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WHAT COULD BE AL-FARABI “founder of Islamic Neoplatonism” ADDED VALUE? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Essay on Al-Farabi by Amin ELSALEH   
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 12:25

Vous pouvez trouver l’ensemble des contributions d'Amin Elsaleh sur le site academia à l’adresse:


editor's note: My opinion about "why Al-Farabi" is still the 2nd master after Aristotle till the present time is published in French in a dedicated article published at mlfcham cultural website27 april 2014:

Amin Elsaleh


My present essay on Al-Farabi is a compilation of what have been written on his work.

In the following you may find some extracts and my view within modelling of a common approach: “Scenario concept”. But did Al-Farabi predict modelling when he confirmed the existence of the “first intellect” as the highest form of knowledge?

1)  Philosophy vs religion

1.a) Extract from "Prophetic Knowledge and Symbols (Chapters 14 and 17)”:

Essentially, prophecy is the means by which the highest form of knowledge possible,

as present in the acquired intellect of a philosopher, can be represented through imitation to the rest of humanity who could not otherwise understand or attain to it because their intellects are only potential. This imitation is effective in getting this knowledge (or truth, because it is indisputable) across because it is based upon the sensibles of the prophet, which are those things he has experienced during his life and stored in his memory. As such, they can be assumed to be understandable to those around him because they will fall within the general experience of their social context. Furthermore, these imitations (or ‘symbols of the truth,’ as al-Farabi calls them) will be combined by the prophet into an overall system of imitations, called a religion (din).

1.b) Extract from “A Critical Study of Mabadi’ Ara’ Ahl Madinat al-Fadilah:

The Role of Islam in the Philosophy of Abu Nasr al-Farabi:

2) My view within modelling of a common approach: the ultimate scenario of the “first intellect”

While I am working on my essay "Stochastic Model and Worldwide Conflict Resolution», I am trying to explore/define what could be the upper level of a

scenario? For those who are scientific among you, you may refer to some scenario examples at the dedicated site:

The ultimate scenario could be explored using  my concept""State of the art Web service ontology engineering" defined in the above link; many contributions are published at MERLOT University Web site, like: "Engine for Virtual Learning including tools, standards and new learning approach according to Predictable and Unpredictable Events" are accessed through the following link:

My understanding of   Al-Farabi teaching of how to reach the "first intellect" is developed through two projections: an ultimate scenario for LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the other is an ultimate scenario for conflict resolution. My research is documented in a permanent updated essay: Stochastic model and worldwide

conflict resolution:



PART I - Al-Farabi in few words


al-Farabi dans The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 Al-Farabi : A philosopher, logician and musician, he was also a major political scientist.

 In the arena of metaphysics he has been designated the 'Father of Islamic

Neoplatonism'. This is apparent in his most famous work, al-Madina al-fadila

(The Virtuous City) which,far from being a copy or a clone of Plato's Republic, is imbued with the Neoplatonic concept of God.

Of course, al-Madina al-fadila has undeniable Platonic elements but its theology, as opposed to its politics, places it outside the mainstream of pure Platonism.


1. Metaphysics


A total of ten intellects emanate from the First Being.

The First Intellect comprehends God and, in consequence of that comprehension, produces a third being, which is the Second Intellect.

The First Intellect also comprehends its own essence, and the result

of this comprehension is the production of the body and soul of al-sama' al-ula, the First Heaven.

 Of particular significance in the emanation hierarchy is the Tenth Intellect:

it is this intellect which constitutes the real bridge between the heavenly and

terrestrial worlds.


2. Epistemology


It is the second of these works, Risala fi'l-'aql, which provides perhaps the most useful key to al-Farabi's complex theories of intellection. In this work he divides 'aql (intellect or reason) into six major categories:

 First, there is what might be termed discernment or prudence.

The second of al-Farabi's intellects is that which has been identified with common sense;

Al-Farabi's third intellect is natural perception;

The fourth of the six intellects may be characterized as 'conscience';

Al-Farabi's fifth intellect is 'Aql bi'l-quwwa (potential intellect);

The sixth and last of the major intellects is Divine Reason or God himself,

the source of all intellectual energy and power.


 3. Political philosophy

The best known Arabic source for al-Farabi's political philosophy is al-Madina al-fadila.

At the heart of al-Farabi's political philosophy is the concept of happiness (sa'ada).

The virtuous society (al-ijtima' al-fadil) is defined as that in which people cooperate to gain happiness.


4. Influence


The impact of al-Farabi's work on Ibn Sina was not limited merely to illuminating Aristotle's Metaphysics.

It was with good reason that al-Farabi was designated the 'Second Master' (after Aristotle).

The Christian Monophysite Yahya ibn 'Adi studied in Baghdad under al-Farabi and others.

Like his master, Yahya was devoted to the study of logic; like his master also, Yahya held that there was a real link between reason, ethics and politics.



PART II – Al-Fārābī's influence on the Latin West


Influence of Arabic and Islamic Philosophy on the Latin West




Al-Fārābī's influence is particularly obvious in the enumeration of the seven

parts of grammar,

the eight parts of natural science (covering the spectrum of Aristotle's libri naturales),

and the seven parts of mathematics:

arithmetic, music, geometry, optics, astrology, astronomy, the science of weights,

the science of technical devices (ingenia) (see the tables in Bouyges 1923, 65–69).

As to the discipline of logic, Gundisalvi explicitly embraces al-Fārābī's division into eight parts, following the tradition which makes Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetic parts

of logic, and he further distinguishes with al-Fārābī between five kinds of syllogistic reasoning, of which demonstration is the highest.

The Farabian division of logic into eight parts reappears, for example, in

Roger Bacon (Maierù 1987) and in Arnoul de Provence’s Division of the Sciences

(ca. 1250);

Arnoul remarks that neither Aristotle nor common usage includes Rhetoric and Poetic among the parts of logic (Lafleur 1988, 342).


The influence of al-Fārābī's Enumeration of the Sciences extends also to specific areas such as music (Farmer 1934, 31–34).

A special case is Michael Scot's Division of philosophy, which adopts substantial material from Gundisalvi, but arranges it according to its own scheme (Burnett 1997).

In general, al-Fārābī's and Gundisalvi's works were instrumental in

disseminating a systematic division of the sciences which integrated the full

range of Aristotle's works and a broad spectrum of sciences, many of which

were new to the Latin West (Burnett, forthcoming).


PART III - Al-Fârâbî Agent Intellect, Potential Intellect Concept

 Arabic and Islamic Psychology and Philosophy of Mind



This development owes a great deal to the work of Abu Nasr Muhammad

ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan al-Fârâbî (c. 870-950).

A prolific author, Farabi, as he is often referred to in English, adopted and

commented upon much of Aristotle's logical corpus,

while turning to Plato for his political philosophy.

His metaphysics and psychology were a blend of both traditions, establishing a modified or Neoplatonised form of Aristotelianism which later generations

adopted and adapted.


