The Mechanical Interpretation of Aristotle’s Understanding of The Universe By Islamic Astronomers and Alternative Models Leading to This Interpretation
Yavuz UNAT1, Fatma Zehra PATTABANOĞLU2
1Kastamonu Üniversitesi İnsan ve Toplum Bilimleri Fakültesi, Felsefe Bölümü, Kastamonu/Türkiye
2Kastamonu Üniversitesi İnsan ve Toplum Bilimleri Fakültesi, Felsefe Bölümü. Kastamonu/Türkiye
Keywords: Mechanical worlds, Aristotle, Ptolemaios, Islamic astronomers, Copernicus
Scientific theories to describe and construct the motions of planets and stars at the beginning of the history of astronomy; it has gone through three stages: mathematical, physical, both mathematical and physical. Classical period Islamic astronomy scholars generally adopted the third stage, the theory of celestial mechanics, where they wanted to combine the kinematic approach of Ptolemy and the dynamic approach of Aristotle. During the renewal period of Islamic thought, astronomers continued to develop alternative models against Ptolemy. Thus, they sought solutions to the problems that occurred between long-standing observations and mathematical models.
The efforts of Islamic scholars to create an alternative model against Ptolemy and their effects on Copernicus have been discussed by many researchers such as Edward Kennedy, Victor Roberts, George Saliba, Jamil Ragep and Morrison. For example, Noel Swerdlow and Otto Neugebauer described Copernicus as “the last astronomer of the Merâga Observatory in the astronomical tradition”. Similar studies are ongoing. Although definitive proofs on whom and how this effect occurred have not been fully presented, there are serious studies on the transfer of Islamic astronomy to the West. Although this transfer process is partially mentioned in the article, the main purpose is to show that mechanical interpretation of the universe, which led to the start of Copernicus astronomy, was studied by Islamic scholars before him and these studies formed the basis of the Western modernization process. What is meant by the mechanical interpretation of the universe is model adaptations in which the unchanging and perfect physical structure of the universe, systemized by Aristotle, is discussed together with the mathematical interpretation that Ptolemaios constructed. This physical and mathematical structure has kept scientific historians busy until Kepler.
Since the 11th century, Islamic astronomers have tried to harmonize Ptolemy’s al-Macistî (Almagest) with Aristotle’s cosmology, showing that it is full of contradictions. The first serious criticism came from Ibn al-Haytham (d. 1040) due to the physical inadequacy of Ptolemy’s mathematical model. Islamic scholars, who interpreted Aristotelian physics and Ptolemaic astronomy based on their own research, were the representatives of enlightenment until the 16th century, thanks to models such as Ṭūsī-couple, Urḍī lemma, and Ibn Shatir’s double epicycle instrument. In this respect, important names such as Urdi (d. 1266), et- Ṭūsī (d. 1274), al-Shirazī (d. 1311), Ibn Shatir (d. 1375) and Ali Kuşçu (d. 1474) can be mentioned. Copernicus, who established the heliocentric system, started out from the contradictions and solutions that Muslim astronomers tried to find solutions to. In other words, it can be said that Muslim astronomers and the alternative science style they created influenced the pre-modern period and became the driving force of the scientific revolution. In this study, these models will be discussed and their effects in terms of astronomy and science history will be discussed.