This dissertation is a study of animal categories and the concept of the intercategory in Volume One of the ninth-century polymath Al-Jāhiz's Kitāb al-Hayawān, or Book of Animal Life. This volume consists of an introductory debate between Al-Jāhiz 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-Jāhiz 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-Jāhiz's unique understanding of animal species that I call "large kinds." Al-Jāhiz 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-Jāhiz'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-Jāhiz'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-Jāhiz and the unnamed Addressee, concluding that Al-Jāhiz'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-Jāhiz here presents a consistent epistemology that relies on a commitment to the usages of natural language, combined with rigorous comparative analysis.
|Advisor:||Kennedy, Philip F.|
|Commitee:||Katz, Marion H., Lezra, Jaques, Montgomery, James E., Rowson, Everett K.|
|School:||New York University|
|Department:||Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Middle Eastern literature, Religious history, Science history|
|Keywords:||Accretive logic, Animal categories, Debate, Epistemology, Horror, Intercategory, Jahiz, Kitab al-Hayawan, Monster, Taxonomy|
Copyright in each Dissertation and Thesis is retained by the author. All Rights Reserved
The supplemental file or files you are about to download were provided to ProQuest by the author as part of a
dissertation or thesis. The supplemental files are provided "AS IS" without warranty. ProQuest is not responsible for the
content, format or impact on the supplemental file(s) on our system. in some cases, the file type may be unknown or
may be a .exe file. We recommend caution as you open such files.
Copyright of the original materials contained in the supplemental file is retained by the author and your access to the
supplemental files is subject to the ProQuest Terms and Conditions of use.
Depending on the size of the file(s) you are downloading, the system may take some time to download them. Please be