Farabi's familiarity with Aristotle is evident in the summary sketch of his writings that he presents in The Philosophy of Aristotle.

The soul is defined as “that by which the animate substance—I mean that which admits of life—is realized as substance,”[12] serving the triple function of being a formal, efficient and final cause.

For human beings, the intellect assumes the mantle of substance (Mahdi, 125),

it being “a principle underlying the essence of man,” both an agent and

final cause (Mahdi, 122).

Specifically, it is the theoretical intellect that has this status, the practical intellect being subsidiary to it.

The final perfection of a person is found in the actualization of this theoretical

intellect, its substance being identical with its act.


Beyond the individual intellect there lies a universal (though Farabi does not call it such) Active (or Agent) Intellect (al-‘aql al-fa‘âl).

This is conceived as the formal principle of the soul, engendering in the potential intellect both the basic axioms of thought and the ability to receive all other intelligible notions (Mahdi, 127).

This external intellect is also the ultimate agent and final cause of the individual intellect. It both facilitates the individual intellect's operations and, serving as an example of perfect being, draws it back towards itself through acts of intellection.

The more the individual intellect in act is absorbed in theoretical activity,

the greater its accumulation of scientific knowledge; each step bringing it closer to that totality of knowledge and essential being encapsulated in the

Agent Intellect.


For Farabi, the individual intellect, even when perfected, can only come close to joining with the substance of the Agent Intellect.

This reprises a theme sounded in Aristotle's metaphysics, in which the intellects of the heavenly spheres, desiring to be like the Intellect that is the Prime Mover, imitate it as best they can.

For Farabi, a person's ultimate happiness is found in this approximation to the ideal.


Farabi expounds upon this and other issues pertaining to the soul in his

wide-ranging masterpiece, “Principles of the Views of the Citizens of the

Perfect State.”[13] He recounts the various faculties of the soul, following the model of Aristotle's De anima, emphasizing the presence of an inclination or propensity (nizâ‘) concomitant with each one.[14]

Thus, the senses immediately like or dislike what they perceive, depending on

whether it is attractive or repulsive to them.

This affective reaction accompanies the imaginative faculty as well as the

practical intellect, which chooses its course of action accordingly.


For Farabi, it is the faculty of will that is responsible for these desires and

dislikes that occur in sensation and imagination, ultimately motivating the

social and political behavior of the individual (Walzer, 171–173).

Farabi distinguishes between what must be the automatic response of animals to the affects created in their senses and imagination, and the conscious and considered response of human beings, assisted by their rational faculty.

The former response is attributed to “will” in general (irâdah), the latter to

choice” (ikhtiyâr) (Walzer, 205).


The intellect, considered as purely immaterial, has no physical organ to

sustain it, unlike the other faculties of the soul. As Alexander of Aphrodisias,

Farabi identifies the heart as the “ruling organ” of the body.[15] Assisted by

the brain, liver, spleen and other organs, the heart provides the innate heat

that is required by the nutritive faculty, senses and imagination (Walzer, 175–187).


It is this innate heat that presumably is also responsible for the differences

between the sexes, Farabi asserts.

The greater warmth (as well as strength) in their organs and limbs make men

generally more irascible and aggressively forceful than women, who

in turn generally excel in the “weaker” qualities of mercy and compassion.[16]

The sexes are equal, however, as regards sensation, imagination and intellection.


It would appear from this that Farabi has no problem in seeing both sexes as

equal in terms of their cognitive faculties and capabilities.

This would seem to be part of his Platonic legacy, a view shared by Averroes in

his paraphrase of the Republic (Walzer, 401, note 421).

In theory, therefore, Farabi would consider women capable of being philosophers (as well as prophets), able to attain the happiness and perfection this brings.


Possible as this is, and necessary even in theory, Farabi does not elaborate on

this view, in deference undoubtedly to Islamic conventions.

He is more explicit as regards the process of intellection, a topic that he covers

here and in greater detail in a separate treatise, On the Intellect.


In the Perfect State, Farabi already characterizes the potential or “material”

intellect, as Alexander called it, as a disposition in matter to receive intelligible “imprints” (rusûm al-ma‘qûlât) (Walzer, 199).

These imprints originate as sensible forms that are conveyed to the imagination and modified by it before being presented to the intellect.

The potential intellect is considered unable to respond to these imaginative

constructs on its own, it needs an agent to activate it, to move it from

potentiality to actuality.

This is Aristotle's active intellect, as removed by Alexander of Aphrodisias from the individual soul to a universal separate sphere of being.

It is now associated with the tenth heavenly sphere (Walzer, 203), being a

separate substance that serves both as an emanating source of forms in

prophecy (Walzer, 221), and as a force in all people that actualizes both

potential intellects and potential intelligibles. Farabi compares its force

to the light of the sun that facilitates vision by illuminating both the

subject and object of sight (Walzer, 201).


With the assistance of this Agent Intellect, the potential intellect is able to

receive all intelligible forms, beginning with “the first intelligibles which are

common to all men,” in the areas of logic, ethics and science (Walzer, 205).

These first intelligibles represent the first perfection in a person, the final

perfection being possession of as many intelligible notions as it is possible

to acquire. This creates the felicity, al-sa‘âdah, human beings strive to attain,

for it brings them close to the divine status of the Agent Intellect, having

conjoined with it as much as is possible.


Farabi portrays the imaginative faculty[17] as having a mimetic capability,

“imitating” the sensible forms previously received yet not present until

recalled to mind.

This imitative ability extends over all the other faculties of the soul, including

the intelligible notions of the rational faculty.

Farabi adapts this originally Aristotelian idea[18] to prophecy as well as to lesser forms of divination, asserting that an individual imagination can receive

intelligible ideas directly from the Agent Intellect, converting them to imaginative representations.

Farabi believes the Agent Intellect emanates particular as well as universal

intelligibles upon a given individual, expressing present as well as future

events, and, for the prophet, particularized knowledge of eternal truths,

“things divine” (ashyâ’u ilâhîyah) (Walzer, 221–23).


Farabi naturalizes prophecy by having the emanated forms received by the

imagination pass on to the senses and then out to the air. There they assume

a sensible though immaterial form that then embarks on a conventional return trip to the internal senses (Walzer, 223).


Farabi's most detailed study of the intellect is to be found in the aptly titled

“Epistle on the Intellect,” Risâla fi’l-‘Aql.[19] He begins by showing the diverse

contexts in which nominal and verbal forms of “intellect” and “intelligence” are employed.

Aristotle, he points out, uses the term in his logical, ethical, psychological

and metaphysical treatises. In each area, it is the intellect that is responsible

for comprehending the first principles or premises of the subject, and for

enabling a person to perfect his (or her) knowledge of it.

