Farabi’s practical philosophy

The unity that al- Farabi’s forges between the theoretical sciences of metaphysics and psychology is also mirrored in
al- Farabi’s political philosophy which, alone with logic represents the major focus of his philosophical writings. While the rest of al- Farabi’s philosophy is generally Aristotelian in character, supplemented by the Neoplatonic elements that have already been noted, al- Farabi’s political philosophy is Platonic, and reflects Plato’s ideas of basing political philosophy upon metaphysical foundation. Thus, al- Farabi’s two principal works on political philosophy- the Sityasah madaniyyah and the Madinah fadilah- also contain the fullest expression of his metaphysical view. Although al- Farabi does devote some attention in these and other works of political philosophy to ethical issues such as the nature of political wisdom, the moral virtues and deliberation, most of al- Farabi’s interest is on political theory, in particular the requirements of the ideas state and its ruler, and the question of the relationship between philosophy and religion within such a state. (There are numerous studies of al- Farabi’s practical philosophy, including Butterworth (1983): 226-30, Daiber (1986a), Mahdi (1975a and 1975b) and Strauss (1945 and 1957). The most comprehensive is Galston (1990))

possibility of combination of religion and philosophy in practical and theoretical area
In his work the Tahsil al-sa’adah (“Attainment of Happines”) al- Farabi’s argues for the real and conceptual identity of the notions of philosopher, legislator and Imam, and claims that the diversity of religious and philosophical labels nothing more than different emphases on distinct aspect of a single reality. This theoretical perfection to practical and political pursuits cannot claim to be true philosophers: such remain what al- Farabi calls “vain or futile philosopher. Given the need to communicate this philosophy to the general populace, such a philosopher mush presumably also have rhetorical, poetic and imaginative abilities, and thus fulfill as well the conditions of prophecy outlined in the psychological portions of al- Farabi’s political.

Of course, al- Farabi recognizes that the ideal combination of prophecy and philosophy, religious and political leadership, and moral and intellectual virtue in a single ruler is something that is seldom if ever realized in political practice. As a result, the harmony between philosophical and religious beliefs that is theoretically possible, but which requires a very specific historical development and fulfillment of these ideal conditions, is not easy, and perhaps even impossible, to realize in practice.

Departures from the ideas state
Thus both of al- Farabi’s major political treatises also outline the varieties of departures from the ideal state that may occur, following the model of Plato’s discussion of virtuous and vicious political regimes in the Republic. Al- Farabi classifies the corruptions of the ideal political union into three general categories: ignorant, wicked and errant cities, each of which has several different types within it. The ignorant cities all have in common their failure to comprehend the true nature of humanity, its place in the cosmos and, hence, its natural end. In their ignorance of human teleology, they substitute some other false goal for the true end discerned by philosophy.

Varieties and features of ignorant cities
Al- Farabi isolates the following varieties of ignorant cities: (1) indispensable cities, which seek mere subsistence as their goal,(2) vile ,which seek only to accumulate wealth, (3) base cities, which exist solely for the sake of sensual gratification ,(4) timocratic cities, whose goal is honour and fame, (5) tyrannical cities, in which power and domination of others is the principal goal, and (6) democratic cities, in which there is no single motivating end, but each citizen is left to seek whatever he or she deem best.

The wicked and errant states are those which possess now or once possessed some sort of knowledge of the true human end, but fail none the less to follow that knowledge. Wicked cities are those in which the virtuous end is deliberately abandoned for another one, whereas errant curies are those in which the leader personally has true knowledge of the proper end that his city should follow, but deceives the citizens by presenting them with false images and representations of that end. Finally, al- Farabi also gives some attention to those whom he calls “the weeds” in the virtuous cities, people who, for lack of ability or other baser motives inhabit the virtuous cities and conform to its laws, while failing to participate personally in its goals

human happiness as the ultimate maturation of Politics
Although one purpose of the foregoing classification of corrupt states is clearly educate philosophers so as to enable them to become virtuous leaders of virtuous regimes, al- Farabi upon the proper discernment of the true human end as the defining characteristic of the virtuous city reminds us that ultimate motivation of his political philosophy is to ensures that the conditions for happiness are met by all people as far as possible. For this reason, al- Farabi concludes his classification of cities of cities and citizens with a consideration of human happiness in eschatological terms, in which reward and punishment in the afterlife is interpreted in accordance with al- Farabi’s belief that human happiness ultimately consists in the assimilation with the agent intellect that is achieved when one reaches the stage of acquired intellect (Of course, the reports about al- Farabi’s views in his lost Nicomachean Ethics commentary have made the interpretation of these passages problematic)

Citizens other worldly happiness and punishment
Only the cotises of the virtuous city will be able to achieve this goal and thereby survive after death when their actualized intellectual souls separate from their bodies. Al- Farabi implies that this immortality is not personal, however, since the body, the principle of numerical diversity within the human species, is no longer present, and hence “the differences of the souls are equally indeterminable in number”. These who lived in ignorant cities will suffer no punishment in the afterlife, since their ignorance was not culpable: they will simply be annihilated as a natural consequence of their failure to actualize their intellectual power, which is the condition for the soul’s survival after death. The same is true for the citizens who have been misled by their leaders in the errant cities. Punishment in the afterlife is reserved for the citizens of the wicked cities and the rulers of the errant cities, who possessed knowledge of the end but deliberately rejected it to pursue other ends. Their punishment consists in the simple continuance of their corrupt desires after death, desires which because of their bodily roots, can longer be fulfilled and so eternally torment their possessors.

The picture that emerges from the variety of al- Farabi’s writings is an impassive one. Al- Farabi’s logical and seismological achievements, which have only recently come to light, have a very modern ring to them: his interest in carful linguistic analysis as an essential tool for philosophical precision, and broadening and sharpening of the standards by which knowledge is measured and evaluated, have a strong affinity with recent trends in philosophy, in particular with the Anglo- American world. But in al- Farabi these interests were as much result of the peculiar historical circumstances in which practiced philosophy as were his political and metaphysical teachings. They reflected the need to address seriously the sometimes competing claims between philosophy and religion, and to find a niche for philosophy and its discourse in an Arabic and Islamic milieu. Al- Farabi’s interest in types of rationality, in modes of discourse and argumentation, and in the relations between ordinary and philosophical languages, are an integral part of his answer to his historical challenge, although they remain philosophically important in their own right.

Following Farabi’s thoughts in philosophical Islamic, Jewish and Christian Trditions
The linguistic sensitivity that al- Farabi displays, his concern to communicate philosophy to a wide variety of audiences and his careful efforts to assimilate the Greek philosophical radiation into an Islamic context are all hallmarks of al- Farabi’s wittings that help to explain the high esteem in which he was held by subsequent philosophers in the Islamic, Jewish, and to lesser extent Christian, traditions. the dept that Avicenna openly acknowledge to al- Farabi’s in metaphysics, Averroes and his fellow Andalusion philosophers also held al- Farabi up as a key authority, especially in logic, psychology and political philosophy. In the Jewish philosophical tradition, Moses Maimonides gave al- Farabi the highest praise among all his predecessors, once again in the area of logic in particular: “As for works on logic, one should only study the writings of Abu Nasr al- Farabi. All his writings are faultlessly excellent. One ought to study and understand them. For he is a great man” In the Latin West, although al- Farabi writings were less extensively translated than those of Avicenna and Averroes, works likes his Ihsa al- ulum and Risalah fi’l aql were of central importance in the early transmission of Aristotelian thought, and gave Christian thinkers their first glimpse of the wealth of new philosophical material that was to follow.

منابع :

  1. History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:190to193