The Puzzle of Alfarabi's Parallel Works

26 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2016 Last revised: 23 Sep 2016

See all articles by Miriam Galston

Miriam Galston

George Washington University - Law School

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.

Suggested Citation

Galston, Miriam, The Puzzle of Alfarabi's Parallel Works (2015). 77 Review of Politics 519-543 (2015); GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2015-65; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-65. Available at SSRN: or

Miriam Galston (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-6781 (Phone)
202-994-9446 (Fax)

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