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Comparative Perspectives in the History and the Philosophy of Science
Editor: Giovanna Lelli
This book highlights the emergence of a new mathematical rationality and the beginning of the mathematisation of physics in Classical Islam. Exchanges between mathematics, physics, linguistics, arts and music were a factor of creativity and progress in the mathematical, the physical and the social sciences. Goods and ideas travelled on a world-scale, mainly through the trade routes connecting East and Southern Asia with the Near East, allowing the transmission of Greek-Arabic medicine to Yuan Muslim China. The development of science, first centred in the Near East, would gradually move to the Western side of the Mediterranean, as a result of Europe’s appropriation of the Arab and Hellenistic heritage. Contributors are Paul Buell, Anas Ghrab, Hossein Masoumi Hamedani, Zeinab Karimian, Giovanna Lelli, Marouane ben Miled, Patricia Radelet-de Grave, and Roshdi Rashed.
Author: Giovanna Lelli


The purpose of this article is to show that the materialistic views of the Arab historian Ibn Khaldūn (1332–1406) expressed in his book known as the Muqaddima (“Introduction”), although geographically and chronologically far from seventeenth—eighteenth centuries’ Europe, anticipated similar intersections between materialism of nature and materialism of society (Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume). Particularly we intend to analyse the meaning of a key-notion in Ibn Khaldūn’s historiography: the notion of “muṭābaqa”. This word literally means “coincidence”, “correspondence”, “conformity” between superimposable entities. In the field of historiography Ibn Khaldūn uses this word with the meaning of coincidence between historical events (waqāʾiʿ) and conditions or circumstances (aḥwāl). We analyse the notion of muṭābaqa as a microcosm of intersections between two great fields: the “system” of classical Arab culture and Khaldūn’s new materialistic conception of history. The latter, in its turn, lies in a zone of intersection between the natural and the social sciences. In our conclusion we highlight that the finalistic and aprioristic aporia inherent in the historical law of muṭābaqa is a most fertile and creative element in Khaldūn’s philosophy of history.

In: Mathematics and Physics in Classical Islam
In: Mathematics and Physics in Classical Islam