Antun Sa’adeh: A Critical Thinker

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By Dr. Edmond Melhem

Sa´adeh was a propagator of logic and its principles. Like Aristotle and other scholastic and analytical philosophers, he regarded logic as an important tool and used it to produce clear ideas, valid arguments and cogent conclusions. In all his writings, he seemed to follow the principles of critical thinking, employing logic in his analysis of arguments. Logic, it must be noted, is recognized as the science of valid reasoning. It is the tool that distinguishes between valid and invalid arguments. It enables us to determine whether there is a contradiction between the assertion of the premises of an argument and the denial of the conclusion. Sa´adeh closely observed the law of contradiction. He demonstrated an increasing philosophical skill by recognizing invalid or fallacious arguments when committed by others. This skill is particularly evident in his refutation of Rashid Salim al-Khouri’s views.

Like every philosopher, Sa´adeh employs in Islam in its Two Messages an indispensable tool: argumentation. He tends to question statements made by Rashid Salim al-Khouri (known as Al-Qarawi), often accusing him of being illogical and demonstrating that his arguments contain mistaken beliefs and fallacies and, therefore, lead to unsound or invalid conclusions. On the other hand, Sa´adeh tends to state his premises explicitly. He arrives at his persuasive propositions, which are the conclusions of his deductive arguments, through the process of inference.

The logic that Sa´adeh employed is based on the Stoic system and its five inference-schemas or “undemonstrated” argument, as they are sometimes called. In his discourse on the methodology of Sa´adeh, Haydar Hajj Isma’il asserts that Stoic logic is a dominant characteristic of Sa´adeh’s style in his speech and writings. He quotes a sample of Sa´adeh’s phrases to show that the Stoic logic is clearly evident in his public-speaking. Historically, Stoic logic was devised by the Stoic school under the Syrian philosopher (of Citium, in Cyprus) Zeno (ca. 336-264 B.C.) , whom Sa´adeh refers to him in his writings and proudly mentions in his elucidation on the seventh basic principle of his party. In fact, modern logic has its roots in Stoic logic. As pointed out by the eminent Polish logician Lukasiewicz, “not only material implication but also many important concepts and methods of modern logic had been anticipated in the writings of the early Stoics”. According to Benson Mates the period of Aristotelian dominance in logic, which lasted over two thousand years, “might well have ended sooner if certain ancient [Stoic] texts had been studied more carefully”.

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