Monday, September 24, 2012

What is Christopher I. Beckwith reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Christopher I. Beckwith, author of Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World.

His entry begins:
My reading mostly falls into two categories: non-fiction connected with my research, which I often check or use rather than actually “read,” though my first two are exceptions to that rule, and fiction that is usually related in some way to my own fiction writing.

In non-fiction, I read two books by Frans de Waal: Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are (2005), and Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes (revised ed., 1998). The author shows how chimps and bonobos, and sometimes other primates, deal with each other in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ways that reveal how amazingly close to humans they are. They are among the most insightful books I have ever read about...[read on]
About Warriors of the Cloisters, from the publisher:
Warriors of the Cloisters tells how key cultural innovations from Central Asia revolutionized medieval Europe and gave rise to the culture of science in the West. Medieval scholars rarely performed scientific experiments, but instead contested issues in natural science, philosophy, and theology using the recursive argument method. This highly distinctive and unusual method of disputation was a core feature of medieval science, the predecessor of modern science. We know that the foundations of science were imported to Western Europe from the Islamic world, but until now the origins of such key elements of Islamic culture have been a mystery.

In this provocative book, Christopher I. Beckwith traces how the recursive argument method was first developed by Buddhist scholars and was spread by them throughout ancient Central Asia. He shows how the method was adopted by Islamic Central Asian natural philosophers--most importantly by Avicenna, one of the most brilliant of all medieval thinkers--and transmitted to the West when Avicenna's works were translated into Latin in Spain in the twelfth century by the Jewish philosopher Ibn Da'ud and others. During the same period the institution of the college was also borrowed from the Islamic world. The college was where most of the disputations were held, and became the most important component of medieval Europe's newly formed universities. As Beckwith demonstrates, the Islamic college also originated in Buddhist Central Asia.

Using in-depth analysis of ancient Buddhist, Classical Arabic, and Medieval Latin writings, Warriors of the Cloisters transforms our understanding of the origins of medieval scientific culture.
Learn more about Warriors of the Cloisters at the Princeton University Press website.

Christopher I. Beckwith is Professor of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. He is the author of The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages; Koguryo, Language of Japan’s Continental Relatives; Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present; and several other books.

The Page 99 Test: Empires of the Silk Road.

Writers Read: Christopher I. Beckwith.

--Marshal Zeringue