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The Fate of Ancient Greek Natural Philosophy in the Middle Ages: Islam and Western Christianity

The Fate of Ancient Greek Natural Philosophy in the Middle Ages: Islam and Western Christianity

By Edward Grant

Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 61, No. 3 (2008)

Introduction: The enduring impact of ancient Greek science and natural philosophy on the civilizations of Islam and Latin Christianity is one of the great success stories in the history of the world. The successful transmission of Greek science into Arabic and then of Greek and Arabic science into Latin compels us to speak of “Greco-Islamic-Latin” science in the Middle Ages. It was Greco-Islamic-Latin science and natural philosophy that unquestionably set the stage for the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, which would otherwise have been impossible. The transmittal of science and natural philosophy from Greek to Arabic and from Greek and Arabic to Latin was largely a one way process, a one-way belt of transmission. There was little, if any, backward movement – that is, there were no meaningful translations from Arabic to Greek and from Latin to Arabic and Greek – and therefore no significant interactions between Western Christianity and Islam.

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