By Joshua Parens
Explores the method of peaceable spiritual coexistence provided by way of Alfarabi, the best Islamic political thinker.
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Additional resources for An Islamic Philosophy of Virtuous Religions: Introducing Alfarabi
Of course, improper forms of education contribute to the impossibility, or at least limit the possibility, of philosopher-rulers. Indeed, both Plato and Alfarabi discuss at some length what happens when philosophers are improperly educated, or when people unsuited to philosophy receive a philosophic education. Most of the sixth book of the Republic is devoted to an account of why people unsuited to philosophy are rendered “vicious” by it, and why potential philosophers remain “useless” to their cities.
From the beginning of part iii, even before sec. 42, Alfarabi has described how the philosopher ruler should educate and exploit other princes for the rule of the multiplicity of nations and cities under his rule. 14–17). Nevertheless, when he enters upon the task of delegating responsibility in earnest (47, 48), he acknowledges rather casually that there is a “warlike virtue” and a “deliberative virtue” involved in these activities. It would be best if these were combined in one man. 3). ” If duties can be so divided along the line of these virtues, then Alfarabi seems to have contradicted his claim that the activities of persuasion and compulsion are rooted in the same skill (sec.
In the meantime, however, it must be underlined that although Alfarabi here entertains the possibility of using war to shape the character of other nations, it cannot yet be known in what spirit he does so. Is he voicing a personal preference guided by philosophic reasoning? Is he entertaining a possibility he considers ill advised, only to show how problematic it is? Although we are concerned with Alfarabi’s views on the prospects for unity of the various philosophic and ruling virtues in general, we are concerned at present with the combination of philosophic and warrior virtue in particular.