On The Perfect State

On The Perfect State

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2.24 LBS
6.25 (in)
9.25 (in)
1.60 (in)
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Abu Nasr al-Farabi
Richard Walzer
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Al-Farabi (d. 950 AD), known in medieval Latin texts as Alfarabius or Avennasar, was one of the most outstanding and renowned Muslim philosophers. He became known as the second teacher, the first being Aristotle. On the Perfect State reflects al-Farabi's view that philosophy had come to an end everywhere else and that it had found a new home and a new life within the world of Islam. Philosophy, in his view, gives the right views about the freedom of moral choice and of the good life altogether. The perfect human being, the philosopher, ought also to be the sovereign ruler. Philosophy alone shows the right path to the urgent reform of the caliphate. Al-Farabi envisages a perfect city state as well as a perfect community and a perfect world state. His importance for subsequent Islamic philosophers is considerable.

His impact on the writings of 10th century AD authors such as the Ikhwan al-Safa, al-Masudi, Miskawayh and Abu l-Hasan Muhammad al-Amiri is undeniabl! e. Ibn Sina seems to have known his works intimately and Ibn Rushd follows him in the essentials of his thought. Maimonides, the greatest Jewish philosopher who lived in Muslim Spain and wrote in Arabic, appreciated al-Farabi highly. Al-Farabi's political ideas had a belated and lasting success from the 13th century onwards. A few of his treatises became known to the Latin Schoolmen while more were translated into medieval Hebrew.

About the author --

Abu Nasr Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Tarkhan b. Awzalaugh (or Uzlugh) al-Farabi was born abut 870 AD in Turkestan, at Wasij in the district of Farab on the Jaxartes. He eventually settled down and spent many yars in Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid calphs. During part of the last ten years of his life, he stayed at the court of Sayf al-Dawla, the renowned Hamdanid Amir of Aleppo. He is reported to have died in 950 AD.

Al-Farabi's life was more that of a cynical philosopher than of an aristocratic intellectual. We are told that he always wore a brown Sufi garb. In al-Farabi's day no adherence to mystical Sufi views was indicated by the use of this garment, and in his particular case it can be easily shown that he was decidedly opposed to the mystic's unworldly interpretation of life and his overemphasis on the world-to-come. In the tenth century AD the Sufi cloak had a quite different meaning. This has been aptly characterized by Professor G. Makdisi, People of this kind are often what we may call nowadays militant intellectuals. They accept no one's patronage, they are afraid of compromising their independence by becoming connected with men of wealth and power and prefer to remain self-employed and are content with living on a mere subsistence level.