Al-Farabi (/ˌælfəˈrɑːbi/; Persian: ابو نصر محمد بن محمد فارابي Abū Naṣr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Al Fārābī, (873-950), known in the West as Alpharabius was a renowned philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was also a scientist, cosmologist, mathematician and music scholar.
Born Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi in Fārāb, Transoxiana (ancient Persia, now Uzbekistan), of Turkish parentage, his Latin name is Alfarabius. He studied in Khorāsān (now in Iran) and then in Baghdād, where his teachers were Christian Syrians expert in Greek philosophy. Eventually he came to live at the court of Sayf al-Dawlah, the ruler of Ḩalab (Aleppo) (now in Syria). Al-Farabi was one of the earliest Islamic thinkers to transmit to the Arab world the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle (which he considered essentially identical), thereby greatly influencing such later Islamic philosophers as Avicenna and Averroës.
In Arabic philosophical tradition, he is known with the honorific "the Second Master", after Aristotle. He is credited with preserving the original Greek texts during the Middle Ages because of his commentaries and treatises, and influencing many prominent philosophers, like Avicenna and Maimonides. Through his works, he became well-known in the East as well as the West.
Al-Farabi, the first Islamic philosopher to uphold the primacy of philosophical truth over revelation, claiming that, contrary to the beliefs of various other religions, philosophical truth is the same throughout the world.
Influenced in his metaphysical views by both Aristotle and the Neoplatonist Roman philosopher Plotinus, al-Farabi posited a Supreme Being who had created the world through the exercise of rational intelligence. He believed this same rational faculty to be the sole part of the human being that is immortal, and thus he set as the paramount human goal the development of that rational faculty. Al-Farabi gave considerably more attention to political theory than did any other Islamic philosopher, adapting the Platonic system (as developed in Plato's Republic and Laws) to the contemporary Muslim political situation in The Perfect City.
Al-Farabi formulated as an ideal a universal religion in which all other existing religions are considered symbolic expressions of the universal religion. Of about 100 works by al-Farabi, many have been lost, including his commentaries on Aristotle. Many others have been preserved in medieval Latin translations only. In addition to his philosophical writings, al-Farabi compiled a Catalogue of Sciences, the first Muslim work to attempt a systematization of human knowledge. He also made a contribution to musical theory in his Great Book of Music.
Farabi made contributions to the fields of logic, mathematics, music, philosophy, psychology, and education.
Al-Farabi wrote: The Necessity of the Art of the Elixir
Though he was mainly an Aristotelian logician, he included a number of non-Aristotelian elements in his works. He discussed the topics of future contingents, the number and relation of the categories, the relation between logic and grammar, and non-Aristotelian forms of inference. He is also credited with categorizing logic into two separate groups, the first being "idea" and the second being "proof".
Al-Farabi also considered the theories of conditional syllogisms and analogical inference, which were part of the Stoic tradition of logic rather than the Aristotelian. Another addition al-Farabi made to the Aristotelian tradition was his introduction of the concept of poetic syllogism in a commentary on Aristotle's Poetics.
Drawing of a musical instrument, a shahrud, from al-Farabi's Kitāb al-mūsīqā al-kabīr
Al-Farabi wrote a book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqa (The Book of Music). In it, he presents philosophical principles about music, its cosmic qualities, and its influences.
He also wrote a treatise on the Meanings of the Intellect, which dealt with music therapy and discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.
Gerard of Cremona's Latin translation of Kitab ihsa' al-'ulum ("Encyclopedia of the Sciences")
As a philosopher, Al-Farabi was a founder of his own school of early Islamic philosophy known as "Farabism" or "Alfarabism", though it was later overshadowed by Avicennism. Al-Farabi's school of philosophy "breaks with the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle [... and ...] moves from metaphysics to methodology, a move that anticipates modernity", and "at the level of philosophy, Alfarabi unites theory and practice [... and] in the sphere of the political he liberates practice from theory". His Neoplatonic theology is also more than just metaphysics as rhetoric. In his attempt to think through the nature of a First Cause, Alfarabi discovers the limits of human knowledge".
Al-Farabi had great influence on science and philosophy for several centuries, and was widely considered second only to Aristotle in knowledge (alluded to by his title of "the Second Teacher") in his time. His work, aimed at synthesis of philosophy and Sufism, paved the way for the work of Ibn Sina (Avicenna).
Al-Farabi also wrote a commentary on Aristotle's work, and one of his most notable works is Al-Madina al-Fadila where he theorized an ideal state as in Plato's The Republic.
Al-Farabi wrote a short treatise "On Vacuum", where he thought about the nature of the existence of void.He also may have carried out the first experiments concerning the existence of vacuum, in which he investigated handheld plungers in water. His final conclusion was that air's volume can expand to fill available space, and he suggested that the concept of perfect vacuum was incoherent.
Wrote Social Psychology and Principles of the Opinions of the Citizens of the Virtuous City, which were the first treatises to deal with social psychology.
In his treatise On the Cause of Dreams, which appeared as chapter 24 of his Principles of the Opinions of the Citizens of the Ideal City, he distinguished between dream interpretation and the nature and causes of dreams.