The Influence of Western Philosophy on Science and Technology

To unravel the intricate tapestry of human knowledge, it is customary to praise the achievements of Western philosophy and its supposed profound impact on science and technology. However, in our unapologetic pursuit of intellectual rigour, it becomes evident that this widely accepted notion requires a critical reevaluation. The grand narrative that attributes the lion's share of scientific and technological advancements solely to the influence of Western philosophy is a reductionist oversimplification. By challenging conventional wisdom and delving into historical references, we shall uncover the nuanced interplay of various cultural and intellectual traditions that have shaped the development of science and technology.

The Multifaceted Nature of Influence:

To understand the true nature of the influence of Western philosophy on science and technology, we must acknowledge that power is never unidirectional or exclusive. Instead, it is an intricate dance influenced by various intellectual traditions from around the globe. At the same time, Western philosophy undoubtedly played a significant role, one strand interwoven within a rich tapestry of global scholarly contributions.

The Ancient Foundations:

Our journey begins in ancient Greece, often hailed as the cradle of Western philosophy. Undeniably, the works of Plato and Aristotle laid the groundwork for Western intellectual thought. However, we must remember that these thinkers were not isolated in their pursuits. They constantly spoke with neighbouring cultures, most notably the Egyptians and Persians. With their astute observations of the heavens and sophisticated engineering feats, the ancient Egyptians fostered a reverence for empirical knowledge that significantly influenced subsequent scientific endeavours. Similarly, the Persians' contributions to mathematics, medicine, and the preservation of expertise were indispensable to advancing science and technology.

The Islamic Golden Age:

The Islamic Golden Age was a crucial turning point in the history of science and technology. During this period, Muslim scholars made monumental strides in astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and optics. They built upon the foundation laid by the ancient Greeks, translating, preserving, and expanding their works. Figures like Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) propelled the scientific enterprise forward, challenging and enriching philosophical and scientific thought. The translations of their works, disseminated throughout the Islamic world, would later find their way into Western Europe, sparking the Renaissance and fueling the Scientific Revolution.

Eastern Contributions:

While the Western narrative tends to overshadow them, Eastern philosophical traditions have significantly contributed to the development of science and technology. In China, for instance, the rich tradition of Confucianism emphasized the importance of observation and experimentation, leading to advancements in various fields such as agriculture, medicine, and alchemy. Similarly, ancient Indian philosophical traditions, such as Nyaya and Vaisheshika, laid the groundwork for logical reasoning and atomic theory, influencing subsequent scientific thought.

Critiquing Western Dualism:

One must also critically engage with the dominant Western philosophical underpinning of science and technology, particularly the Cartesian dualism separating mind and matter. This Cartesian legacy, which permeates the Western worldview, has often hindered a holistic understanding of the natural world. Artificially fragmenting the universe into separate domains has impeded the interdisciplinary exchange necessary for innovation. Moreover, the reductionist approach championed by Western philosophy has often led to a neglect of holistic perspectives present in other intellectual traditions.

To truly challenge conventional wisdom and forge a new path forward, we must transcend the limitations of a Western-centric view. Instead, we must foster a global intellectual dialogue that acknowledges the multifaceted influences on science and technology. By embracing a more inclusive approach, we can harness diverse cultures' collective wisdom, enabling a more comprehensive understanding of the world.


The influence of Western philosophy on science and technology, while undoubtedly significant, must be contextualized within a broader tapestry of global intellectual contributions. By challenging the prevailing narrative, we uncover the multifaceted nature of influence and acknowledge the pivotal roles of ancient civilizations, the Islamic Golden Age, and Eastern traditions. Moreover, we must critically engage with Western philosophical frameworks that may impede a holistic understanding of the natural world. Only through a more inclusive approach can we transcend the confines of traditional paradigms and forge a new era of intellectual exploration, embracing the diversity of human thought in our pursuit of knowledge.

Plato Re-Imagined

This course includes 32 lectures covering most of Plato's dialogues and allowing the student to return to something divine. Divinity should resonate with secular and religious leaders alike. I present a compatible approach in my lecture on Consilience.

Also included with this course is a free book. If you pay for the course, you will get a physical copy of the book for free, mailed to your chosen address — anywhere on the planet!

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