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July 28, 2003

Libertarian Islam?

Reason has a long interview with the head of a libertarian Islamic think tank-Minaret of Freedom. He has some interesting opinions, though he repeats the old canard that the West would never have had any knowledge of Aristotle without the Muslims, neglecting the influx of Greek scholars into Italy in the mid-15th century with the fall of Byzantium.

Posted by razib at 10:54 PM

And who is responsible for the fall of Byzantium, hmmm?

Posted by: Otto Kerner at July 29, 2003 06:03 AM

Well if Constantinople hadn't fallen - if the Byzantines had won the battle of Manzikert, for example, wouldn't the exchange have taken place anyway? The Europeans were ready for it, hungry for it, and they would have obtainined it one way or another.

Posted by: Dick Thompson at July 29, 2003 07:34 AM

Well-it's incorrect to say that the West would have had no knowledge of Aristotle without the Arabs (Boethius...King Alfred..etc.) but I think George Ross gets it right in this passage:
"The tragedy is that Boethius wasnít a deep philosopher, and he didnít fully understand the philosophy he was trying to save for posterity. The result was that it was dumbed down almost beyond recognition. He was handing on messages he didnít understand to readers who couldnít understand them either. When a philosophical culture began to re-emerge in the West, with the founding of schools and universities in the 11th and 12th centuries, it started from a very low base. Even the greatest thinkers of the time, such as Peter Abelard (1079Ė1142), simply werenít in the same league as even the pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece. Philosophy didnít really get going again until the West started learning, first from the Arabs, and then from the Greeks in the 12th and 13th centuries. Even so, it was many centuries before philosophers were capable of fully appreciating the subtleties of Plato, Aristotle, and others (and some would say we still have a lot to learn)."

Posted by: sliggy at July 29, 2003 08:55 AM

It's only a coincidence, but the domination of Aristotle over Western philosophy started to wane with the arrival of the Greeks. In the period 900--1500 knowledge of Aristotle came almost entirely from Arabic sources, directly or indirectly. And during that period Aristotle was The Man ("Master of those who Know" is what he was called). And despite what they teach you in the atheist Sunday schools, this was a fruitful 500 years. (I'm an atheist, but not a churchgoing atheist).

Muslim supremacy was a fact from about 750 AD until 1000 AD, and up until at least 1300 AD the two cultures competed on an equal status. It's hard to name a Western-European production from the 500-1000 period that's worth bothering with, and almost impossible for the 550-800 period.

And yeah, I've read Beowulf, and it's great, but it doesn't exactly lead to high civilization or science.

Posted by: zizka at July 29, 2003 09:54 PM

mebee a bit weak, but what about bede's ecclesiastical history?

Posted by: razib at July 29, 2003 10:29 PM

The position held by Minaret, or at least their spokesman, is certainly a big improvement over what it competes with, but I myself disagree with much of the politics presented. Decidedly large L libertarianism, anti-Isreal, and anti-neocon. At least he's someone folks like me could debate with.

Posted by: triticale at July 30, 2003 08:28 PM