paper deals with the Arabic translation taṣawwur
in Averroes' Great Commentary
the term τῶν ἀδιαιρέτων νόησις (thinking of the indivisibles) in
Aristotle's De anima
and the Latin translation from
Arabic with (in-)formatio
quoted by Albertus Magnus. I briefly report on the development of the
epistemological meanings of informatio
in the Middle Ages as well as on the loss of the ontological meaning in
Modernity. Eventually, I interpret informatio
in the context of Heidegger's "hermeneutical as". In the conclusion I
suggest a future research dealing with Heidegger and Mullā Sadrā and
Barbara Cassin's concept of the "untranslatables" as a possible path
of thinking concerning "Capurro's trilemma".
Latin, Arabic, and Persian Roots of the Concept of Information
For a detailed analysis of what
follows see (Capurro 2014).
Taṣawwur and taṣdīq in Averroes‘ Great Commentary of Aristotle‘s
De anima, were
translated into Latin by
Michael Scot with (in)formatio and fides. The first concept
addresses the representation
of "indivisible things" (the "ideas") while the second
concept means the predicative judgement (logos apophantikos)
about things using
the composition of names or signs where there is right and wrong.
just formatio or
"conception" (Alain de Libera), as apposed to fides or "assentiment"
(Alain de Libera) means the "thinking of the indivisible" or of the
"simple objects of thought", the Greek term being: τῶν ἀδιαιρέτων νόησις. There
is no single Greek term in Aristotle's De
Anima corresponding to the Latin translation by
Scot of the Arabic term(s) used by Averroes in his Great Commentary quoted by
Albertus Magnus (1193-1206)
a short comment on the concept of informatio "apud
Arabes" in the context of Aristotle's De anima and indirectly to
Averroes, called „the
"Indivisibilium quidem igitur,
quae sunt incomplexa intelligentia sive intelligere, quod est actus
in omnibus his est circa quae non est falsum, eo quod,
INFERIUS ostendemus, numquam accidit error intelligibilium in talium
intellectu. Hic autem intellectus vocatur apud Arabes informatio,
eo quod intelligere talia est informari intellectum possibilem naturis
Aristotle's νόησις or,
more precisely, νόησις
thinking the indivisibles, that was translated from Greek into Arabic
with taṣawwur, from
Arabic into Hebrew with ẓiyyur, and
from Arabic into Latin with (in-)formatio is
an example of a complex history of translations of a Latin concept that
become paradigmatic for our age.
Throughout the Middle
Ages informatio and informo are commonly used
epistemological, ontological, and pedagogical contexts by several
Capurro 1978 and Capurro 2009 for details). The Aristotelian
the higher-level philosophical concept of informatio is
shown at best in the work of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Schütz
distinguishes in his Thomas-Lexikon between informatio in the sense of
"providing something with a form" in an epistemological or
ontological context and the pedagogical sense of education or
Probably the most intriguing
question from the point of view of the history of ideas concerns the
ontological use of informatio — both
in the lower-level sense of "molding matter" as well as in the
higher-level sense used by Scholastics as informatio
materiae — which became obsolete not only in
languages that, like English, inherited the Latin word and slightly
it into information,
retaining the epistemological meaning (Capurro and Hjørland
In the following I summarize
some findings from (Capurro and Hjørland 2003, Capurro 2009 and
The modern uses of information
show a transition period in which the medieval ontological concept of
"molding matter" is not just abandoned but reshaped under empirical
and epistemological premises.
The action of 'informing' with
some active or essential quality" had, according to the Oxford English Dictionary "a
quite restrictive use" not only in English, but also in other modern
European languages, and references on "formation or molding of the mind
character, training, instruction, teaching" date from the 14th century.
