Panpsychism and Mathematical Humanism in Arabic and Persian Classifications of the Sciences

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  Thursday, September 16, 2021
  12 - 1:30 p.m.
  Zoom
  Dr. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, University of South Carolina

The most influential Arabic and Persian classifications of the sciences produced during the twelfth to seventeenth centuries were explicitly predicated on a panpsychist cosmology, and hence frequently occult: mind-matter and mind-mind interactions are taken for granted as a basis for philosophy-science. To read these sources through the lens of materialist cosmology instead, as modern historians have usually done, is therefore to do violence to their epistemologies and ontologies, making impossible an accurate and proportional history of Islamic Science. Yet panpsychism—current in the Western tradition from Pythagoras to Peirce—is again coming back into vogue in certain corners of the Euro-American academy, including among prominent physicists, philosophers, philosophers of science, cognitive scientists, parapsychologists and even theologians. I propose that Islamic intellectual historians take advantage of this turn to revisit our sources. Here a focus on the occult sciences is especially illuminating, given their status in many of these encyclopedias as the only disciplines to formally transcend the otherwise strict epistemic and generic divide between the natural and the mathematical sciences specifically and the rational and the religious sciences generally. By the same token, certain prestige occult sciences appear to have been a primary vector for the emergence of "mathematical humanism" in the early modern period, and must therefore be considered integral to the mathesis narrative of the scientific Rise of the West.

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