AHS  Vol.4 No.1 , March 2015
Arab-Islamic Reception and Development of Hellenistic Science
Author(s) Giovanna Lelli
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.

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