Selected Aphorisms

Alfarabi: The Political Writings. Trans. Charles Butterworth. Contains Selected Aphorisms. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.

Introduction by Translator:

“In the Selected Aphorisms, Al Farabi begins with, then develops, a comparison between the health of the soul and that of the body. That is, somewhat abruptly, he starts his exposition by defining the health of each and then explains how the health of the more important of the two – that of the soul – may be obtained and its sickness repulsed. The first word of the Selected Aphorisms is simply “soul,” while the last is “virtue.” In the 96 aphorisms occurring between these two words, Al Farabi first enters upon a detailed examination of the soul, then provides an account and justification of the well-ordered political regime that the soul needs in order to attain its perfection. At no point in the treatise or epistle does he speak of prophecy or of the prophet or legislator. The terms are not even invoked. He is equally silent with respect to the philosopher and mentions “philosophy” only twice, both in the antepenultimate aphorism 95 – the same aphorism in which he mentions, for the only time, the word “revelation.” On the other hand, Al Farabi speaks constantly throughout these aphorisms of the statesman (madani) and of the king.”

Recommended Edition