Assignment 1

SciRev- Fall 2008

Week of 9/10/08



 Syllabus [SciRevF08]

:::::Words:Daniel's Papers and Notes:Galen to Mondino :Heart Pictures:Galenic_Heart_diagram.jpg

This is a synthesis of a few physiological theories, but it reflects the general ideas presented in the Ibn Tufail reading. 

Follow the numered sequence, 1-5, and the arrows.  This is not a circulatory system, this is a one way system, in one end and out the other. 

We will discuss this diagram in much more detail in class.


The Story of Hayy ibn Yaqzan by Ibn Tufayl (ca. 1105-1185). IbnTuf_GoodmTran100dpiJustStory-3.6MB.pdf [This book is out of print, so I had to do this.  Sorry for the poor quality.]  Ibn Tufayl’s name is also spelled, Ibn Tofail, Ibn Tofail, and sometimes called in the West, “Abubacer.” (In Latin the letter “c” is always hard like “k.”) His full name is Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Tufail al-Qaisi al-Andalusi, أبو بكر محمد بن عبد الملك بن محمد بن طفيل القيسي الأندلسي.  If you prefer to read Arabic, here is a link to the text in its original language (or so I am told, I don’t read Arabic):



Read pp. 3-4, skim 95-103, then the story starts… read 103-166.  I have found the footnotes to this translation to be of little interest so I didn’t include them in this PDF. I heavily recommend that you read most if not all of this over the weekend so you can spend time on the homework assignment and so that you can be well prepared for a class discussion.  IbnTuf_GoodmTran-JustStory-secured-3.6MB.pdf  or  IbnTuf_GoodmTran100dpiJustStory-3.6MB.pdf


This is the best example I have come across that demonstrates in one reading how Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism, and Stoicism shaped Allah/God.

It is with and against this general model that subsequent SciRev Natural Philosophers (what we might now refer to as “scientists”) will be thinking and acting. Some theological and physical particulars differ from person to person, and flavor of religion to flavor of religion, but the path from nature to God immediately preceding the Scientific Revolution is generally along these lines.  This story essentially describes an Averroistic and Avicenn-istic natural philosophy (see the short bio of AverroĎs below), a philosophy that heavily influenced people such as Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and Robert Grosseteste in the 13th c. While Europe was in the so-called “Dark Ages,” the Islamic world was flourishing and producing tons of interesting sciency stuff.  See the maps below to get an idea of the sphere of influence.


Aside: Here is a quote from a literary translation of Genesis: “…and wetness would well from the earth to water all the surface of the soil, then the Lord God fashioned the human, humus from the soil, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living creature.”  It is interesting to compare this with the creation of Hayy.


Read over the notes on AverroĎs below and look at this small collection of images from MoorishSpain-1MB.pdf, in the eLibrary. The images are just to give your mind a visual context. 


Draw and write: Come up with a similar story about a character that you may name whatever you want.  Put this character in a similar situation and have him/her discover how the world works.  Just write up one or two episodes describing a moment of exploration and discovery and contemplation.  Model it on a part of the Ibn Tufayl text.  [Meaning, use Ign Tufayl for inspiration or for stylistic ideas.]  You don’t need to write a 70 page essay.  Have your story describe how you think the world works.  You could write something that a person in the year 2408 could use in a class on the history of eclivomatestria. [They won’t use the word “science” in the year 2408 because it will have been co-opted by a religion that worships Newton and the Atomic Bomb…. I don’t know… I’m just making this up.]  The Ibn Tufayl book is a book which describes how the world works.  It is sort of a The World for Dummys for the 12th century.  Illustrate your vignettes any way you want.  But I want some sort of illustration.  Have fun.  Remember, if it was boring to make it will be really boring for me to read.  Keep me interested in what you do.  Entertain and enlighten me.  Hand this in on Thursday.

Addendum: Unless your illustrated comic is really wordy, which is entirely possible, you will probably need to write up a separate commentary.  Explain the illustrations if they are unclear and flesh out the philosophy or the science or the ideas you present.  Fill out the world view that you are presenting.  These should be self-contained works of “art.”  I should be able to give them to anyone on the street (who reads English) and they should be able to get something from them that is reminiscent in some way of the Ibn Tufail reading.

