Al-Farabi, c. 870 - 950

“The Greeks who possessed this science used to call it unqualified wisdom and the highest wisdom. They called the acquisition of it science, and that scientific state of mind philosophy (by which they meant the quest and the love of the highest wisdom). They called the one who acquires it philosopher (meaning the one who loves and is in quest for the highest wisdom.) They held that it potentially subsumes all of the virtues.”

– Al-Farabi

Introduction and Biography

Abu Nasr al-Farabi is widely regarded as the founder of philosophy within the Islamic world. Although he had some noteworthy predecessors, such as al-Kindi and al-Razi, he was the first philosopher of his epoch to command the unqualified respect of future generations. Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides all considered many of Alfarabi’s themes and left written testimony of their admiration for him. He became known as the “second teacher,” that is, second only to Aristotle.

Little reliable information about Alfarabi’s life has survived. The extant sources all date from at least three centuries after his death. He was probably born in what is now Kazakhstan around 870, and died in 950. He spent most of his active career, which was largely devoted to teaching, writing, and his studies, in Baghdad. There has been speculation that he also studied in Byzantium, because of his interest in Greek language and thought, but this has never been verified. He left Baghdad due to political unrest toward the end of his life and may have died in Damascus. [Read More]

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