For Farabi, this apparently innocuous statement must serve to commend the

epistemic methodologies of Aristotle over the denaturalized, logically confined

analyses of the mutakallimûn, the Muslim theologians. Yet, as emerges later

in the treatise, these first principles, seemingly innate to the intellect, are

engendered there by the Agent Intellect (Bouyges, 29; Hyman, 219).

That universal intellect, for all its ontic priority, is the last of the four intellects

that Farabi formally discusses in the treatise.

It is a separate intellect, totally immaterial and external to the human intellect.

Revising al-Kindi's schematization, and showing the influence of Alexander of Aphrodisias' understanding of Aristotle, Farabi posits a cognitive process in

which the human intellect moves from a state of potentiality to one of

actuality, acquiring in the process a discrete sum of intelligibles that it

can access when desired.


Ignoring here the role of sensation and imagination prior to the activity of

the rational faculty, Farabi describes the potential intellect as prepared

and disposed to abstract the intelligible “essences” and forms of things

from their matters.[20]

The dynamic readiness of the potential intellect to act is due, however,

to the Agent Intellect. It invests the sub-lunar world with the forms that

comprise all species, rendering them potentially intelligible; and energizes

our potential intellect to receive them (Bouyges, 24, 29; Hyman, 218, 219).


This reception of the intelligible transforms the potential intellect from being a mere disposition to think to the active thinking of the intelligible; a process in which the “intellect in act” (al-‘aql bi’l-fi‘l) becomes its intelligible (Bouyges, 15; Hyman, 216).

The potential intellect itself remains unaffected by this metamorphosis,

however, and remains purely potential, able to receive additional intelligible

ideas objectively.

The greater the number of intelligibles deposited by the intellect in act in the

“acquired intellect” (al-‘aql al-mustafâd), the more that intellect thinks itself in thinking them.

In doing so, the acquired intellect imitates the Agent Intellect, which it

increasingly resembles.


Echoing a Neoplatonic hierarchy of being, Farabi ranks the intelligible order

of our sub-lunar world, the Agent Intellect being at the top and prime matter

at the bottom. Intellection of the separate, immaterial substances of the

heavens, particularly intellection of the Agent Intellect, is the highest

cognition desirable, except that Farabi does not think it possible.

Not even acquiring total or near-total knowledge of everything in our world

will suffice for Farabi; the formation of our intelligibles differs from their

order in the Agent Intellect, and there is a qualitative difference between

their presence in it and as known to us; we must make do with imitations or

likenesses (ashbâh) of the pure intelligibles (Bouyges, 29; Hyman, 219).


Nevertheless, the formation of a substantial amount of knowledge, or

in Farabian terms, a strong acquired intellect, is that which forms and

enriches us, creating a substance that in its immateriality resembles the

Agent Intellect. This represents “ultimate happiness” (al-sa‘âdah al-quswâ),

and even an afterlife (al-hayâh al-âkhîrah) of sorts (Bouyges, 31; Hyman, 220).


Farabi holds diverse views on immortality, now identifying it with a perfected

intellect, now with the entire soul, though his justification for positing an

eternal individual soul or intellect is weak (Davidson 1992, 56–57).

As with his more detailed treatment of prophecy, Farabi may prudently be

appropriating the religious belief in an afterlife, a tenet held fervently

—and very differently—by his community.


PART IV - FĀRĀBĪ iv. Fārābī and Greek Philosophy



Fārābī’s philosophical moorings and direct affiliation lie in the Greek

neo-Aristotelian school of Ammonius in Alexandria, in the form in

which it survived and was revived after the Islamic conquest among

Syriac Christian clerics and intellectuals in the centers of Eastern

Christianity in the Fertile Crescent.



Theory of language


Alexandrian neo-Aristotelianism engaged in an intensive cultivation of the

preliminaries to the study of Aristotle’s Organon.

Both Porphyry’s Eisagoge and other related introductory material formed

the focus of much philosophical study.

The issues treated were predominantly related to the philosophy of

language and meaning, if only because Aristotle’s Categories and

De Interpretatione deal with these subjects.

This heightened preoccupation with semantics, syntax, and semiotics,

and in particular, with concepts such as homonymy, synonymy, and

paronymy at the beginning of the Categories, and name, verb, and

sentence at the beginning of De Interpretatione, put linguistic analysis

at the center of philosophical practice.

Fārābī exhibits a similar preoccupation both because of his philosophical

training in the neo-Aristotelian tradition which cultivated these studies

and because of the central position of linguistic studies in contemporary

Baghdadi intellectual life (cf. Abed).

Two of his works are entirely devoted to the subject:

al-Alfāż al-mostaʿmala fī l-maneq (Vocables Employed in Logic) and

Ketāb al-orūf (Book of Particles); and even his essay on the intellect

(Resāla fī’l-ʿaql) is concerned with differentiating the various meanings

of the homonymous term “intellect” (ʿaql).



On the basis of these principles, and with a wide variety of Greek

philosophical and scientific texts in Arabic translation at his disposal,

Fārābī created an original and compelling philosophical system.

A précis of that system is offered in his

Mabādeʾ ārāʾ ahl al-madīna al-fāżela (The Principles of the Opinions

of the People of the Excellent City).

At the heart of the system lies the theory of the intellect, or noetics,

which animates and lends coherence to Fārābī’s entire philosophy.

This is the natural extension of late Greek neo-Aristotelianism,

which combined on the one hand a long tradition of commenting

on and extrapolating from the few and cryptic statements by Aristotle

on the nature of the intellect (both the unmoved mover and that of

humans), and on the other an ontological enhancement of the status

of the intellect that was developed in particular in the Neoplatonic

school of Athens (Walzer, 1957, pp. 229-30, 201-2; Walzer, 1974;

Finnegan; Jolivet).



Following standard neo-Aristotelian doctrine, Fārābī considered the

“noblest” part of logic to be apodeictic demonstration, the primary

function of the intellect. Accordingly, Aristotle’s Posterior Analysis forms

the centerpiece and culmination of the entire Organon, while the four

preceding books (Porphyry’s Eisagoge, Aristotle’s Categories,

De Interpretione, and Prior Analytics) are said to introduce demonstration

and the final four to “protect” it, by disclosing the ways in which apodeictic

certainty can be derailed by arguments that are dialectical (Topics),

sophistic (Sophistici Elenchi), rhetorical (Rhetoric), or poetic (Poetics).

Fārābī accepts this fivefold division of arguments or propositions

(i.e., demonstrative, dialectical, sophistical, rhetorical, and poetical) not

only on the level of description or analysis, but also grants it

ontological status by claiming that the human mind can think only in these

five ways (Gutas, 1983, pp. 256-57, 265-66).

Thus in the final analysis even logic, originally a methodological discipline,

is made subservient to, and dependent on, ontological noetics.



