ARISTOTLE'S METEOROLOGY AND ITS RECEPTION IN THE ARAB WORLD
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 Aristotles Meteorology And Its Reception In The Arab World
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Abū l-Ḵayr Ḥasan Ibn Suwār Ibn Al-ḴammārIbn BājjaPaul Lettinck
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518
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ARISTOTLE’S METEOROLOGY AND ITS RECEPTION IN THE ARAB WORLD – Book Sample

INTRODUCTION – ARISTOTLE’S METEOROLOGY AND ITS RECEPTION IN THE ARAB WORLD

1. Meteorological treatises in the Arab world

Meteorological phenomena have aroused the interest of Arabic speaking people because they were part of their daily life. The reflec­tion of this ‘practical’ interest is found in the works of poets, gram­marians and lexicographers. Various aspects of this Arabic meteoro­logical tradition, such as astrometeorology prognostication and the views on seasons, winds, clouds, precipitation and weather-signs have been investigated by Sersen in the first part of his dissertation on Arab meteorology.

He also discussed superstitious beliefs connected with certain natural phenomena that were reported in cosmographical literature, such as miraculous springs and beliefs inspired by whirlwinds and waterspouts.

Besides this practical tradition there also existed a theoretical one that considered meteorological phenomena within the framework of a theory intending to explain them. This tradition links up with Greek philosophy, especially that of Aristotle.

The discipline dealing with meteorological phenomena from this point of view is known as the ‘science of the upper phenomena’ (‘ilm al-ii[iir al-‘ulwiyya) and appears under this name in the enumerations of sciences, such as ll:z$ii’ al-‘ulum by al-Farabi (t 950), Mafiiti}:z al-‘ulum by al-Kwarizmi (ti. 980) and the Rasfiil of the Ik_wan 􀁾-Safa’ (end 10th century).1 The literature concerned consists of paraphrases of and commentaries on Aristotle’s Meteorology and other treatises on meteorology inspired by Aristotle, written by philosophers such as al-Kindi (t ±873), Ibn Sina (t 1037), lbn Bajja (t 1138) and Ibn Rusd (t 1198).

The subject was also treated, with a different approach, by cosmographers, geographers, encyclopedists and by writers of adab literature (‘belles lettres’) and even in heresio­graphies and books on medicine. Authors belonging to this category are ‘Ali ibn Rabban ar-Tabari (t ±860) (Firdaus al-J:zikma), an-Nasi’ (t 906) (Al-kitiib al-awsa0, al-Mas’iidi (t 965) (Kitiib at-Tanb’ih), al-Maqdisi (fl. 960) (Kitiib Bad’ al-􀀠alq wa-t-ta’ri􀀤, lbn al-‘Amid (t 976) (Ar-rasii’il al-‘Amidiyya ilii ‘Acf.ud ad-Daw/a and Risiila fi 1-}:zumra f “i l-jaww), Ik_wan a􀂪,Safa’ (end 10th century) (Rasii’i/), at-Tifasi (t 1253)(Surur an-nafs bi-madiirik al-}:zawass al-Iiams), al-Qazwini (t 1283)

(Kitab ‘Aja’ib al-ma!fluqat), al-Watwat (t 1318) (Manahij al-fikar wa-mabahij al-‘ibar), ad-Dimasqi (t 1327) (Kitab N􀀝bat ad-dahr fi, ‘aga’ib al-barr wa-1-bafzr), Najm ad-Din (fl. 1332) (Jami’ al-funun wa-salwat al-mafzzun) and an-Nuwayri (t 1333) (Nihayat al-arab). These authors will not be our main interest in this book. Some information on what they wrote on meteorological subjects is to be found in Sezgin, GAS VII (e.g. on Jabir ibn l:fayyan, ‘Ali ibn Rabban ar-Tabari, al-Mas’udi, al-Maqdisi, Ibn al-‘Amid and Ikwan 􀁣-Safa’), ·in Daiber’s edition and commentary of l:funayn ibn lshaq’s Compendium of the Meteorology 2 (e.g. on ‘Ali ibn Rabban at-Tabari, an-Nasi’, al-Maqdisi, ]kwan 􀀁-sarn•, al-Qazwini, ad-Dimasqi and an-Nuwayri) and in his edition and commentary of letters by Ibn al-‘Amid3 Sersen discusses al-Mas’udi, al-Maqdisi, the ]kwan 􀂏-Safa’, al-Qazwini, Najm ad-Din and an-Nuwayri. He investigates their accounts of the wind and of clouds and precipitation and concludes that they were all (except al-Maqdisi) influenced by Theophrastus’ meteorological doctrines rather than those of Aristotle. Whether this is true or not will be discussed below pp. 111 and 176–177.

Our main concern in this book will be the treatises on meteorology written by the philosophers that were inspired by Aristotle’s M eteoro­logy. These works include a number of letters by al-Kindi, the chapters on meteorological phenomena from the Kitab as-Sifa by Ibn Sina and the Short and Middle Commentary on the Meteorology by Ibn Rusd. Two other works belonging to this category will also be discussed, namely the Treatise on Meteorological Phenomena by Ibn Suwar ibn al-Kammar (t ±1030) and Ibn Bajja’s Commentary on the Meteorology. They have not been published before; they form important additional material for the study of how the Meteorology was received in the Arab world and have in their turn influenced other Arabic writers on meteorology. Therefore we have included an edition and translation of these works in this book.

