Keywords: Ibn al-Haytham, Aristotle, Epistemology, Mathematics, Physics, Geometrical conception
Mathematics / Physics
Epistemological reflections on foundational scientific principles become pivotal in the reformative development of specific branches of the sciences. The methodological adjustments that accompany such critical circumstances in the unfolding of scientific knowledge necessitate a reclassification of established concepts by way of accommodating novel theoretical hypotheses or emergent conceptual constructs. Progress within a given scientific discipline depends at times on radical reforms in methodology, which result in rethinking the epistemic models that are shared with other branches in science.
To elucidate these dialectical dimensions in the evolution of innovative scientific rationalities, this study considers the phenomenon of ‘the mathematisation of physics’ in the context of history of the exact sciences in classical Islamic civilisation. This line of inquiry is specifically focused on the 11th century geometrical conception of space by the polymath al-Hasan ibn alHaytham (Alhazen; d. ca. 1041 CE) and his refutation of Aristotle’s physical definition of place.
Nader El-Bizri is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Civilization Studies Program at the American University of Beirut. He has previously taught at the University of Cambridge, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Lincoln. He is also affiliated with The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris.