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Natural Philosophy in the Islamic World project

Natural Philosophy in the Islamic World project

TabiyyatThe Leverhulme trust has awarded about £250K to the King's Department of Philosophy for research into natural philosophy in the Islamic world.
For philosophers of the ancient and medieval worlds, including the medieval Islamic world, natural philosophy included a wide range of disciplines we nowadays would be inclined to keep apart. The most fundamental part of Aristotelian natural philosophy was of course “physics” (from Greek physis: nature), the study of things subject to motion and change. But natural philosophy also studied all the various types of natural objects: the elements, the heavens, animals, and humans themselves. Natural philosophy was a large and varied terrain, stretching from psychology to cosmology, from mineralogy to medicine, from the study of plants to the study of the stars.
This project explores texts from the Islamic world (in Syriac as well as Arabic) dealing with this range of topics, asking what advances were made in natural philosophy, determining how natural philosophy was conceived, and improving our knowledge of the tradition through improved texts and translations.


The project runs from October 2010 until November 2013, and is led by the Principal Investigator, Professor Peter Adamson.


Our work on this project is dedicated to the memory of David C. Reisman, who came in December 2010 to contribute his immense erudition to our efforts. He tragically died in early January, 2011, an enormous blow to the Department at King's and the community of scholars who work on Arabic intellectual history.

Research activities

The project includes the following research activities:

  • A weekly podcast, hosted by Peter Adamson, covering the history of philosophy "without any gaps."
  • Research into the relationship between the history of medicine and the history of philosophy. This will include a book on the philosophy of the 10th century CE doctor and philosopher al-Razi.
  • Philological work on "The Principles of the Universe," a work of Alexander of Aphrodisias extant only in Syriac and Arabic. This part of the project is now being undertaken by Silvia Fazzo.
  • Edition and study of the "Questions on Natural Things" ascribed to Proclus, focusing on its relation to the Syriac Book of Treasures by Job of Edessa.


Tel +44 (0)20 7848 2118


Address c/o Department of Philosophy
King’s College London


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