This transition from Middle
to Modernity in the use of the concept of information — from
"giving a (substantial) form to matter" to "communicating
something to someone" — can be detected in the natural
of René Descartes (1596-1650), who calls ideas the "forms of
thought," not in the sense that these are "pictured"
("depictae") in some part of the brain, but "as far as they
inform the spirit itself oriented to this part of the brain" ("sed
tantum quatenus mentem ipsam in allem cerebri partem conversam
(Descartes 1996, VII, 161). but also, for instance, in German where the
word Information was
actually used in the sense of education and communication since the
literally translated — first in a mystical context as in-Bildunge or in-Formunge; later on in a
pedagogical sense, such as used by Christoph Martin Wieland
(1733-1813) — with Bildung,
a term heavily charged with higher-level meaning (Capurro 1978, p.
A plausible explanation for
loss of the ontological higher-level sense is the decline of Scholastic philosophy caused by the rise of
Nevertheless, the concept of
information ceases to be a higher-level concept until the rise of
theory in the 20th century. Philosophers such as Francis Bacon
John Locke (1632-1704), George Berkeley (1685-1753), David Hume
and Thomas Reid (1711-1796) criticize scholastic hylomorphism and
the theory of abstraction.
It is interesting to observe
the concept of information is closely connected to views of knowledge.
conclusion is important with regard to the use of the concept of
information science, because it indicates a severly neglected
between theories of information and theories of knowledge (Capurro and
as Hermeneutical As
The Aristotelian „thinking
the indivisibles“(νόησις τῶν ἀδιαιρέτων) (taṣawwur,
(in-)formatio) that precedes the action of the intellect
with the composition in predication (taṣdīq,
fides), can be translated into Heidegger's difference
"hermeneutical as" and the „apophantic as“ (Heidegger 1976, § 33).
The philosopher and
theologian Thomas Sheehan writes in his "Hermeneia and
The early Heidegger on Aristotle":
noun hermeneia (or the verb hermeneuo) in Aristotle has a
two specifications. Generically it means expression, manifestation, or
communication (semainein). In
increasingly determinate specification it
then mean: verbal semainein,
called lexis or dialectos; and declarative
verbal semainein, called apophansis or logos apophantikos.
hermeneia-1 hermeneia-2 hermeneia-3 [semainein]: [legein]:
or communication in any form;
or communication in discourse;
or communication in declarative sentences.
synthesize is to distinguish, and the assertoric synthesis-distinction
"apophantic as" operative in hermeneia-3) rests on the prepredicative
synthesis-distinction of entities and their practical essence; and for
Heidegger that composition and division is performed on the basis of
original (i.e. the hermeneutical) as. This unified as-structure, rooted
in praxis, that Heidegger
retrieved from Aristotle's discussion of hermeneia led
to the issues of transcendence and ultimately temporality. Heidegger
interpreted human beings, insofar as they already know the
of entities, as transcendence, i.e., as being already beyond entities
disclosive of the possibilities in terms of which entities can be
This kinetic exceeding of entities he called the human being's
Immer-schon-vorweg-sein, his condition of being "always already
ahead" of entities.
movement is the co-performance of disclosure in humanely primordial
it corresponds to the diairesis-moment of the hermeneutical as. In the
version of his course Die
der Metaphysik (February 27, 1930) Heidegger said that diairesis, seen as
human transcendence, "pulls us as under, as it [p.
were, and grants us a stretching-ahead, takes us away into the
." But at the same time the human being returns from that
transcendence to entities so as to know them in terms of possibility,
"so as to allow the possible — as what empowers the actual — to speak
to the actual in a binding way... , binding or bonding it: synthesis.
the unity of diairesis as
transcendence to the essence of beings and synthesis as the return to beings
in their essence points to the
grounds the hermeneutical as, just as the hermeneutical as in turn
possible the truth and falsehood of Aristotle's hermeneia-3." (Sheehan
In other words, the „thinking
(of) the indivisibles that was translated into arabic as taṣawwur and into Latin as
„(in-formatio)," i.e., that
what precedes the action of the
dealing with the composition and division that takes place in
predication (taṣdīq, fides),
can be translated into
Heidegger's difference between "hermeneutical as" and "apophantic
The insight into human
existence as time
metaphysically and theologically preceded by understanding humans as already being and
after death, of a divine being with or without their individuality, an
that was and is controversial and fundamental for Greek, Latin, Arabic,
and Persian thinkers of the Middle Ages no less than in the Islamic and
tradition after Averroes all the way up until today.
between Mullā Sadrā (1572-1640) and Martin Heidegger
seems to me
an interesting topic for future research not only concerning the
between essence and existence but also with regard to the relation
and pre-understanding and tasawwur and tasdiq.
