EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 08 Apr 2015 | 17:00–18:30

Free Will, Predestination, and the Fate of the Ottoman Empire

Ethan Menchinger (University of Michigan / EUME Fellow 2014/2015), Chair: Ufuk Adak (University of Cincinnati / EUME Fellow 2014/2015)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Although early modern European travelers to the Ottoman Empire frequently noted the inhabitants' “fatalism,” even to the point of making it an Orientalist stereotype, historians have never seriously examined this purported fatalism as an intellectual phenomenon. Whether or not we can credit such sources, the testimony of seventeenth and eighteenth century Turkish and Arabic sources point to a robust debate over fate, freewill, and predestination. The fact that these subjects posed philosophical and theological problems does not appear to be so much in question as why: what were the reasons behind these discussions? What underlying issues were at stake? As he explores this neglected vein of discourse, Menchinger presents the context and content of the debate, allowing sources to speak for themselves whenever possible. He then offers some observations about the wider significance of freewill and predestination in the Ottoman intellectual universe – particularly over the concept of political reform – in the hope of shedding light on a milieu that was asking anxious, searching questions about the human condition, the empire, and its ultimate fate.

Ethan L. Menchinger has a PhD in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan (2014), where his research interests included early modern Ottoman intellectual history, Middle East literatures and historical writing, and translation. He also holds a BA in History and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Toronto and an MA from the University of Michigan and has received fellowships from the US State Department, the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and the American Research Institute in Turkey. He has published articles on Ottoman political and intellectual thought as well as translations, including his book A Summary of Admonitions: a Chronicle of the 1768-1774 Russian-Ottoman War (Isis, 2011).

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