What is the impact of Islamic philosophy on European philosophy and science


As someone who doesn't know much about Islamic philosophy, I was wondering did Islamic philosophy have any impact on Greek/European/Western philosophy (impact meaning, what philosopher did the Islamic philosophy follow, did Islamic philosophy add more to Greek/European philosophy, sciences etc).

my question is:

  1. Did Islamic philosophy have any impact on Greek/European/Western philosophy (Sorry, I don't know exactly if we can consider middle age Philosophy European or Western)


Posted 2018-08-08T06:36:45.980

Reputation: 435


Our policy is one question per question, and "grand" questions of this sort are not suitable for this site. Please consult online encyclopedias, e.g. SEP's Influence of Arabic and Islamic Philosophy on the Latin West.

– Conifold – 2018-08-08T06:50:15.113

@Conifold, Could you link me the policy, I'm straight open to deleting my question, but i have never heard of such policy, I'm not saying that you are wrong but could you link it ? – captindfru – 2018-08-08T06:54:00.743


"One question per question" is a global SE policy, see Can I ask only one question per post? on Meta SE.

– Conifold – 2018-08-08T07:04:40.820

@captindfru The policies are in the help section, linked to from the bottom of each page. Here is the page on what kinds of questiosn should be avoided. I quote: "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. [...] Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.".

– MichaelK – 2018-08-08T07:10:22.840

agree with Conifold. Good questions with the emphasis on the s. Voting to close as to broad. One question at a time. Please break it up into separate questions... – Swami Vishwananda – 2018-08-08T07:31:41.673

@SwamiVishwananda Could i edit it to include just 1 question? – captindfru – 2018-08-08T09:20:49.450

Edited my question to only include 1 question, Thanks to @Conifold for pointing it out – captindfru – 2018-08-08T09:23:12.033



It is well known that Islamic cultures transmitted our modern 'Arabic' numerals from India, which are far better than Roman ones. Also that they preserved and translated Aristotle, Plato & other classical thinkers. They also produced important thinkers and commenters, especially Avicenna and Averroes, who Western students of philosophy of religion often don't realise were Islamic, but majorly influenced Aquinas among otgers.

There were major contributions in chemistry too, including the invention of distillation (somewhat ironically).

Islam didn't exist when Ancient Greek culture did, but Babylonian thinkers had important impacts, if you consider that relevant. And Egyptians like Ptolemy.

Plenty more on this topic out there: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_world_contributions_to_Medieval_Europe And https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arabic-islamic-influence/


Posted 2018-08-08T06:36:45.980

Reputation: 5 272

Great answer, but did that influence/impact have a change on how we perceive philosophy? Because when you think about it, they just added more to philosophy rather than altering theories. – captindfru – 2018-08-08T13:41:45.320

1@captindfru No offence, but go read up. I would say Islamic thought added considerably to the importance and understand of Aristotle, which was foundational to the development of science. Whereas Christendom picked Plato, who I think Popper nailed in Enemies Of The Open Society, as deeply problematic. – CriglCragl – 2018-08-08T15:05:19.893


There's an out of print book (1978) that's a good starting place. Its titled Philosophy East/Philosophy West: A Critical Comparison of Indian, Chinese, Islamic, and European Philosophy there are 5 authors, the fist two listed are Ben-Ami Scharfstein and Ilai Alon. The authors, after tracing Greek philosophy through the Islamic world, states (p 50):

...Islam belongs philosophically to the Western tradition. I admit that is reducing the number of 'philosophical civilizations' to three [Indian, Chinese, Western] I have been motivated in part by the desire to keep a complicated comparison from growing more so; but I should not have made the decision without what appears to most scholars good reason.

Let me explain myself. The Islamic world is clearly just as worthy of demarcation as the Greco-Roman, Indian, Chinese, or later European worlds. Like the others, the Islamic world was a synthesis drawing on my sources, in its case, Greek, Jewish, Christian, and Iranian, all these unified by its religion, its tradtions, and its revered language, Arabic. It ought to be added, to emphasize the physical dimensions of the synthesis, that the Islamic empire at it height was far greater than the Roman. In relation to philosophical thought, however, the Muslims were basically dependent on the Greeks. Unlike the Greeks, or, for that matter, the Indian or Chinese, they did not have to create philosophy ex nihilo, for history had already provided them with a beginning, Greek, or, rather, Hellenistic philosophy, which they exploited, varied, and sometimes extended with great energy and talent.

and on page 51:

...Islamic thought was inevitably influenced by Indian thought, and there have been scholars who have judged the influence to be strong. THe bold though distinctly atypical al-Razi has been supposed to owe a good deal to Indian influence; the atomism of Islamic theology, kalam, has been supposed to have been largely borrowed from India; and there was certainly some interaction between Islamic and Indian mysticism. But even a partisan of Indian influence is likely to agree that it did not change Islamic philosophy in any basic way.

The relationship between Islamic and Greek philosophy is far more evident and powerful. The Arabic word for 'philosophy' falasafah, meaning, essentially, Aristotelianism (with Neo-Platonic interpolations), indicates where Islamic philosophy originated; and even kalam, which polemicized against the Aristotelian philosophy, would have been impossible if not for Greek ideas and philosophical techniques.[follows a quote from ninth century philosopher Al-Kindi justifying his dependence on Greek philosophy and an eleventh centuty Arab scholar in the same vein]

they then conclude this section (p 52) with:

...the civilizations of Greece, Roman, the Christian West, and Islam (including Judeo-Islamic thought) are branches of the very same tree.

In sections where they do comparisons of Indian and Chinese to the West, they include many examples from the Islamic tradition as part of the West.

Swami Vishwananda

Posted 2018-08-08T06:36:45.980

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