Fārābī’s achievement is that he was the first philosopher

who succeeded to internationalize Greek philosophy by

creating in a language other than Greek a complex and

sophisticated system far surpassing the elementary

efforts of both the early medieval Latins and his Syriac




PART V – Extract from A LECTURE ON Plato, Aristotle AND Al-Farabi




Al-Farabi was a tenth-century Arab philosopher who had a profound effect on

medieval philosophy, Muslim, Jewish and Christian.

He translated and wrote commentaries on Aristotle's works and on many of

those of the Neo-platonists. Al-Farabi synthesized or combined the ideas of

Aristotle and Neo-platonist philosophers, setting the direction of most

subsequent medieval philosophy.



Al-Farabi's most significant contribution to the cosmological argument is a

dramatic shift of focus from motion or change to contingent existence.

By "contingent", I mean "actual but not necessary". Anything that exists

but need not have existed is contingent. Al-Farabi argues that there are

such contingent existences (including all those things subject to change,

or to creation or destruction), and that all such contingent existences must

have a cause.


Al-Farabi introduces into philosophy a crucial distinction: that between

"essence" and "existence". This distinction is inspired by some comments

by Aristotle in his Posterior Analytics, in which Aristotle says that we must

distinguish "what a thing is" from "that it is". The first is its essence,

the second its existence. For instance, Socrates has an essence -- humanity.

In addition, Socrates has an existence. Socrates' existence is that happening

or eventuality whereby humanity is made real or concrete in the person we

call "Socrates".


Al-Farabi's distinction is an extension or generalization of Aristotle's distinction between potentiality and actuality. Aristotle describes every substance as composed of matter and form (or essence). In Aristotle's system, the matter is the aspect of potentiality, and the form is the aspect of actuality.

For example, a mass of bronze is potentially a statue. It becomes actually

a statue when it takes on the appropriate form or essence. The form/essence

actualizes one of the potentials of the matter. What al-Farabi does is to

subject Aristotle's form/essence element into two components: essence

and existence. The essence of the statue is itself only potentially real:

it becomes actual when it is impressed upon a mass of bronze, resulting

in an existing statue. The essence of humanity is capable of being made

actual in many different places and times: it has a wide-ranging potentiality

for existence. Actual existence is the expression of this essence in particular

matter at a particular time.


Al-Farabi's distinction, if accepted, means that we could have many different

immaterial beings. Each being (say, an angel), would be the realization in

existence of some essence. Without matter, we might have a problem

supposing that one essence could be shared by many different entities,

but we could imagine a situation in which there are many different essences,

each realized by a different immaterial existent.


Al-Farabi's distinction is supposed to be real distinction in the nature of things,

not a mere verbal or mental distinction. In other words, al-Farabi assumes the

real existence of universals (types, properties, essences). The essence of Socrates is one thing, his existence is another. Both are real, neither is simply the invention or projection of our own minds. All of the ordinary things we encounter are like this: there is always a real distinction between their essence and their existence. Whenever this real distinction occurs, al-Farabi assumes, there must be a cause that explains why this particular essence has been actualized into this particular case of existence.




Al-Farabi's rationale is clearly of the anti-regressive type. That is, he asserts

that an infinite causal regress is impossible. Unfortunately, he is not very

explicit about why this is so.




Al-Farabi clearly adopts a synchronic view of causation. He says that contingent

beings (beings whose essence and existence are distinct) remain contingent,

even after they come into existence. What he seems to mean by this is that

there remains a need to find a causal explanation of the continued existence

of contingent beings. Some first cause must explain what preserves the world

in being at every moment.




Al-Farabi's starting-point is that of simplicity. The first cause must be a very

strange kind of being -- one for which there is no distinction between its essence and its existence. The first cause is the only being for which this is the case.

It is wholly other from anything we have contact with in sense experience --

there are no analogies that will help us to understand how God's essence

could be the very same thing as its existence. The argument forces us to this

conclusion, but it provides us with no understanding of how such a thing

could be possible. But, al-Farabi would urge, so what?

Why should we expect that the fundamental reality should be

comprehensible to our finite intelligence?

Since essence and existence are inseparable for God, there is no distinction

between God's being possible (the reality of His essence) and His being actual

(the reality of His existence). This means that, if God exists at all, He exists

necessarily. Moreover, God is uncaused and inexplicable. In order to cause

God to exist, one would have to cause His essence to be realized in existence,

but this is impossible, since His essence is inseparable from His existence.

Where there is no distinction, there can be no combination, nor any

explanation of how the combination came about.


According to al-Farabi, God is infinite, since every finite being is limited,

and every limitation is a kind of cause. It is a little unclear what al-Farabi

means by saying that every limit is a kind of cause. It may be that he means

that every limit is obviously contingent, and every contingency is caused.

Or, perhaps his point is that limitation involves either potentiality

(being capable of being more or less) or complexity of essence

(having an essence that includes a specific limit).

However, God's essence is absolutely simple

(since it is identical to God's existence, which is a simple thing),

and there can be no potentiality in God, since any potentiality would entail

contingency, which would in turn entail the presence of a cause of God's



Since there is no potentiality in God, God is immutable.


There can be only one God, since if there were two, they would have to

differ either in essence or accident. God has no accidents, so the two Gods

would have to differ in essence.



Part VI - The Role of Islam in the Philosophy of Abu Nasr al-Farabi

by Alexander Wain


Extract from “A Critical Study of Mabadi’ Ara’ Ahl Madinat al-Fadilah:



Rational Knowledge (Chapters 13)


Prophetic Knowledge and Symbols (Chapters 14 and 17)


Thus, visions can come from the Active Intellect via dreams, being

intelligibles represented by imitation of what they actually are.

These are called wahy (revelation) by al-Farabi.[1]


Essentially, prophecy is the means by which the highest form of knowledge

possible, as present in the acquired intellect of a philosopher, can be

represented through imitation to the rest of humanity who could

not otherwise understand or attain to it because their intellects are only

potential. This imitation is effective in getting this knowledge

(or truth, because it is indisputable) across because it is based upon the

sensibles of the prophet, which are those things he has experienced

during his life and stored in his memory. As such, they can be

assumed to be understandable to those around him because they will

fall within the general experience of their social context.

Furthermore, these imitations (or ‘symbols of the truth,’ as al-Farabi

calls them) will be combined by the prophet into an overall system of

imitations, called a religion (din). The purpose of this religion shall

be to instruct the people in this symbolic truth so that they might live

in accordance with it. This method of imparting actual knowledge

through symbols is, however, inferior to how the Active Intellect helps

impart the same to reason. This is because, in the latter case, the

information received is not an imitation, but things in actuality.