Furthermore we shall consider the meteorological sections of the encyclopedic works of Bahmanyar ibn al-Marzuban (t 1067) (Kitab at-Tafzfil), Abu I-Barakat al-Bagdadi (t 1165) (Kitab al-Mu’tabar) and Fakr ad-Din ar-Razi (t 1209) (Kitab al-Mabal:,,it al-masriqiyya). We have grouped these authors under the heading ‘School of Ibn Sina’, because their books were inspired by and modelled on lbn Sina’s Kitab as-Sifa’. This does not imply that they always follow Ibn Sina’s doctrines. It is well known that Abu I-Barakat and Fakr ad-Din differ….

STRUCTURE OF THE ATMOSPHERE; THE DOUBLE EXHALATION

1. Aristotle

Chapters U and 2 of Aristotle’s Meteorology are introductory. In 1,1 Aristotle determines the place of the book in relation to his other books on natural philosophy. He first mentions the subjects treated in his previous books on natural philosophy (Physics, On the Heaven, On Generation and Corruption). Then he states that his book on Meteoro­logy deals with those natural phenomena that occur with a regularity which is less perfect than that of the heavenly phenomena.

The places where these phenomena occur are between the earth and the lowest heavenly sphere (i.e. the sphere of the moon), on the surface of the earth, and also within the earth. He enumerates the subjects to be treated in Books I, II and III. Some of these subjects are explicitly mentioned (the Milky Way, comets, shooting stars, winds, earthquakes, thunderbolts, whirlwinds and fire winds), others are described in a more vague manner, so that it is not always clear which subject exactly is referred to. The enumeration is not an exhaustive table of contents.

Chapter 1,1 concludes with the announcement that the program for the books coming after the Meteorology will be the discussion of animals and plants. At the end of Book III (378a12 ff.) Aristotle announces that, after having studied the phenomena above the earth, he will now study what is formed in the earth: minerals and metals (ta opu1cta Kai ta µno:llllrnta., lit: what can be quarried and what can be mined). This promise is not fulfilled in the known works of Aristotle. It is not the subject of Book IV of the Meteorology. We shall return to this question below in Chapter 10, pp. 310 ff.

The next chapter (1,2) summarizes some of the results from the previous books on natural philosophy: the heaven and the heavenly bodies are made up of one element, sc. ether, and their motion is circular and eternal; the sublunar world is made up of the four elements fire, air, water and earth. These elements are constituted by some material substrate having two of the primary qualities hot, cold, dry, moist, as follows: earth is cold and dry, water is cold and moist, air is…

PHENOMENA IN THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE – ARISTOTLE’S METEOROLOGY AND ITS RECEPTION IN THE ARAB WORLD

I. Aristotle

In chapter 1,4 Aristotle starts the treatment of the individual meteorological phenomena with the discussion of the phenomena that occur in the upper atmosphere, adjacent to the sphere of the moon, i.e. the region containing inflammable hot, dry material (so-called fire or unt1e1eauµa). The hot, dry exhalation which the sun dissolves from the earth rises to this region. The following phenomena occur in this region: burning flames, shooting stars, torches, ‘goats” (these are discussed in chapter 1,4), comets (1,6 and 7) and the Milky Way (1,8).

They are all due to the same process: inflammation of the dry, hot exhalation. Sometimes shooting stars arise in a lower stratum, that is, in air; they are discussed in connection with the phenomena of the upper atmosphere because they are caused by the same process: inflammation of the dry, hot exhalation. Phenomena such as chasms, trenches and red colours are effects of light from the burning upper atmosphere being refracted or reflected in the denser stratum of air (chapter 1,5).

According to Aristotle’s theory of exhalations the upper atmosphere is filled with hot, dry exhalation which rises from the earth under the sun’s influence. This is an inflammable material, which becomes

ignited (i:1e1eai.rn8m) by the motion of the heaven, wherever this material is most suitable for ignition (341b18-23).2 The effect is different

according to position and quantity of the material: if it extends

1 ‘Goats’ are a kind of meteorites, see above p. 18n24.

2 When Aristotle later, in 342bl, refers to this place, he says that the material ignites after having been clustered or densified (auv[atom8oa). This also appears from the discussion of the comets and the Milky Way, which are formed in the same way (Jtuicvwm􀁊 344al6; ouyicp[m􀁊 344b9, 346a23; auv[omo80£L 344bll).

Thus, auatO/.OL􀁊 34lb23 refers to such clusters. On the other hand, Aristotle also says, in 340bl3, that the upper atmosphere is ignited by the celestial motion when this motion dissolves (rarefies) the material. From 345b34 it appears that dissolution and clustering go together: when the material is dissolved by motion, clusters (auotO/.OL􀁊) are separated off, from ‘,1/hich comets are formed.

Philoponus sees the contradiction between ignition of clustered material and ignition after rarefaction. He solves the problem by stating that both effects play a role: the material to be ignited must neither be too dense, nor too rare. Sponge and cork are not easily ignited because they are too rare, nor are ebony and ivory because they are too dense. See Philoponus, in Meteor. 58,4-32.

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