Eastern European Karaite attitudes towards modern science

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Abstract

In the early modern period there were small but flourishing Karaite communities in the Crimea, Volhynia, Galicia, and Lithuania. In general, these Karaites did not adopt modern science, preferring a Maimonidean Aristotelianism they had inherited from medieval Byzantine Karaism. A good example of a Karaite intellectual who rejected modern science although he was familiar with it is the most prominent Karaite of the eighteenth century, Simh?ah Isaac Lutski, whose two dozen books are steeped in pre-modern scientific assumptions. One Karaite who may have adopted modern science was Zerah? ben Nathan of Troki, the correspondent of Yashar of Candia, but if he did, he was an exception. Karaite dismissal of modern science may be tied to the late date at which the Karaites adopted Aristotelianism in the Middle Ages, the influence of the surrounding society, and the utility of the older scientific beliefs for theological purposes. Since the Karaites' main priority was the survival of their form of Judaism, they had neither the means nor interest in being pioneers of scientific discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-136
Number of pages19
JournalAleph
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010

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