AverroĎs (Ibn Rushd) 1126-1198  from Moorish Spain, born in Cordoba. Known in the West simply as "the Commentator" on Aristotle. He was a judge and physician as well.  He had more influence on Christian philosophers than Islamic ones.  He knew Ibn Tufail personally.

Trivia: He is encountered in Limbo by Dante (Inferno Canto 4) along with Euclid, Galen, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Avicenna, Plato…etc.


He proposed that God thinking of himself is His relationship to the world. [Think about this statement.]


Passive Intelligence is immaterial, eternal, and universal and when actualized, it is one for all men… thus immortality not particular.  (I’ll discuss this in class.) 


Much like Al-Farabi, an earlier Islamic philosopher (d. 950), he considered philosophy to be superior to theology, which he felt relied on metaphor and picturesque language to describe the workings of God.  Theology was useful for ordinary, uneducated people, but philosophers were capable of understanding a higher truth.  This idea, of course, does not play well with theologians, but it sure was attractive to the sciency types.


The first cause is self-evident.  There must be an unmoved mover… Allah/God, meaning that our world had to start at some point, and the starter, the one who need no starting, we shall call God.


The main purpose of man is to become like God.  [This idea is also from Al-Farabi, but is particularly poignant for our reading of Ibn Tufail.]  Think about this.  How do we become like God?  What do we need to do or think or make?


13th C. Christian myth of AverroĎs  [This myth tended to give him a negative image amongst Christian theologians, who, none-the-less studied him intently.]                       


AverroĎs actually proposed..            

AverroĎs was well aware that the individual person should have an individual soul/form after death.  He did not want to promote a collective, undifferentiated soul theory as this would go against scripture. But, according to his reading of Aristotle, it is matter and only matter that gives form individual existence.  Without matter, forms are universals and cannot exist in plural.  Put another way, identical forms without material existence cannot exist as separate forms, they exist as one universal form.  There is only one idea of chair but there are many examples of material chairs.  The problem as AverroĎs saw it, was that the human soul after death was a form without matter and would thus have no individuality, it would just be a universal human form.  His solution was to claim that individuality was maintained in a very subtle matter, “the animal warmth which emanates from the heavenly bodies.”*  He suggested that the soul discarded the dead earthly body and informed this celestial stuff, preserving its material individuality which would otherwise be lost upon death.  [I cannot help but think that this celestial stuff is aether/quintessence/5th-element/spiritus-like stuff.] This is confusing metaphysics.  I am confused and I have yet to read anybody who explains it very well or very confidently.  But this short description should at least give you the idea that AverroĎs took Aristotle very seriously and that his philosophy is very sophisticated.


*See AverroĎs, AverroĎs’ Tahafut al-Falasifah, trans. A. Kamali, Lahore 1958, p. 357.  This text was not available in Latin in the 13th c.


Selected works:          



The sources used for this thumbnail sketch of AverroĎs


Hyman, Arthur, and James J. Walsh. Philosophy in the Middle Ages; the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions. New York,: Harper & Row, 1967,  pp. 281-325.


Lindberg, David C. Theories of Vision from Al-Kindi to Kepler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.


Lindberg, David C. The Beginnings of Western Science : The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. To A.D. 1450. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.


Lindberg, David C. "Medieval Science and Its Religious Context." Osiris 10, no. Constructing Knowledge in the History of Science (1995): 60-79.


Weinberg, Julius R. A Short History of Medieval Philosophy. Princeton, N.J.,: Princeton University Press, 1974.  See especially pp. 127-139.


Themes that were debated in the Middle Ages and played prominent roles in the Scientific Revolution:


Start thinking about what sort of project you would like to work on.  I will be heavily involved in this decision, so don’t feel like you need to pick something out of thin air.  I will probably help you put together an initial bibliography and guide you into a topic that I need to have covered in class. If you have your heart set on something in particular, let me know what it is so that I can think it over and figure out how it will fit into class.



Here is the extent of Islamic rule as of the 8th c.  It was huge.

(I added a bit to the north of this map so that it could be compared to the next map.)



For comparison, here is the Roman Empire at its largest.


Interesting Science News


–If you run across an interesting story, let me know–


Wald- “Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits”

Longer extension cords needed to get to remote wind and solar power generators.


Review Posted 10/10/08


Galenic_Heart-etc-Review-4.4MB.pdf (this is the same one that I posted on Week 0.)




Back to  Syllabus [SciRevF08].