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  • "The Letter Concerning the Intellect," Trans. Arthur Hyman, in Arthur Hyman and James J. Walsh. Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1973) 215-221.
    • From Aristotle: "intellect in potentiality, intellect in actuality, acquired intellect, and agent intellect" (Hyman 215)
      • potential: "whose essence is ready and prepared to abstract the quiddities of all existing things and their forms from their matters, so that it makes all of them a form for itself" (Hyman 215)
      • actual: "The meaning of our statement concerning [the intellect] that it is thinking, is nothing else but that the intelligibles become forms for it" (Hyman 216).
      • acquired: "When the intellect in actuality thinks the intelligibles which are forms in it, insofar as they are intelligibles in actuality, then the intellect of which it was first said that it is the intellect in actuality, becomes now the acquired intellect" (Hyman 217).
      • "if there exist things which are forms which have no matter, it is not at all necessary that this essence [the intellect in potentiality] abstracts them from matters, but it encounters them as abstracted and thinks them just as it encounters itself" (Hyman 217).
      • agent: "When one ascends . . . then one will have ascended to the first stage of existing things which are immaterial, and the first stage is the stage of the agent intellect" (Hyman 218).
      • The agent intellect (as discussed by Aristotle in the third treaties of de Anima) stands in relation to the potential intellect "like the relation of the sun to the eye" (Hyman 218).
      • celestial bodies "give to the agent intellect the matters and substrata in which it acts" (Hyman 221)
    • but "above" the perfection of celestial bodies is the "first heaven"; and even "more perfect" than the "first heaven" is the "mover of the first heaven": the intellect that "thinks itself" in its first principle as "two natures" (Hyman 221).

I am that I am?

  • Directing Attention to the Way to Happiness (see McGinnis and Reisman, Classical Arabic Philosophy, Hackett: 2007)

"Happiness is obtained only in as much as man has excellent discernment while being aware of how he discerns what he discerns and at every moment of his life" (106).

"Every person, from the moment he exists, is endowed with a potentiality through which his actions, the accidents of his soul, and his discernment are the way they should be" (or should not be) (106).

"Whenever a person does not have a [noble] disposition actually present, he can obtain it for himself" (107-108). [by avoiding excess or deficiency cf. Nichomachaean Eth.]


Robert C. Coons on al-Farabi's cosmological argument

Paul Halsall's "Islamic political philosophy: Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes"

  • From al-Farabi's Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Trans. Mushin Mahdi (NY: Free Press of Glencoe, 1962):

In the chapter on "The Attainment of Happiness" found in al-Farabi's book on Plato and Aristotle (not to be confused with his book on the "Harmonization" of Plato and Aristotle) he draws a distinction between "beings" and their "images". Furthermore, according to the "ancients", philosophy is the "demonstrative knowledge of the beings, considered in themselves, while religion is defined as the assent, secured by persuasion, to the images of these beings" (Mushin 7).

"Only the perfect philosopher knows the beings, represents them properly, and can judge whether the images do in fact come 'as close as possible to the essences' of the things imitated" as in Plato's Timaeus (Mushin 7).


After presenting his own views on Happiness, and after reviewing Plato's philosophy, al-Farabi finally presents Aristotle's "art of demonstration" as "the highest wisdom" (Mushin 8).