Is It Scripture or Not?

On Moments of Conceptual Tertium Datur

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
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  • 1 University of Basel ralph.weber@unibas.ch
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Focusing on examples related to the concept of scripture, I highlight certain moments of indecisiveness in the context of larger processes of possible conceptual change. In these moments, agents involved in the process frequently employ language that in one way or another expresses a conceptual tertium datur. This article sets out to distinguish some of those ways, such as analogy, assertions of resemblance, quasi-status or partial scripturality, oxymoronic adjectival qualification, and exclusivity by selection. The examples draw on four cases, the publication of the Sacred Books of the East series, Petrus Venerabilis's discussion of the Koran, a taxonomy by al-Shahrastānī with regard to the “People of the Book”, and the canonization of the Five Classics in ancient China. Finally, I issue a rallying cry for an entangled and transnational conceptual history. Such an approach is likely to foreground interlingual situations where conceptual indecisiveness is the rule rather than the exception.

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