Arab-Islamic Reception and Development of Hellenistic Science

DOI: 10.4236/ahs.2015.41004   PDF   HTML   XML   3,012 Downloads   3,546 Views  

Abstract

This article is an overview of the Arab-Islamic reception and development of Hellenistic science. It particularly refers to mathematics, physics and astronomy. It focuses on the following topics: 1) Two interpretative models of this reception in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century scholarship: the “Indo-European model” (which supposes a cultural heterogeneity between Greece and Islam) and the “cosmopolitan Hellenistic model” (which supposes homogeneity between the two). 2) The channels through which Hellenistic science was transmitted to the Islamic world: the philological channel, and the oral channel which implies the pre-existence of a common Greek-Semitic cultural ground that made this transmission possible. 3) Three features of the Arab-Islamic sciences that highlight their essential contribution to the emergence of modern science in 16th and 17th century Europe: 3.1. The “democratising” character of the Arab-Islamic sciences resulting from a larger diffusion of literacy. 3.2. The higher precision of measurements and calculations. 3.3. The experimental approach of Muslim scientists. A positive role in the accomplishment of these advances has been played by the non-metaphysical character of orthodox Islamic monotheism. According to Muslim orthodoxy, there are no Neo-Platonic intermediaries between the almighty God and his creation. The whole universe is submitted to the same physical laws. I argue that today it is important to open an interdisciplinary debate on the Arab-Islamic sciences. It would certainly lead to a better appreciation of their historical contribution. It could also suggest answers to contemporary epistemological impasses deriving from the growing gap between the humanities and the sciences.

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Lelli, G. (2015) Arab-Islamic Reception and Development of Hellenistic Science. Advances in Historical Studies, 4, 29-42. doi: 10.4236/ahs.2015.41004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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