Thesis ID: CBB001562881

More Than the Sum of Its Parts: Animal Categories and Accretive Logic in Volume One of al-Jahiz's “Kitab al-Hayawan” (2013)


Miller, Jeanne (Author)

Kennedy, Philip F.
New York University

Publication Date: 2013
Edition Details: Advisor: Kennedy, Philip F.
Physical Details: 437 pp.
Language: English

This dissertation is a study of animal categories and the concept of the intercategory in Volume One of the ninth-century polymath Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow]'s Kitab al-H[dotbelow]ayawan, or Book of Animal Life. This volume consists of an introductory debate between Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow] and an unnamed Addressee, followed by a debate between unnamed Proponents of the Dog and the Rooster about the merits and defects of those two animals. Both of these debates focus on the question of whether the dog should be considered horrible because it is intercategory between predator ( sabu` ) and prey (bahima ), the two fundamental animal categories. My dissertation argues that the disparate views of the intercategory represented in these debates reflect different understandings of material beings and their attributes. Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow] advocates, and then demonstrates, a comparative approach to materiality that is inspired by physical theories espoused by speculative theology ( kalam ). This comparative approach denies esoteric essences, and draws on contemporary materialist turns in speculative theology (kalam ) and law (fiqh ). Chapter One describes how a mis-reading of Aristotle's History of Animals in Arabic translation resulted in Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow]'s unique understanding of animal species that I call "large kinds." Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow] used this approach to animal species to naturalize cross-breeds, while preserving their status as intercategory animals. Chapter Two provides a close reading of Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow]'s classification of animals, concluding that the passage is crafted as a critique of the monovalent technical terminology and hierarchical classifications that were key to Aristotelian logic. Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow]'s taxonomy instead seeks grounds for categories already implicit in natural language, but the process reveals that these categories while intuitively clear cannot be unequivocally delineated. Chapter Three examines the introductory debate between Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow] and the unnamed Addressee, concluding that Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow]'s approach to material beings is heavily informed by doctrines about how atoms combine to form a totality. Chapter Four shows that the Dog-Rooster Debate employs a material method, according to which attributes of the dog are treated as separable, and are assessed through comparison to other animals. Al-Jah[dotbelow]iz[dotbelow] here presents a consistent epistemology that relies on a commitment to the usages of natural language, combined with rigorous comparative analysis.


Description Cited in ProQuest Diss. & Thes. . ProQuest Doc. ID 1334956747.

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Authors & Contributors
Sterckx, Roel
Zucker, Arnaud
Herren, Madeleine
Des Chene, Denis
Alakbarli, Farid
Loveland, Jeff
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism
University of Southern California
Classification in biology
Natural history
Bayle, Pierre
Rorario, Girolamo
Linnaeus, Carolus
Levi Ben Gershon
Spinoza, Baruch
Great Britain
Caucasus Mountains (Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia)
18th century
17th century
19th century
Early modern

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