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Islamic Philosophy of Virtuous Religions, An

Introducing Alfarabi

Joshua Parens

Publication Year: 2006

Joshua Parens provides an introduction to the thought of Alfarabi, a tenth-century Muslim political philosopher whose writings are particularly relevant today. Parens focuses on Alfarabi’s Attainment of Happiness, in which he envisions the kind of government and religion needed to fulfill Islam’s ambition of universal acceptance. Parens argues that Alfarabi seeks to temper the hopes of Muslims and other believers that one homogeneous religion might befit the entire world and counsels acceptance of the possibility of a multiplicity of virtuous religions. Much of Alfarabi’s approach is built upon Plato’s Republic, which Parens also examines in order to provide the necessary background for a proper understanding of Alfarabi’s thought.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

I thank the Earhart Foundation, together with my university, the University of Dallas, for generously funding a sabbatical leave (AY 2003–2004), during which I drafted this book. I also thank Cornell University Press for allowing me to reprint words, phrases, and paragraphs from Alfarabi: The Political Writings: The Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, trans. Muhsin ...


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pp. ix

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One. Introduction

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pp. 1-8

Now more than at any time for centuries, Alfarabi, a tenth-century Muslim political philosopher, is especially timely. This book is intended as an introduction to Alfarabi’s thought not through a survey of his many writings but through an analysis especially of one of them, one with special relevance to our times. In his Attainment of Happiness, Alfarabi envisions the ...

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Two. The Impossibility of the City in the Republic

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pp. 9-28

Before turning to the Republic itself, I must say a word or two about Alfarabi’s access to the Republic. Alfarabi refers explicitly to the Republic in the Attainment of Happiness (AH) three times. Most of his references there are to Republic, bks. 6–7. I will discuss his handling of these references in chapter 3. In his Political Regime (PR), Alfarabi discusses at great length the ...

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Three. The A Fortiori Argument

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pp. 29-54

If the Republic’s virtuous city is impossible, then a fortiori Alfarabi’s regime of the inhabited world in the Attainment of Happiness (AH)—composed of virtuous nations, each of which is composed in turn of virtuous cities—is impossible (cf. AH, Mahdi, ed., secs. 44–47; Yasin, ed., 81–85; VC,Walzer, ed., 15.3). After our look at the Republic, where Socrates never went so far as to ...

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Four. Alfarabi on Jih

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pp. 55-76

Heraclitus ascribed a significant place to war in human life.1 To my knowledge, however, Plato’s Athenian Stranger was the first to claim that human beings desire “to have things happen in accordance with the commands of [their] own soul—preferably all things, but if not that, then at least the human things” (Laws 687c1–7). We have already seen just such a desire ...

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Five. The Multiplicity Argument

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pp. 77-102

Alfarabi claims that religion is inherently multiple. Religions must be adapted to the time and place for which they are given (AH secs. 24, 33, 46). Each nation possesses a distinct national character (AH 45–47 and PR, Hyderabad ed., pp. 40–41). If a religious law, which does not suit its national character, is legislated for a nation, it will not give rise to a virtuous nation. ...

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Six. The Limits of Knowledge and the Problem of Realization

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pp. 103-124

Yet on many occasions he renders it as “realization.” 1 Of course, both meanings are within the range of denotations of the Arabic word. Mahdi stresses that he has not stuck to a rigid literalism in his translation, because the text does not lend itself to one. And he acknowledges that all translations engage to some extent in interpretation.2 He cannot possibly be faulted for a “mistaken” translation. Indeed, I do ...


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pp. 125-154


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pp. 155-158

Author/Subject Index

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pp. 159-168

Index of Passages from Alfawarabi’sAttainment of Happiness

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pp. 169-170

E-ISBN-13: 9780791482124
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791466896
Print-ISBN-10: 0791466892

Page Count: 180
Publication Year: 2006