Research Seminar April 29th: Nadja Germann - Between Relativism and Universalism: Language in Early Islamic Thought

Research Seminar April 29th: Nadja Germann - Between Relativism and Universalism: Language in Early Islamic Thought. The seminar will take place in Gilman 449 at 18:00.

11 April 2019

Nadja Germann 

University of Freiburg 
 

Between Relativism and Universalism: Language in Early Islamic Thought

What is language? How did it originate and how does it work? What is its relation to thought and, beyond thought, to reality? Questions like these have been at the center of lively debate ever since the rise of scholarly activities in the Islamic world during the 8th/9th century. In my talk I will contrast two major approaches to issues such as these, approaches, which I tentatively (and somewhat anachronistically) label ‘relativism’ and ‘universalism’ respectively: the first defended by thinkers of the linguistic tradition like Jāḥiẓ, Sīrāfī, and Ibn Jinnī, the second by Fārābī and his fellow Aristotelians in Baghdad. Notably, however, Fārābī not only reacted to, corrected, and nuanced the account of the philologists, but also that of the Aristotelians. He thus paved the way for the development of a philosophy of language that successfully transcended the chasm between the so-called ‘indigenous’ and ‘foreign’ sciences.

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