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(Original article by Robert Pasnau at Humanities...)

"...In the year 900, by far the most robust and impressive philosophical tradition was found not in Europe, but in the Middle East. Islamic scholars there had embarked on a wholesale program to recover the traditions of Greek philosophy (particularly the works of Aristotle), translate them into Arabic, and rethink their message in light of the newly revealed teachings of the Qur’an. Anyone able to observe from on high these distinct intellectual traditions at the end of the first millennium would surely have put their money on the Muslims as the group most likely to inherit the Greek philosophical legacy, and so it was for several centuries, as a series of brilliant philosophers and scientists made Baghdad the intellectual center of the early medieval world.

Eventually, however, the center shifted—first to the western part of the Islamic world in northern Africa and southern Spain, and then north to Christian Europe. What we call the Middle Ages was, in Islam, the great classical era of philosophy and science. After several centuries of flourishing, however, the study of philosophy and science faded in Muslim countries, even while it was being pursued with increasing vigor in the Latin West.

What happened? How did Western Europe, by the late Middle Ages, become the prime locus for philosophical and scientific research? These are, of course, complex matters. But to see something of the factors at play, we might consider the life and work of Averroës, one of the last great Islamic philosophers, and the one who made the strongest argument on behalf of philosophy. Those arguments would eventually take root, but not where he expected them to..."


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