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Philosophers of  the Arabs

Acikgenc, Alparslan

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Acikgenc, Alparslan (b. 1952 ), A Turkish Islamic academic thinker, president of the department of philosophy, Faith University Istanbul, defends the concept of 'Islamic Science" on the basis of multiple references of science and on the Islamic 'Worldview' subsumed in Qur'an.

His Life

Born in Senkaya, Erzurum, Turkey on November 24th 1952, Alparslan received his B.A. degree at Ankara University, School of Theology in 1974. He was successful at a nationwide exam and then was awarded a scholarship abroad to do M.A. and Ph. D. in history of philosophy. He received his M.A. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1977) and his Ph. D. at The University of Chicago in 1983. After receiving his doctoral degree he began to teach at the Middle East Technical University, Department of Philosophy where he remained until 1994. Between 1991-1993 Acikgenc was visiting professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He joined and taught at ISTAC as Professor of Philosophy from 1995 until 1999. In 1998 he was visiting professor at The University of Jordan, Department of Philosophy, Amman. Then he joined Fatih University as professor of philosophy, where presently he serves also as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Acikgenc wrote a number of books and articles some of which are directly related to Islam and science and religion and science perspectives. His first work on the subject appeared as “Ilmi Zihniyet ve Islam” (Scientific Mentality and Islam) published in Teknik ve Sosyal Y?nüyle Bilimsel Ara?t?rmalar (Ankara: ODTU Kültür Ara?t?rmalar? ve Külliye Yapt?rma Derne?i, 1990). This work was followed by a more comprehensive article entitled “?slamî Bilim ve Felsefe Anlay???” (Islamic Understanding of Science and Philosophy), ?slamî Ara?t?rmalar (Journal of Islamic Research), 4:3 (1990).


Philosophical Interests:


Intellectual Journey

Acikgenc describes his intellectual journey after this work as follows: “Ever since I started my scholarly career I have been interested in the general features of ‘Philosophical Systems’ and fascinated by their structural features. My research eventually led me to observe the similar epistemological aspects between systems and worldviews, if what I conceive as the ground for the possibility of our mind to operate is termed worldview. Conceived as such, a worldview is the framework within which our mind operates. Supposing that we name all the contents of our mind as ‘knowledge’, worldview will be the scheme within which the mind operates and acquires such knowledge. Hence, there is a functional affinity in the epistemological sense between systems and worldviews. Yet both schemes differ from each other in the way they are formed in the mind; a system is scientifically constructed, whereas a worldview arises in the mind either naturally or scientifically. The former can be termed ‘natural worldview’ and the latter ‘transparent worldview’. A transparent worldview arises in the minds of individuals in a society through a mechanism of knowledge that operates within the given society. This mechanism can be referred to as ‘dissemination of knowledge’.

On the other hand, a natural worldview is formed in the minds of individuals haphazardly and not through a sound dissemination of knowledge that is primarily directed by scientific inquiries of all kinds. I am using the word ‘science’ as equivalent to the term ‘ilm in Arabic, or the German word ‘Wissenschaft’. A sound mechanism works through stages; the first stage is an abstract level where the ‘Ulama’ is supposed to assume a duty to form a dynamic scientific tradition; the second stage is the concretized level where the abstract scientific knowledge of the ‘Ulama’ is concretized by intellectuals that include men of literature, artists, architects, teachers and educators; the third stage is the massive dissemination of knowledge through educational institutions and mass media; and the fourth stage is the social level where a transparent worldview is formed in the minds of individuals through the above process. As a result of this I realized that the concept of worldview and system leads me to a new conception of philosophy.

I tried to formulate this new conception of philosophy in a seminar delivered on April 19, 1988 at the Department of Philosophy, METU, and entitled “On What Philosophy Is”. But since the worldview that concerned and still concerns me is indeed the Islamic worldview, I could establish a relation between all these concepts. The result was the distinction that I noticed in the Qur’an between the ghayb and shahadah, as two epistemologically distinct, but intimately related ontological realms. The philosophical distinction, however, between systems and worldviews needed more elaboration. When I tried to do this I found out that Kant and Whitehead also pointed to the same conclusions that I had reached. Of course it was clear that neither Kant nor Whitehead had my approach. I tried, however, to show the similar results in their works. Hegel too had similar ideas concerning the concept of system, but it was sufficient then to stop where I was and pass on to another study: the formulation of this concept within the Qur’anic framework.

