Expansion into Syria put Arabs in contact with the works of Plato, Aristotle and neo-Platonists. In the mid-800s, during the golden age of Abbasid rule out of Baghdad, an Arab Muslim, al-Kindi, was a prominent figure there and appointed by a number of Abbasid Caliphs to oversee the translation of Greek scientific and philosophical texts into Arabic.
Al-Kindi has been described as the first of the Muslim philosophers influenced by Aristotle – referred to as peripatetic philosophy, meaning walking around with Aristotle.
Al-Kindi tried to combine Aristotelian philosophy with orthodox Muslim theology three centuries before Thomas Aquinas was doing the same with Aristotle and Christianity. Al-kindi was interested in science, mathematics, logic, chemistry, cosmology, meteorology, medicine, psychology, optics and music theory. He was also interested in the nature of God, the soul and prophecies.
His translation of Aristotle, The Theology of Aristotle, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell described as having "introduced great confusion ... from which it took Arabic philosophy centuries to recover."
Al-Kindi's impressions included his belief in the Ptolemaic view of the solar system – a belief he shared with Aristotle – that the sun, moon, planets and stars move around the earth. He described these other bodies as rational entities whose circular motion was their worship of and obedience to Allah.
Al-Kindi bought Aristotle's gravity theory about bodies having a will to rush to the center of the earth – the imagined center of the universe. And he had other misconceptions about celestial bodies and elements common during his age. But he did believe in laboratory work and experimentation. He was the first to describe the production of pure distilled alcohol from the distillation of wine. And he created recipes for perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
He was concerned with air, water and soil contaminations. In medicine, he developed a mathematical scale to quantify the strength of a drug and he provided the first scientific explanation and treatment for epilepsy. Wikipedia describes him as "partly influenced by the ideas of Galen, and partly by his own personal experience and other Muslim physicians in his time."
He could hardly go wrong in introducing Muslims to the decimal system, borrowed from the Babylonians, India or wherever – and eventually to find its way to Western Europe.
He stated that revelation was a superior source of knowledge to reason because it guaranteed matters of faith that reason could not uncover. On the other hand, he stated that "We must not hesitate to recognize the truth and to accept it no matter what is its origin, no matter if it comes to us from the ancients or from foreign people."
Al-Kindi enjoyed the patronage of the caliphs, al-Ma'mun and a-Mu'tasim, but caliph rule was deteriorating and there was more concern with Islamic orthodoxy, with al-Kindi losing caliph support and attacked for straying from orthodoxy.
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