2016-2017 W. John Bennett Distinguished Visiting Scholar
PROFESSOR CHARLES BURNETT (Warburg Institute, University of London)
“Arabica Veritas. Europeans’ Search for ‘Truth’ in Arabic Scientific and Philosophical Literature of the Middle Ages”
Friday, 10 February 2017, 4:10 pm;
Alumni Hall, Room 100 (121 St. Joseph Street);
Reception to follow
British Library, Royal 12.B.VI, f. 1r
Why did the Latin world seek out Arabic texts for translation between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries? In the religious context it is clear that Muslim literature was translated in order to understand and refute Islam. But in science and philosophy the search was for ‘the truth’ which could be found amongst the Arabs. This lecture explores what was meant by the ‘Arabica veritas’ (or ‘Arabum veritas’), and why this truth was regarded as being important. Can someone else’s ‘truth’ provide security in the face of the inherent uncertainty of sublunary matters?
Charles Burnett, MA, PhD, LGSM is Professor of the History of Arabic/Islamic Influences in Europe at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and Co-Director of the Centre for the History of Arabic Studies in Europe. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and Fellow of the International Society for the History of Science. He is leader of the Humanities in the European Research Area project on Encounters with the Orient in Early Modern European Scholarship (EOS). His research centres on the transmission of texts, techniques and artefacts from the Arab world to the West, especially in the Middle Ages. He has documented this transmission by editing and translating several texts that were first translated from Arabic into Latin, and also by describing the historical and cultural context of these translations. Throughout his research and his publications he has aimed to document the extent to which Arabic authorities and texts translated from Arabic have shaped European learning, in the universities, in medical schools and in esoteric circles. Among his books are The Introduction of Arabic Learning into England (1997), Arabic into Latin in the Middle Ages: The Translators and their Intellectual and Social Context (2009) and Numerals and Arithmetic in the Middle Ages (2010). Other interests include Jesuit education in Japan in the late sixteenth century, the use of Japanese themes in Latin drama in Europe in the seventeenth century and the use of music in therapy and in the Christian mission.