This is a study of the structure and composition of the official learning current in medieval Arabic culture. This comprises natural sciences both exoteric and esoteric (medicine, alchemy, astrology and others), traditional and religious sciences (such as theology, exegesis and grammar), philosophical sciences such as metaphysics and ethics, in addition to technical disciplines like political theory and medicine, and other fields of intellectual endeavour.
The book identifies and develops a number of conceptual elements common to the various areas of official Arabic scientific discourse, and shows how these elements integrate these disparate sciences into an historical epistemic unity. The specific profile of each of these different sciences is described, in terms of its conceptual content, but especially with reference to its historical circumstances. These are seen to be embodied in a number of institutional supports, both intellectual and social: paradigms, schools of thought, institutions of learning, pedagogic techniques, and a body of professionals, all of which combine to form definite, albeit ever renewed, traditions of learning. Finally, an attempt is made to relate Arabic scientific knowledge in the Middle Ages to patterns of scientific and political authority.
First published in 1986.
Preface. Abbreviations. 1. Metaphysical Foundations of Arabic Thought, 1. Hierarchy, Substance and Combination. The Great Chain of Being. The Constitution of Composite Beings. Elemental and Somatic Composites. Composition, Justice and the Social Order 2. Metaphysical Foundations, 2. Relations of Creation, Sympathy and Analogy. Humanity and Spirituality. God and Man. Occult Sympathies. Divine Will and Human Acts 3. A Special Relation: Signification. Knowledge and its Object. Knowledge and the Arabic Language. Interpretation and Symbolism 4. The Constitution of Islamic and Foreign Sciences. The Structure of Scientific Formations. Authority and the Classification of Sciences. The Content and Form of Islamic and Foreign Sciences 5. The Institution and Continuity of Scientific Formations. Criteria of Illicit Knowledge. The Formation of Dogmatic and Legal Schools. The Institutionalisation of Learning. Pedagogic Authority and the Formation of Traditions 6. Concluding Notes. Scientific Knowledge and the Social Order. The Social and Utopian Being of the ‘Ulama’. Official Knowledge and Social Catholicity. Exemplarism, Authority and the Best of All Possible Worlds. Arabic Sources. Index