The story of the Islamic Golden Age during 1200s is really interesting. We had Islamic scholars who like Avicenna who came quite close to the scientific method and developments in mathematics, optics by scientists like Al Kindi, Al Khwarizmi etc . Then came Al Ghazini commonly known as one of the most important Islamic Philosophers in history. One quote from one of his works should give you an idea of what he said:

"our opponent claims that the agent of the burning is the fire exclusively;’ this is a natural, not a voluntary agent, and cannot abstain from what is in its nature when it is brought into contact with a receptive substratum. This we deny, saying: The agent of the burning is God, through His creating the black in the cotton and the disconnexion of its parts, and it is God who made the cotton burn and made it ashes either through the intermediation of angels or without intermediation. For fire is a dead body which has no action, and what is the proof that it is the agent? Indeed, the philosophers have no other proof than the observation of the occurrence of the burning, when there is contact with fire, but observation proves only a simultaneity, not a causation, and, in reality, there is no other cause but God."

Within a century the Islamic world stopped thinking, even though scholars like Averros tried to refute him

. Similar story in India. India produced Aryabhatta, Sankara etc, quite a large number of mathematicians and astronomers consistently pushing the frontier of human knowledge. Then came the Bhakti Movement, that once again made a similar claim "God is everywhere, everything needed in life can be found by devotion to god" which became the dominant form of thought in India and stagnation settled in. This I think does lead credence to the fact that Enlightenment was special, especially in the fact that it didn't allow any religion to kill it and instead Christianity actively promoted it even though it lead to a downfall of faith in Christianity. It's probably a big question of incentives, ideas like Enlightenment incentivise science, ideas like Al Ghazini kill it, which is why the enlightenment was a unique event in the history of Humanity

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That's very true, and thank you for the comment!! I think that there definitely was something special about the enlightenment, by definition. But the question is the counterfactual. To me what this shows is that this *could've* happened in many places, but only broke through in one. Which could be luck, or happenstance, or indeed something special like culture.

My contention is that the reason it happened is that the accumulation of philosophical and scientific inquiry hit a sort of escape velocity, and that this should be our base case, not a special case of thought.

The steelman counter argument against my position, put another way, could very well be why the culture of institutions were better, which would have the same answer.

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