A Perspective on Scientific Traditions in an Islamicate Context: Assimilation, Development and Dissemination

Theo Loinaz

Professor at the Department of Classical, Romance and Semitic Philology, University of Barcelona

After the consolidation of the caliphate from the late 8th century in al-Andalus, a very significant cultural emergence and blooming takes place. The Arab-Islamic colonisation leads to a complex, multi-ethnic and multireligious society whose elites are ready to recognise the scientific superiority of the Other and willing to learn from it. Thus, the science of the ancients, thanks to a determined translation activity, is studied and assimilated, and each text is built upon a sedimentation of layers and layers of knowledge. This cultivation of sciences, brought about under the critical perspective of Islamic orthodoxy, is definitively backed by the universalisation of paper as a primary writing medium. Today, understanding the mark left on modern science by the Islamicate tradition is essential for challenging the false dichotomy between Europe and Islam.

Preliminary Issues: Science and Its Subjects

The main objective of this brief text is to provide a theoretical framework for the Jornades Gatzara 2023 and is not in any way intended to contribute to the existing syntheses of the history of science and technology in Islamicate societies.1 Instead, we wish to take the opportunity that this conference gives us to apply an approach that is somewhat different from the usual one, not only

more informative but also more socially aware. We do not seek so much to establish the details (names, dates, titles) of a descriptive narrative as to explore this history as an example of a process of constructive integration – which is quite distinct from the annihilating assimilation of diversity –, from which perhaps lessons can be learnt for the present and, above all, the future.

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