Thus, it is superior because it is what it refers to, instead of just

something that is like it. As such, philosophy is superior to religion

because it represents knowledge ‘actually’ and, as a result,

and in so far as it is dependent on this actual knowledge,

life and death cannot be attained through religion.[2]


Thus, let us continue further with our analysis and see exactly

where Islam is to be placed within al-Farabi’s thought…


… For example, al-Farabi does not associate the Active Intellect with

the Divine Mind, which is the First in his conception…


… al-Farabi’s use of prophecy illustrates the insertion of a largely Islamic

concept into an otherwise Greek-inspired work on psychology…


… those scholars whose work we examined at the beginning of this article,

and who claimed that al-Farabi’s thought was purely a mixture of different

Greek ideas, were incorrect…


Humanity as a Social Group: On the Concept of Madinat al-Fadilah


…Humanity must, if it is to gain the knowledge it seeks, live as part of

a social group so that the people who cannot directly encounter an object

they need knowledge of can, instead, do so indirectly through the

experience of another who has and can communicate their experience.


al-Farabi lists three types of social association (also listed in like manner

in his Siyasat)[3] that can help humanity attain perfection, and which

are ranked according to size: large (the union of all the people of the world

into an empire, or ummah), medium (the union of all the people of a

particular nation), and small (the union of the people within a city).


… Thus, al-Farabi enumerates twelve different features for his

philosopher-prophet, all of which must be possessed by any individual

claiming to be this figure. In short, these are:

(1) sound limbs and organs;

(2) possession of a good understanding and grasp of things according

to how they are in actuality;

(3) excellent memory;

(4) high intelligence;

(5) eloquence;

(6) fondness for learning;

(7) fondness for truth and hatred of falsehood;

(8) a moderate attitude towards food and sexual intercourse, and

a hatred for gambling;

(9) fondness for honour;

(10) little regard for money;

(11) fondness of justice; and

(12) a determination to carry out what he knows is best.[4]


… it is specifically stated, when these characteristics are again presented,

that he has taken them from Plato’s Republic.[5]




…Thus, we see the process of emanation, as an explanation for the creation

of the universe, being extolled in a manner which indicates that

al-Farabi’s understanding of it has very deep roots in the work of

Neo-Platonist Plotinus.


…Turning now to al-Farabi’s concept of the state, this has also shown itself

to be a split between Islamic and Greek influences. In this case, however,

Greek influence has been shown to be fairly consistently Platonic, both in

its emphasis on the city as the best form of social gathering, and its

characterization of the city’s ruler as a philosopher. As for Islamic influence,

the image of the first ruler was seen to have much in common with

the Prophet Muhammad, although also reproducing many features

from Platonic thought. But, given the almost certain adoption of the

Islamic notion of prophecy in this context, the probability maybe that

the latter was also made to accommodate the Islamic image of

Muhammad. Thus, it is suggested that Islam also plays a seminal role

here, even if not a dominant one, and that a similar conclusion

with regards the inaccuracy of previous scholarly opinions about the

role of Islam in al-Farabi’s thought can be drawn here too.


PART VII – AlFarabi Educational Ideas about the Foundations of Education (Objectives, Programs, Methods, Teacher and Student)

By Mahmood Shahsavari,%202%289%299569






In this study method was descriptive –analytic,that survey Al-Farabi's views

about the foundations of education (objectives, programs, methods,

teacher and student).

In this study main question is as follows: what is Al-Farabi’s view about the

foundations of education?


It can be concluded of the results of this study that this great scientists had a philosophical -religious view to education.


Objective: the necessity of moral education and its importance.


Programs: familiarize students with a specific profession in curriculum includes:

reading, writing, numeracy, morality play and music.


Method: methods are based on student understanding ; according to

student activities and practice in the reward and punishment methods.

Teacher and student: the attention of teachers to students’ talent and ability,

attention to its activity,moderation by the teacher, attention to individual

differences, interest, willingness, and understanding in students, and exist

individual differences in the students.



Foundations of education, objective, programs, methods, teacher, student.





Today world is faced with stunning development of science and technology,

and the education system as one of following social systems is not far from

the effect of this widespread wave.


To day new has discussion been suggested in all aspects of education, and

generally keep pace of education system in each community with new

developments is a sign of educational system flourish.


Al-Farabi as founder of Islamic philosophy has a high education thought.

However, this great philosopher have been identified less as a instructor

in Iran, and expressed his educational opinions is less than few cases ,

and evaluation of philosophical foundations of his thought is more than

login to deepen the foundations of education in this great instructor .


Therefore in this study Al-Farabi’s educational opinions and ideas was

investigated as a great instructor.

Understanding involved with the education system including:

managers, planners, teachers and students with Al-Farabi’seducational

ideas is useful to the following reasons:


1- Al –Farabi is a Muslim philosopher and also with regard to the education

system in Iran is Islamic, based on the thoughts of Muslim instructors is

essential for achieving proper philosophy of education.


2- Al-Farabi is an oriented system philosopher, and considered education

as a comprehensive and profound, and would seriously avoid of looking

at its dimensions as one dimensional.


3- Al-Farabi is a progressive philosopher, and his opinion is conciliator to

separator ; also with complete mastery of Greek philosophy and Islam,

has developed between these two closely , and chosen philosophy as the

fact expression. More importantly that Al-Farabi is the second teacher and

with specific skills paid to classification of science and define logic and

proof mode for its.



PART VIII - Alfarabi's Concept of Happiness Sa'ada (سعادة)


Eric Voegelin Society Meeting 2009 - Copyright 2006 


Samah Elhajibrahim


The purpose of the book is to introduce the different kinds of sciences,

their importance and the way of attaining them.


A portion of the theoretical virtues is possessed by people without an

awareness of how they were acquired. These are the first premises or

primary knowledge. First, a person must understand the conditions

and the states of the first premises and their order. The rest is acquired

by investigation, meditation, teaching and learning.


One cannot possess deliberative virtue and especially political

deliberative virtue without possessing moral virtue.


According to Alfarabi theoretical virtues, deliberative virtues,

moral virtues and practical arts are inseparable.


Religion is based on imagination, while philosophy is based on

conception or intellectual perception.


Departure from his Greek predecessors was necessary, in order for

Alfarabi to be consistent with Islam and the concept of Jihad al nafs,

as will be discussed next.


"Every soul shall taste death. And We test you by evil and by good by

way of trial. To Us must you return." (Quran 21:35) This verse shows that

this life is merely a period of probation.


The Quran states that every human being is born with the divine spirit

breathed into him.

The first is al nafs al ammara, one wont to command evil.

It is the lowest stage of spiritual growth ruled by low desires and animal

passions. Man submits to his carnal desires.

The next stage is al nafs al lawwamah, the self-accusing soul, where

the conscience is active.

The final stage is the stage of perfection, al nafs al mutma'innah, or

the soul at rest.


There are three main aspects of happiness in which Alfarabi deviates

from Greek philosophy:


1) Alfarabi explicitly spells out the teleological process that Man was

created by God to achieve happiness ("The Attainment of Happiness" 43-44).


2) Alfarabi's process for the attainment of happiness is a practical struggle

much closer to Jihad al nafs than it is to the recluse theoria described

by Aristotle.


