The Puzzle of Alfarabi's Parallel Works
77 Review of Politics 519-543 (2015)
26 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2016 Last revised: 23 Sep 2016
Date Written: 2015
Scholars disagree about the correct interpretation of Alfarabi’s Political Regime and Virtuous City, treatises that have striking similarities, yet notable differences. For some, the treatises encapsulate Alfarabi’s philosophy; for others, they express only politically salutary opinions. Both interpretations fail to explain why he wrote parallel works. If both reﬂect Alfarabi’s genuine philosophic doctrines, why did he compose separate but parallel treatises, both written when his philosophy was mature? Alternatively, if the treatises are political or rhetorical, why did Alfarabi compose two versions, and why did he choose these two accounts rather than others? To answer these questions, I discuss several overarching differences between the treatises, concluding that each work has an inner coherence and develops a distinctive narrative. I offer suggestions to account for the works’ distinctive orientations, both to persuade doubtful readers of their philosophic signiﬁcance and to suggest to both groups of scholars reasons for their systematic differences.
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