The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Something did happen to the Muslim mind

Frank Griffel offers a better defence of post-Crusade Islamic philosophy here: this time against Renan. At least he doesn't slip into cant this time...

Griffel scores some points. We absolutely must include Ibn Khaldûn (d. 1406 AD) among the world's philosophers; I am unsure a pre-Renaissance Christian even could have done what he did. Could we have had Machiavelli (d. 1527) without him? Hobbes (d. 1679)? Even Reilly's great satan Ghazzali was not all that wrong - he was more right than was "Avicenna" Ibn Sina about the place of time within our universe, for instance. (Yo, Big Bang!).

But besides political-science and besides Ghazzali's lucky guess, something did happen to late-mediaeval Islam that did not happen to late-mediaeval Christendom. Or maybe it was the other way around; meh. Either way, whatever philosophy and science the Muslims dreamt up, it wasn't effectual philosophy and science. The Christians got to the New World first; they thought up the joint-stock corporation first, figured out alchemy (the nature of the atom) first.

Maybe it was that Oriental preoccupation with public-order which Griffel mentions. And it wasn't just Muslims; the Hindus, Buddhists, Slavs, and Chinese all shared this. Even some Europeans argued for despotism - we have already noted Hobbes, and my Dark-Enlightenment colleagues would surely add Filmer. But somehow the West found men to argue against Filmer and to build upon Hobbes. More to the point the West allowed other men, scientists and engineers, to develop technologies that might challenge Western kings; which the (greater) Orient largely did not.

And now we must circle back to that horrible Orientalist crypto-racist Reilly, in that it wasn't always that way under Islam either. Something happened; whether or not Reilly has fingered the correct culprit, exact time of death, motive, or weapon. The question Bernard Lewis asked must stand: what went wrong?

posted by Zimri on 21:32 | link | 0 comments

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