I quote from Wikipedia
[...] was the most prominent Iranian Shia Islamic
philosopher, theologian and ‘Ālim who led
the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century.
to Oliver Leaman, Mulla Sadra is arguably the single most
influential philosopher in the Muslim world in the last four hundred
[...] Mullā Sadrā metaphysics gave priority "Ab initio" to
existence, over quiddity. That is to say, essences are determined
variable according to existential "intensity", (to use Henry Corbin's
definition), and as such essences are not immutable. The advantage
schema is that it is acceptable to the fundamental statements of the
as it does not necessarily debilitate any previous Islamic
Aristotelian or Platonic foundations.“
What is information? It is one
of the „untranslatables“ addressed by Barbara Cassin in her
des Philosophies. Dictionnaire des intraduisibles“ when
d‘intraduisibles n‘implique nullement que les termes en question, ou
expressions, les tours syntaxiques et grammaticaux, ne soient pas
ne puissent pas l‘être
– l’intraduisible, c’est plutôt ce qu’on ne cesse pas de (ne pas)
traduire. Mais cela signale que leur traduction, dans une langue ou
l’autre, fait problème, au point de susciter parfois un
l’imposition d’un nouveau sens sur un vieux mot: c’est un indice de la
don’t, d’une langue à l’autre, tant les mots que les
réseaux conceptuels ne
sont pas superposables […]” (Cassin, 2004, p. xvii-xviii)
This might be a path of
(and action) for dealing with „Capurro‘s trilemma“ as addressed by
Fleissner and Wolfgang Hofkirchner. The concept of
- The same
in all contexts, such that qualitative changes are not grasped.
between the references. In this case there a question arises about the
or basic reference to which analogical concepts refer.
qualitatively distinct references may exist. In this case the
information are equivocal (Fleissner and Hofkirchner 1995).
This research is not just
historically relevant but also a key issue for an intercultural
dialogue about the information society.
I thank Joseph Brenner for critical comments.
R. Apud Arabes.
Notes on the Greek, Latin,
Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew Roots of the Concept of Information. 2014 http://www.capurro.de/iran.html
R. Information. Munich: Saur
R. Past, present and future of the concept of information. tripleC 2009, 7, 125-141. http://www.capurro.de/infoconcept.pdf
R.; Hjørland, B. The Concept of Information. In Annual Review of Information Science and
B. Cronin Ed.; Information Today: Medford, New Jersey,
2003, pp. 343-411. http://www.capurro.de/infoconcept.html
européen des Philosophies. Dictionnaire des
intraduisibles. Paris: Seuil, 2004.
P.; Hofkirchner, W. In-formatio
revisited. Wider dem dinglichen Informationsbegriff. Informatik Forum 1995, 8, 126-131.
Heidegger, M. Sein und Zeit.
Tübingen: Niemeyer 1976 (Engl. transl. Being and Time, J.
Machquarrie & E. Robinson, Basil Balckwell 1987).
Heidegger, M. Die Grundbegriffe der
Metaphysik. Welt - Endlichkeit - Einsamkeit. Frankfurt am Mein:
Klostermann 1983 (GA 29/30)..
Apophansis: The early Heidegger on Aristotle. In Heidegger et l'idée de la
Volpi et al. (Eds.), Dordrecht:
Kluwer, 1988; pp. 67-80.
9. Wikipedia: Mullā Sadrā http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulla_Sadra