182 - Aftermath: Philosophy and Science in the Mongol Age

Posted on 28 June 2014

Philosophy and science survive and even thrive through the coming of the Mongols.

Further Reading

• W. Madelung, “At-Taftazani und die Philosophie,” in D. Perler and U. Rudolph (eds), Logik und Philosophie: Das Organon im arabischen und im lateinischen Mittelalter (Leiden: 2005), 227-38.

• T. May, The Mongol Empire (Edinburgh: 2018).

• D.O. Morgan, The Mongols (Oxford: 1986).

• R. Morrison, “Falsafa and Astronomy After Avicenna: an Evolving Relationship,” in Y.T. Langermann (ed.), Avicenna and His Legacy: a Golden Age of Science and Philosophy (Turnhout: 2009), 307-26.

• A.I. Sabra, “Science and Philosophy in Medieval Islamic Theology: the Evidence of the Fourteenth Century,” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften 9 (1994), 1-42.

Thanks to Heidrun Eichner and Sonja Bretjes for making available to me as yet unpublished work on this period.


Arslan Akhtar 29 June 2014

Wow again such an enlightenment talk !

Concerning Baghdad and Iraq as a whole, read in some recent historiographical works that it already lost its 'prestige' when the central Abbasid powers was weakened by peripheral dynasties and powers (like the Seljuqs you mentioned)and that by the 11th century it already 'culturally' lost to Cairo (which benefited from the Fatimids) and had a rising rival in the shape of Damascus ; it's also interesting remark that at Tusi saved 100.000s of books from the Bayt al Hikma and considering the 'intellectual network' of the region at the time, the most important books were already lying in other libraries by then I guess, but we still need to study/edit all works of the 'major' thinkers (Ibn Sina, Ibn al Haytham, ...) I doubt I'll see a comprehensive study of the pre-1258 manuscripts in my life-time.

About Bar Hebraeus, was quite a genius wasn't he and though I'm totally ignorant of their literature, but it's quite rich to say the least : came across the number of 10,000 manuscripts, quite a number if you consider their population, and I'm sure there are a lot of philosophy (or more like 'philosophical theology' à la al Ghazali) there.

Finally, on Shiraz, it definitely deserves a mention of its own : Muhammad Suheyl Umar has shown the influence of the Shirazi philosophers on the Indo-Pak sub-continent through the sheer number of their names in the region's main curriculum, the Dars e Nizami, which might surprise few but had more works of philosophy than pure religious sciences !
And as if producing philosophers/scientists was not enough, it came up with two of the greatest voices of world poetry : Saadi & Hafez, the latter born only 30 years after the former's passed away (which says a lot about the intellectual/cultural dynamics of Shiraz, and probably the region as a whole).

Hi, thanks and glad you liked the episode! Yes, I agree Baghdad was a fading force before the Mongols came along. And as for Shiraz, just stay tuned for next week's episode which is all about developments in that city.

Isaac of York 4 May 2022

Three separate but related comments, though you'll have to wait for ibn al-Nafis to comment for any originality. 

1) I can't wait for the cross-over episode with the Mongol influence on Chinese philosophy and the connections between the two in the time of Qublai and his successors! (Not a German band, but at least a Coleridge poem?) Any news on this keenl expected.

2) It would be great to get a specialist on to talk about Mongol philosophy and the philosophy of Central Asian nomads more generally. I'm sure there's a lot of philosophical content to find in 'Yasa' and 'Töre' and so forth. 

3) Do you have any thoughts on where to fit classical Persian philosophy in? The trades descriptions act might get you for the Persia-shaped gap between Egyptian-Babylonian (Africana), Roman (Hellenic) and Islamic philosophy.  

Yes, actually one of the more common questions I get has been about "Persian philosophy" - there are several threads about it in comments here on the site. If I had it to do over again, I would probably do a background episode on pre-Islamic Persian culture at the start of the Islamic world episode, like on Zoroastrianism. But for the most part Persian thought is covered very well, with many figures from Persia covered in the series, so I don't feel it is too much of an omission though I know some people would like to see a special category or series just for Persia - but as I've said elsewhere here on the site I'm skeptical that that is necessarily a better way of organizing the material, I see it more as a different option.

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