The Renaissance marked a turning point in Europe’s relationship to Arabic thought. On the one hand, Dag Nikolaus Hasse argues, it was the period in which important Arabic traditions reached the peak of their influence in Europe. On the other hand, it is the time when the West began to forget, and even actively suppress, its debt to Arabic culture. Success and Suppression traces the complex story of Arabic influence on Renaissance thought.
It is often assumed that the Renaissance had little interest in Arabic sciences and philosophy, because humanist polemics from the period attacked Arabic learning and championed Greek civilization. Yet Hasse shows that Renaissance denials of Arabic influence emerged not because scholars of the time rejected that intellectual tradition altogether but because a small group of anti-Arab hard-liners strove to suppress its powerful and persuasive influence. The period witnessed a boom in new translations and multivolume editions of Arabic authors, and European philosophers and scientists incorporated—and often celebrated—Arabic thought in their work, especially in medicine, philosophy, and astrology. But the famous Arabic authorities were a prominent obstacle to the Renaissance project of renewing European academic culture through Greece and Rome, and radical reformers accused Arabic science of linguistic corruption, plagiarism, or irreligion. Hasse shows how a mixture of ideological and scientific motives led to the decline of some Arabic traditions in important areas of European culture, while others continued to flourish.
A must-read for people working on the histories of philosophy, medicine, or science in Renaissance Italy. In this important book, Hasse challenges a reigning paradigm in Renaissance studies, documenting the continuing centrality of the Arabic tradition in Italy and the complex interactions of humanism and Arabism in scientific and philosophical teaching and debates.
Success and Suppression is rich not only in its coverage of topics, but also in the variety of sources consulted and implications pursued. No matter which approach one takes or what background one brings to this book, the very exercise of reading it will bring unmitigated pleasure, if for no other reason than the vast tour d’horizon Hasse offers to the reader.
The fruits of Hasse’s groundbreaking research are now available to a wide readership in [this] lucid and well-documented monograph that offers a nuanced, convincing, and utterly captivating narrative…This is an imminently important and enjoyable book… In a field where he has been a pioneer, Hasse does justice to the complex circumstances which account for the presence or absence of Arabic theories.
- 2018, Winner of the The Sheikh Zayed Book Award
- 688 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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