History traces the evolution of the social structure in which the communityexists to-day. There are three chief factors at work in this evolution; racial descent,culture drift, and transmission of language: the first of these physiological and notnecessarily connected with the other two, whilst those two are not alwaysassociated with each other. In the evolution of the social structure the factor of firstimportance is the transmission of culture, which is not a matter of heredity but dueto contact, for culture is learned and reproduced by imitation and not inherited.Culture must be taken in the widest sense to include political, social, and legalinstitutions, the arts and crafts, religion, and the various forms of intellectual lifewhich show their presence in literature, philosophy, and otherwise, all more or lessconnected, and all having the common characteristic that they cannot be passed onby physical descent but must be learned in after life. But race, culture, and languageresemble one another in so far as it is true that all are multiplex and perpetuallyinterwoven, so that in each the lines of transmission seem rather like a tangledskein than an ordered pattern; results proceed from a conflicting group of causesamongst which it is often difficult to apportion the relative influences.The culture of modern Europe derives from that of the Roman Empire, itself the multiple resultant of many forces, amongst which the intellectual life of Hellenism was most effective, but worked into a coherent system by the wonderfulpower of organization, which was one of the most salient characteristics of thatEmpire. The whole cultural life of mediæval Europe shows this Hellenistic-Romanculture passed on, developed, and modified by circumstances. As the Empire fell topieces the body of culture became subject to varying conditions in differentlocalities, of which the divergence between the Greek-speaking East and the Latin-speaking West is the most striking example. The introduction of Muslim influencethrough Spain is the one instance in which we seem to get an alien culture enteringinto this Roman tradition and exercising a disturbing influence. In fact, this Muslimculture was at bottom essentially a part of the Hellenistic-Roman material, even thetheology of Islam being formulated and developed from Hellenistic sources, butIslam had so long lived apart from Christendom and its development had takenplace in surroundings so different that it seems a strange and alien thing. Its greatestpower lay in the fact that it presented the old material in an entirely fresh form.It is the effort of the following pages to trace the transmission of Hellenisticthought through the medium of Muslim philosophers and Jewish thinkers who livedin Muslim surroundings, to show how this thought, modified as it passed through aperiod of development in the Muslim community and itself modifying Islamicideas, was brought to bear upon the culture of mediæval Latin Christendom. Sogreatly had it altered in external form during the centuries of its life apart, that itseemed a new type of intellectual life and became a disturbing factor whichdiverted Christian philosophy into new lines and tended to disintegrate thetraditional theology of the Church, directly leading up to the Renascence whichgave the death-blow to mediæval culture: so little had it altered in real substancethat it used the same text-books and treated very much the same problems alreadycurrent in the earlier scholasticism which had developed independently in LatinChristendom. It will be our effort so to trace the history of mediæval Muslimthought as to show the elements which it had in common with Christian teachingand to account for the points of divergence.
De L. O’L.