3) Alfarabi's concept of happiness is not exclusive to philosophers but

available to the masses who can achieve happiness through this process.


After appreciating the degree of similarity between Islamic religious

theology and Alfarabi's philosophy, we note the unusual absence of

Islamic terms in his writings.


His view of philosophy in general is that it is a universal endeavor

that does not change from nation to nation or from religion to religion.


Alfarabi believes that an isolated person cannot achieve happiness

"For an isolated individual cannot achieve all the perfections by himself

and without the aid of many other individuals.

" (Mahdi, "Alfarabi's Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle" 23).


Alfarabi is consistent with the Quran, which states, "O mankind!

We have created you male and female, and have made you nations

and tribes that you may know each other" (Qur'an 49:13).


When political association is directed towards happiness, the product

is a virtuous city, whereas when it is directed at pleasure, or wealth,

the product is a non-virtuous city full of misery and depravity.


The vast majority of words in Arabic come from a three letter root. سعد (sa'ida)

is the three letter root verb, meaning to be happy. سعادة (sa'ada), is the noun

derived from the root and it means happiness. ساعد (sa'ad) is also derived

from the root word sa'ida and it means to help. Purely linguistically,

there is a fundamental relationship between helping and happiness.


When a person dies, the family places obituary notices in the mosques

and the streets. This obituary starts by a Quranic verse

" O soul at rest (al nafs al mutma'innah), return to thy lord, well pleased,

well pleasing, so enter among my servants and enter my garden."

(Quran 89:28). This verse is placed on the obituary hoping that the soul

has moved from al nafs al ammara to al nafs al lawwamah to

al nafs al mutma'innah, so that it finds its quietude and its happiness.


Voegelin's philosopher is similar to Alfarabi's conception of a philosopher,

an imam who is knowledgeable of the first principle and cause of the beings.

This also emphasizes Alfarabi's belief (following the ancient Greeks) that

philosophy and religion are two expressions of a single truth.


Part IX - Wisdom and Violence: The Legacy of Platonic Political

Philosophy in Al-Farabi and Nietzsche


Peter S. Groff



And now what’s left is by no means the easiest to go through.”“What is it?”

“How a city can take philosophy in hand without being destroyed.

For surely all great things carry with them the risk of a fall,  and,

really as the saying goes, fine things are hard.Plato,  Republic 497d



In this paper, I attempt to open up a dialogue between two philosophers

who at first sight might seem to have very little in common:

Abu Nasr al-Farabi and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Al-Farabi, by most accounts born in Turkistan in the late ninth century,

is one of the earliest, most influential, and most esteemed figures in

the Islamic philosophical tradition.


Nietzsche, on the other hand—a nineteenth-century German by

nationality, but a so-called “good European” by choice—seems

to represent the apex of modern Western secularism, not least 

because of his thorough going critique of metaphysics and morality.

It  would appear that these two figures—one a medieval

Islamicate thinker, the other a late modern self-described “godless antimetaphysician”—are separated by such a vast historical, cultural,

and philosophical chasm that any fruitful conversation would be highly



However, there is at least one respect in which they have something

significant in common, namely, that al-Farabi and Nietzsche both

owe a profound debt to classical Greek thought, specifically to Plato.

In particular, although each in his own way ignores, or simply rejects,

major aspects of Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology,

al-Farabi and Nietzsche both.


The purpose of the following discussion is to examine the strikingly

different contexts within which these thinkers reappropriate Plato’s

political thought, the different ways in which it is put to work,

and finally, the troublesome commonalities between them.



Al-Farabi’s Platonism: The Philosopher, Supreme Ruler, Prince,

Legislator and  Imam as Single Idea


Al-Farabiis one of the preeminent figures in the Islamic philosophical

tradition, which—at least in its early stages—can be characterized as

a profoundly creative series of negotiations between Islamic

theology and Greek philosophy.

Al-Farabi is generally considered the father of Islamic political

philosophy, not least because of the way in which he recuperates

and reinterprets classical political thought, reshaping it to address

the concerns of a new world disclosed by the revealed religion

of Islam.

 His task as philosopher, inhabiting a world shaped by the divine

law of the Qur’an, is two-fold:


(1) to find a place for the insights and resources of classical

philosophy within the horizon of Qur’anic revelation, and


(2) to make sense of this new phenomenon of revealed religion

within the political philosophical framework he has appropriated

from the ancients.

 In other words, he is trying to make space for Greek philosophy

within Islam, and make space for Islam within the framework of

Greek philosophy, and the only way he can do this is to transform both.


Al-Farabi’s specific aim, as a political philosopher, is to

explore the characteristics and conditions of the best possible regime,

or what he sometimes refers to as the “virtuous city.”

 The virtuous city is one in which the citizens can attain supreme happiness,

that is, the final perfection to be achieved by the human being,

“in the measure that innate disposition equips each of them for it”.


In one of his key works of political philosophy,

appropriately entitled “The Attainment of Happiness”,  he observes

that there are two methods by which supreme happiness is achieved

in nations and cities. The first is instruction, which is concerned with

the theoretical virtues, that is, the sciences that make intelligible

the principles of being, culminating in the knowledge of God.

The second is the formation of character, which is concerned with the

moral virtues and practical arts (AH 38). Al-Farabi will argue, as Plato does,

that the supreme happiness that is the goal of the virtuous city is possible

only if there is expert and virtuous rule by its leaders. This in turn requires

that the statesman be a philosopher, and vice versa.

Appropriating Plato’s emphasis on the necessary coincidence of philosophy

and political power, al-Farabi distinguishes between the “true” philosopher

[al- faylasuf al-haqq] and various types of “mutilated” philosophy

[al-falsafa al-batra‘ ].

He speaks, for instance, of the “counterfeit” philosopher [al-faylasuf al-zur ],

whose intellect is either inadequately prepared for, or incapable of,

acquiring the theoretical virtues; the “vain” philosopher [al-faylasuf al-bahraj],

who has theoretical knowledge but lacks the moral virtues;

the “false philosopher [al-faylasuf al-batil ], who is both

knowledgeable and virtuous, but who cannot practically bring his wisdom

to bear in the city (AH 60-62).


These distinctions suggest that the true philosopher must:

(1) possess theoretical knowledge of first principles,

(2) must exemplify the various moral virtues, and

(3) must be capable of (a) effectively conveying his theoretical insights

to the multitude and (b) forming the character of the citizenry.


“When the theoretical sciences are isolated and their possessor does not have

the faculty for exploiting them for the benefit of others, they are defective

philosophy [al-falsafa al-naqisa].

To be a truly perfect philosopher [al-faylasuf al-kamil ‘ala al-itlaq ]

one has to possess both the sciences and the faculty for exploiting

them for the benefit of all others according to their capacity.

