Dante and Islam

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I recently attended a very interesting conference by Roger Scruton, the celebrated author of (among many titles) “A short History of Modern Philosophy”.

After that, a discussion ensued where one of the points was the fact that European identity can be clearly constructed without reference to an Islamic influence.

I was then wondering how could this theory of a European identity severed off from the Islam world stand in the face of all the scholarly work that has remarked the deep internal connections (up until Fibonacci, say) between the best minds in Europe and the vast pool of brightness that the Islamic world built around the Caliphate of Cordoba from year 931A.D. onwards.

But the Arabs did not only restore for Europe the pinnacles of Greek science, whose testimony stand words as Nadir and Zenith, Algebra and Algorithm. They were also very effective in the realm of metaphors, as the Islam word gave Dante, arguably Italy’s top poet, some of the inspiration for his magnum opus, as documented in the magnificent book by the Spanish scholar Asin Palacios: Islam and the Divine Comedy (original spanish version -1919)

If one considers that when Charles the Great was barely able to write down his name the Arabs in the Iberian peninsula were translating Aristotle, one can measure which is the debt that of our civilization owns to the Muslim world.

I think this is the crux of traditionalist type arguments in the construction of European identity, not to mention Fanon’s point, that ‘the entire Third World went into the making of Europe.’

A very interesting blog post dealing with the subsequent intellectual collapse of that civilization is here.

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