A Shared Enterprise of Knowledge: Ottoman and European Scholars on Experience and Revising Knowledge

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Abstract Summary
In the seventeenth century, a particular sort of early modern scholarship arose that privileged experience in integrating foreign sources of knowledge both in European and Ottoman contexts. These early modern scholars expounded the idea that a certain truth can be reached through conversations among individuals across religions, only if each person was engaged in the shared enterprise of trying to understand nature through experience. This paper explores the working methods that these Ottoman and European scholars adopted for a more informed scholarship on both Islamic and Western civilizations. I trace how the shared preoccupation with revising knowledge made fruitful scholarly communication possible on both sides. In revising scholarship on natural history and medicine, naturalists and physicians incorporated expertise of scholars of Oriental languages and historians as well. This select group of scholars found themselves engaged with what it means to seek knowledge that could rise above the specificity of time and place, that would truly become universal by incorporating elements of foreign knowledge into a new kind of early modern encyclopedia. While cultural empathy was at stake in structuring this community, knowledge exchange became possible only when European and Ottoman scholars used similar scholarly methods in their own works. They selectively chose materials conducive to their approach and intent. In a paradoxical way, shared scholarly methods in experience structured cross-cultural scholarly interactions on the eve of modernity.
Abstract ID :
HSS766
Submission Type
Organized Session
Abstract Topic
Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
Chronological Classification :
17th century
Self-Designated Keywords :
Experience, Ottoman, physician, networks, universal knowledge, natural philosophy, medicine, cross-cultural, knowledge exchange