Were one to consider the case of the true philosopher, he would find

no difference between him and the supreme ruler . . . the true philosopher

is the supreme ruler. (AH54)”


To exploit the theoretical sciences “for the benefit of all others” means

for al-Farabi to present complex philosophical truths in the

form of simple, powerful, compelling images. It means translating the

rigorous, highly technical, and admittedly rather dry and colorless discourse

of philosophical demonstration into persuasive rhetorical

speeches (AH 44, 55).


 The former is a privilege accessible only to the “elect,” who can

attain happiness though a virtue that is rooted in genuine knowledge.

The “vulgar” are constitutionally incapable of acquiring such

justified true belief, but can nonetheless attain happiness by

means of the philosopher’s practical dispensation of true belief,

through the popularized medium of images and persuasive speech.


 One of al-Farabi’s great innovations is to assign this popularization as

the appropriate function of religion. Religion serves to present

the insights of  philosophy in a form accessible to the vulgar.

On this point he is blunt and unapologetic:


“[T]hese things are  philosophy when they are in the soul

of the legislator. They are religion when they are in the

souls of the multitude. For when the legislator knows

these things, they are evident to him by sure insight,

whereas what is established in the souls of the multitude is

through image and persuasive argument. Although it is the

legislator who also presents these things through images,

neither the images nor the persuasive arguments are intended for himself.

As far as he is concerned, they are certain. He is the one who invents the

images and the persuasive arguments, but not for the sake of

establishing these things in his own soul as a religion for himself. (AH 59)”



Religion and philosophy are not to be understood as at odds

with one another (al-Farabi, like his predecessor al-Kindi,

goes to great lengths to demonstrate their compatibility),

but that is because the former is ultimately an “imitation” or 

similitude” of the latter [al-milla muhakiatun li al-falsafa ] (AH 55).


This peculiarly Platonic way of framing the matter—in terms of

original and copy— suggests that there can only be one true

philosophy (which al-Farabi will argue is that of Plato and Aristotle,

whose thought he believes is harmonizable), but that there is not 

one true religion, be it Islam or any other.


Religion is essentially a tool in the hands of the philosopher, and

its specific content must be determined by the particular nature and

character of the people to whom philosophical truth is popularly

presented (AH 40, 54).


 The philosopher, as a good rhetorician, needs to know his audience.


 Thus, in his attempt to negotiate the apparently competing

truth claims of Islam as revealed religion and the philosophy of

Plato and Aristotle, al-Farabi will understand prophetic revelation

as an imaginative disclosure of the same truths known

demonstratively and intellectually in philosophy.


And because this is the means by which philosophy is brought

to practical fruition, he will conclude that “[T]he idea of the

Philosopher, Supreme Ruler, Prince, Legislator and Imam is but a

single idea” (AH 58).


 Unlike Plato, al-Farabi does not see the need for deception and

misdirection on the part of the philosopher-ruler. The religious

doctrines by which true belief, virtue and happiness are made

possible to the multitude are not simply

a throng of lies and deceptions for the benefit of the ruled,” as Socrates

suggests in the  Republic (459c-d), but rather imagistic and persuasive

presentations of  philosophical truth. However, not all of the vulgar

will necessarily be receptive to the philosopher’s well-intentioned,

edifying efforts. There will always be those who are too obstinate

and recalcitrant to participate in the attainment of their own happiness.

In such cases, compulsion is required and the philosopher is justified in

turning to the “craft of war” in order 


to conquer the nations and cities that do not submit to doing what will procure for them that happiness for whose acquisition the human being is made. For every being is made to achieve the ultimate perfection it is susceptible of achieving according to its specific place in the order of being. The human being’s  specific perfection is called supreme happiness, and to each human being, according to his rank in the order of humanity, belongs the specific supreme happiness pertaining to this kind of human being. The warrior who pursues this purpose is the just warrior, and the art of war that pursues this purpose is the just and virtuous art of war. (AH 43)[i]


Although al-Farabi is elsewhere rather circumspect about the question

of just war,[ii] like Plato, he seems convinced that force sometimes

must be exercised on those who, through their own intransigent

ignorance and viciousness, resist the perfection of their nature

and the attainment of happiness.



PART X -  KITAB AL-H*URUF full text





Al-Fārā̄, in the Kitā b al-H*urūf , is apparently the first person to maintain that existence, in one of its senses, is a second-order concept [ma‘qūlthānı]. As he interprets Metaphysics , ‘‘being’’ [mawjūd] has two meanings, second-order ‘‘being as truth’’ ( including existence as well as propositional truth ), and first-order ‘‘being as divided into the categories.’’ The paronymous form of the Arabic word ‘‘mawjūd’’ suggests that things exist through some existence [wujūd] distinct from their essences: for al-Kindı ̄, God is such a wujūd of all things. Against this, al-Fārā̄ argues that existence as divided into the categories is real but identical with the essence of the existing thing, and that existence as truth is extrinsic to the essence but non-real ( being merely the fact that some concept is instantiated ). The H*urūf tries to reconstruct the logical syntax of syncategorematic or transcendental concepts such as being, which are often expressed in misleading grammatical forms.

Al-Fārā̄ thinks that Greek more appropriately expressed many such concepts, including being, by particles rather than nouns or verbs; he takes Metaphysics to be discussing the meanings of such particles ( comparable to the logical constants of an ideal language ), and he takes these concepts to demarcate the domain of metaphysics. This explains how al-Fārā̄’s title can mean both ‘‘Book of Particles’’ and ‘‘Aristotle’s Metaphysics.




[1] Ibid, 219-221

[2] Ibid, 279-283

[3] Alfarabi, ‘Political Regime,’ trans. Najjar, in Lerner and Mahdi (with Fortin), eds., Medieval Political Philosophy, (1963), 31-57 at 32.

[4] Al-Farabi, Mabadi’, trans. Walzer, (1985), 247-249.

[5] Walzer, Commentary to Mabadi’, in al-Farabi, Mabadi’,  trans. Walzer, (1985), 331-503, at 445.

26. In spite of al-Farabi’s emphasis on justified war in this passage, he makes no mention of jihad (“struggle” in the lesser sense, which involves an active armed conflict with evil), instead settling upon the more neutral term harb, which refers to war in general. Cf. al-Farabi’s Selected Aphorisms 58 and 67, where he does use the language of jihad.

27. For a thorough-going discussion of the question of just war in al-Farabi, see Charles Butterworth, “Al-Farabi’s Statecraft: War and the Well-Ordered Regime,” 79-100.



