibn Taimiyya.

Thankful as we must be to Hallaq for this translation, it is most unfortunate that he chose not to be consistent in his translation of Arabic terms. Apparently, he thought he could make more sense of Ibn Taimiyya's argument by translating terms in accordance with what he took to be the sense of what Ibn Taimiyya wished to say rather than in accordance with what he actually says. Consequently, tasdīq (a term I would translate as "assent") is rendered as "judgment"; but so is hukm (see ¶¶ 5 and...


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