主讲人：Scott Trigg (University of Hong Kong)
讲题：Physical Problems and Philosophical Questions in Islamic Astronomy
The transition from Antiquity to the Islamic period led to two significant developments in the study of the heavens. Astronomy, and astrology, became tied up with theological and philosophical debates over the possibility of causes acting in nature versus the claim that God was in direct control over all the phenomena we might observe. In addition, astronomers criticized aspects of Hellenistic models and displayed an increased concern with the physical causes of celestial motion as opposed to purely mathematical prediction. My talk explores cases in which Islamic astronomers invoked physical or philosophical arguments in support of their claims, illustrating how mental models, thought experiments, and principles from natural philosophy combined with observational evidence to understand the cosmos.
I will pay particular attention to topics found in astronomical commentaries studied or produced by scholars associated with Ulugh Beg’s 15th c. Samarqand observatory and madrasa. I argue that commentaries provide a window into the Islamic classroom and research circle during a period often characterized as one of scientific and intellectual decline. In fact, however, these texts reveal sustained critical engagement with theoretical questions and debates throughout the 13th-15th c. astronomical enterprise, highlighting how commentaries became a key venue for making and transmitting knowledge in Islamic science.
Scott Trigg is a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. He is a historian of science and religion, focusing on astronomy in the Islamic world and astronomers’ engagements with debates over the utility of human reason in understanding the cosmos, and is broadly interested in the study of nature from Antiquity to the early modern period and the cross-cultural transmission of science. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame, and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016.