Islamic Scientific Tradition in History


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Human nature has an extremely complicated system. It is built upon layers of more complicated systems, some of which are biological and as such, accessible in experimental studies, whereas some of them appear as manifestations of these experimentally accessible systems eluding any experimental and observational scrutiny. Most of the issues to be dealt with in this chapter fall within the second category of human nature. There are some issues that seem to be accessible in experimental approach but when they are investigated deeply, one comes across impediments to be overcome and puzzles to be solved. As this may be the case, this study shall deal basically with two issues; one is the notion of “tradition” as reflected in the phrase used in the title of the book “scientific tradition,” and the other topic is the nature and historical process of such a tradition in Islamic civilization.

The first issue, namely tradition which mainly falls within the area of a sociological study may seem at first sight to present a problem to examine in relation to a human activity, the product of which is known as ‘science,’ that is primarily epistemological in nature. This problem actually forces us to pay attention to human nature in order to show that any human behavior is, no matter out of which system in our body it springs, is necessarily performed within a community and as such, it inevitably carries the character of the social context. This makes every human activity necessarily sociological which we shall briefly outline in this introduction.

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