Islamic Philosophy – Al Kindi

Al-Kindi (801-873), the first major Islamic philosopher, was a pioneer in the sciences, cryptography and the experimental method.  He was also one of the scholars that introduced Indian numerals and base ten system to Islam, where it was developed along with other Indian as well as Greek ideas into Algebra.  He wrote numerous medical treatises, including the memorable Treatise on Diseases caused by Phlegm.  I still haven’t read it, but I still remember the title.  Unlike Galileo and Newton, but like Einstein, Al-Kindi argued that time and space are relative, as all things save Being itself (God) are relative, subjective, and contingent, dependent on other things.  Modern scholarship often says that he merged Neo-Platonism and Aristotle together, but he also incorporated Persian Zoroastrianism and Indian logic.

Even though Christians in Europe followed Islamic Alchemy and Astrology for centuries after al-Kindi’s death, he was an early voice against both, saying they were both pseudo-sciences and that the best method of knowledge is strict observation and experimentation.  While ancient cultures observed the natural world and attempted to explain it, mechanical innovations from China as well as developments in mathematics allowed for experiments to be mechanically set up and recorded, extending beyond mere observation with experimentation.  Humanity has always been experimenting with things, but cultures of regular, mechanical and mathematical experimentation became what we know as the specialized, mechanized sciences.

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