The result came in the form of a paper presented to the 'International Seminar on Islamic Philosophy and Science', Penang, Malaysia, 29th May-2nd June 1989’, entitled “The Role of Philosophy in Islam: A Qur’anic Perspective”. All these works were integrated into a unity of ideas in my book entitled Bilgi Felsefesi: Islam Baglam?nda Bilgiden, Bilimden Sistem Felsefesine (Philosophy of Knowledge: From Knowledge and Science to a Philosophy of Systems within the Islamic Context, Istanbul: Insan Yay?nlar?, 1992). My intellectual journey continued in a new direction after this work; first I needed a comprehensive theory of knowledge, which was given in an outline of my last work (chapter 5); second, I needed a new philosophy of science from the Islamic perspective. In this direction I worked on a project to try to come up with a definition of science in general and in the Islamic sense in particular. This work appeared as Islamic Science: Towards A Definition (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1996). In this work, I defined Islamic science as “that scientific activity which takes place ultimately within the Islamic worldview (which can be identified also as the Islamic conceptual environment); but as an extension of it directly within the Islamic scientific conceptual scheme (which can be identified also as the Islamic context of sciences).”

But I was not satisfied with my definition of science in general and I thus felt the need to revise it. The result of my research was my most recent work on the subject: Scientific Thought and its Burdens (Istanbul: Fatih University Publications, 2000). First of all I was now able to define science in a comprehensive manner: “The named awareness of an organized body of knowledge, which arises as a result of the process in determining a subject matter, investigated by a certain method yielding theories, is science.” (p. 16). In this work I tried to introduce three major problems as the subject matter for philosophy of science; 1. the nature of science and scientific inquiry, 2. epistemology of science and finally, 3. sociology of science. Hence, philosophy of science is not concerned with a logical analysis of scientific statements unless such an analysis is required by its epistemology, but rather it is concerned with the epistemological frameworks a scientist is using when he is engaged in his activities. Moreover, science is not merely a cognitive activity and as such besides an epistemology it also has a social aspect, which is also investigated in philosophy of science. This approach introduces a solution to at least one problem that has been debated in many philosophical traditions; is science value free? Does it change in different social milieu with respect to the way it is perceived?

With respect to its cognitive aspect, our epistemology exhibits that science can neither change with respect to its findings nor with respect to the way it operates. For the frameworks used for scientific activities are the same just as the anatomy of the human eye is the same in every society. But with respect to the social aspects of science obviously a social milieu is always necessarily assumed and thus it exhibits different characteristics in different traditions. On the other hand, the epistemology of science shows that at least one of the mental frameworks used in our scientific dealings is worldview and as such it must put its impression on science. This point proves that Islamic science will carry characteristics that it takes from Islamic worldview and it is through these characteristics that we are justified to call it Islamic science. In this way it would also be possible for us to distinguish Islamic science from modern science. If Islamic worldview assigns nature to be the signs of God, no Muslim scientist would from a language in his scientific statements violating that fundamental principle. This means that the way theories are formulated in Islamic science would not lead to statements as “nature or mother nature gave such a species such a characteristic”. Moreover, nature is conceived in Islamic worldview as a part of the Trust (amanah); it is this conception that lays a fundamental moral responsibility on the shoulders of a scientist operating within that perspective. Such conceptions are lacking in the worldview of modern scientists.”


Acikgenc, Alparslan. Bilgi Felsefesi: ?slam Ba?lam?nda Bilgiden, Bilimden Sistem Felsefesine (Philosophy of Knowledge: From Knowledge, Science to a System of Philosophy in the Islamic Context) (?stanbul: ?nsan Yay?nlar?, 1992).

--, Being and Existence in Sadra and Heidegger: A Comperative Ontology (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1993).

--, Islamic Science: Towards A Definition (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1996).

--, Scientific Thought and its Burdens: An Essay in the History and Philosophy of Science, (Istanbul: Fatih University Publications, 2000).

--, “The Reality of Islamic Science: A Critique”, New Straits Times, 4, 5, 6 December, 1992 (Kuala Lumpur); a critical review of Parviz Hoodbhoy’s Islam and Science (Kuala Lumpur: Palanduk, 1992).

--, “A Concept of Philosophy in the Qur'anic Context”, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 11:2 (1994).

--, “The Emergence of Scientific Tradition in Islam”, XII. World Congress of History of Science, July16th-23rd 1997, Liège, Belgium, published in the Proceedings of the Congress.

--, “The Environmental Context for the Advancement of Sciences”, Islamic Studies 39 (2000).

--, Haron, Muhammed. “Islamic Science: Towards a Definition by Alparslan Acikgenc”, Journal of Islamic Studies 17 (1997).



The Emergence of Scientific Tradition in Islam



Center for Islam and Science

Faith University - Philosophy Department




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