Additional Notes external to Parts 1-10


 Note 1) Topics  for further research:

a) Al-Farabi Translating science and the formation of terminology in Arabic philosophy and science

b) proposal by the editor

Al farabi & Arabic linguistic semantics-scenarii concept

Note 2) publication

 Early Science and Medicine


Translating science and the formation of terminology in Arabic philosophy and science




The reception of the rational sciences, scientific practice, discourse and methodology into Arabic Islamic society proceeded in several stages of exchange with the transmitters of Iranian, Christian-Aramaic and Byzan- tine-Greek learning. Translation and the acquisition of knowledge from the Hellenistic heritage went hand in hand with a continuous refinement of the methods of linguistic transposition and the creation of a standard- ized technical language in Arabic: terminology, rhetoric, and the genres of instruction. Demonstration more geometrico, first introduced by the para- digmatic sciences-mathematics, astronomy, mechanics-and adopted by philosophers embracing the cosmology of Neoplatonism, was comple- mented and superseded by the methods of syllogistic demonstration. Faced with the establishment of philosophy as a demonstrative science, which claimed absolute and universal knowledge, even the hermeneuti- cal disciplines of grammar, theology and law, which depended upon ana- logical reasoning from the Scripture, took up logical definitions and the mode of deduction. The Islamic philosophy instituted by al-Fārābī and Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), answering questions of Muslim theology, resulted in the integration and unification of scientific and philosophical discourse, and after a process of competition and dispute led to the adoption of the language of demonstration by the scholasticism of the later schools of law.


Note 3) Al-Farabi’s philosophy of education (recommended link)


Note 4) Al farabi & Arabic linguistic semantics

 Aristotelian logic and the Arabic language in Al Farabi

 recommended link:








Department of Philosophy, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke St. W.,

 Montreal, QC H3A 2T7, Canada

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

recommended link:



Note 6) Comparative Approaches to Medieval Islamic Political Philosophy and Modern Political Concepts: A Review of Iraqi and Lebanese



Patrick Kane


Keyword: Al-Farabi Translating science and the formation of terminology in Arabic philosophy and science





Le style de Farabi est un style ésotérique, ou qui emprunte des motifs ésotériques (conformément à des traditions numérologiques qui sont répandues partout). Il est également à l'origine d'une tradition d'angéologie développé par des Perses et des Juifs vers le Xe siècle, qui a été ré-interprétée par Pierre Lévy dans sa tentative de penser l'intelligence collective dans le cadre d'Internet et des NTIC.




La tradition Fârâbienne


Al-Fârâbi est une figure centrale de la philosophie médiévale, puisqu’il influencera l’Islam oriental , l’Islam occidental , les Juifs (Maïmonide) et les Chrétiens. Né dans la région de Fârâd dans le Turkestan, il propose pour la doctrine de la connaissance une « harmonisation » de Platon et d’Aristote, et pour la cosmologie une adaptation d’Aristote à Plotin et sa théorie de l’émanation.


Dans son ouvrage phare, Pierre Lévy explique : « Premièrement, Al-Fârâbî et Ibn Sina ont placé au coeur de leur anthropologie l’idée d’une intelligence unique et séparée, la même pour l’ensemble du genre humain, que l’on peut donc considérer, avant la lettre, comme un intellect commun ou collectif. Ce "conscient collectif" a été nommé l’intellect agent par ces mystiques aristotéliciens [...] ».


Et de continuer : « Cet intellect commun relie les hommes à Dieu, un Dieu essentiellement conçu comme pensée se pensant elle-même, une divinité connaissante et connaissance plutôt que toute-puissance, une pure intelligence qui n’est créatrice que par surcroît. A la suite d’Aristote, la théologie d’inspiration fârâbienne s’intéresse moins aux pouvoirs ou à la puissance de Dieu qu’à son énigmatique manière de penser, à sa contemplation éternelle de soi. Par analogie, cette théologie aura donc peut-être quelque chose à nous apprendre sur l’intellectuel collectif et la façon dont il se pense en pensant son monde. »


Pour conclure : « Nous pouvons donc, en cette fin du XXè siècle, nous approprier cette philosophie puisque, s’inspirant de l’aristotélisme et du néo-platonisme, elle hérite de la haine des Grecs pour l’infini. Dieu, les anges, la pensée et le monde y sont appréhendés en termes qualitatifs. Dieu n’est pas infiniment plus que nous (plus puissant, plus sage, plus juste…), mais radicalement autre : unité absolue de la pensée se pensant elle-même. Or cette divinité « autre » étant quantitativement finie, nous pouvons songer à la réintégrer dans la finitude d’une humanité qui ne ce cesse elle-même de devenir autre. »


De la doctrine de l’émanation au "conscient collectif"


La doctrine de l’émanation sous-entend  une émanation divine, une "action par laquelle Dieu produirait l’univers des esprits et des corps, comme par un écoulement nécessaire de sa nature" (Foulq.-St-Jean, 1962).


Voici comment Pierre Lévy transpose cet écoulement divin en conscient collectif :


« Les humains sont toujours intelligents en puissance mais ils ne passent à l’acte (c’est à dire selon Aristote la terminologie aristotélicienne, ne deviennent effectivement intelligents et connaissants) que lorsqu’ils sont illuminés par l’Ange. Les formes intelligibles ruissellent de l’intellect agent et quand elles atteignent les âmes convenablement disposées, elles les font passer de la connaissance en puissance (possible) à la connaissance en acte (réelle). Nous ne sommes donc intelligents en acte que grâce à l’intellect agent, commun à l’ensemble de l’humanité, qui est une sorte de « conscient collectif ». Pour l’homme, le degré suprême de félicité est évidemment de s’unir à l’intellect agent, de capter le plus pleinement, le mieux possible, l’émission angélique. »


 En quoi ces théories philosophiques médiévales peuvent-elles nous aider à penser l’intellectuel collectif à venir ?


Voici la réponse de Pierre Lévy  : « à titre expérimental nous allons conserver le schéma fârâbien, mais en inversant ses principaux termes » :


- Ainsi le monde angélique devient : « la région des mondes virtuels par lesquels des êtres humains se constituent en intellectuels collectifs ».


- L’Intellect agent devient quant à lui : « l’expression, l’espace de communication, de navigation et de négociation des membres d’un intellectuel collectif. »


Note par AdibHathout


logique, développement, amour


La logique c'est le développement mental qui génère le développement dans tous les secteurs de l'économie et de la société ;

Quant à l'amour c'est l'image de Dieu parmi les humains, car Dieu est à la fois la somme des sciences et le sommet de l'amour:


1er siècle : L'invitation à l'amour chez Saint Paul : "il n'y a pas de différence entre juifs et non juifs, hommes et femmes, esclave et homme libre" (Galates 3:28) 


2ème siècle. Marc Aurèle (Père de la logique comme stoïcien)  "Le propre de l'homme c'est d'aimer" 


4ème siècle: Ephrem le Syrien : "Le sage ne hait personne" 


7ème siècle: L'invitation à l'amour dans le Coran : « Oh ! Vous les hommes ! Nous vous avons créés d’un mâle et d’une femelle. Nous vous avons constitués en peuples et en tribus afin que vous vous connaissiez entre vous. Le plus noble d’entre vous, auprès de Dieu, est le plus pieux d’entre vous. » (49:13)



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