Al-Farabis humanistic principles and "virtuous city"


In our time of globalization humanistic principles should be fundamental to the people around the world, otherwise we can not solve the global problems of mankind. At the present time, when the world globalization processes put before mankind new issues and identified the main problem, the study of the works of such thinker as Al-Farabi becomes extremely important. To study Al-Farabi’s philosophy is becoming more relevant in today's context of increasing democratic reforms, creation of a legal, secular state and approval of harmony in society. In this respect, the study of political philosophy of Al-Farabi, especially his teachings on politics, freedom, happiness, and the need to mutual assistance between people, his appeal to science, intellectual and moral perfection of man and society, over-actualized. Particularly relevant today a thinker’s concept on political leadership, his ideas about the virtuous society, justice, equality, preserving peace, preventing war, condemnation of wars. In this regard, political philosophy and ideas of the thinker can be a valuable source for the education of the younger generation.



Al-Farabi is considered as one of the great Arab philosophers. He studied Greek philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle, whose works he translated, transposed in aphoristic form and imitated them. Following the tradition of later Greek commentators of Aristotle, he believed that Aristotle and Plato in essential matters were in solidarity with each other, and vigorously tried to reconcile those moments in which they disagreed. In contrast to empiricism of Razi, Al-Farabi remained true deductive method; he believed that the world is not eternal, but was created, and sought to prove that Aristotle had same view and that the gap between the absolute unity of God and the multiplicity of the real world is filled with a series of successive emanations. Distinguishing potential, actual and acquired intelligence he believed that through the last possible comprehension of "effective intelligence" or God.

Humanistic principles of the great scientist always attracted special attention because they are

still relevant and in demand in our modern globalized world.

Al-Farabi wrote about 100 works, many of which have not survived, while others exist only in Latin translations. Not so long ago, were found some Arabic originals. Among the most interesting works are the "Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city" (Kitab ara ahl al-madinat al fadila) (modeled on Plato's Republic) and the "Pearl of Wisdom" (Isbat al-akl), it was first in Arabic literature attempt to systematize knowledge. Al-Farabi engaged not only in philosophy but also the sciences; he left a treatise on music, in which the Greek theory is applied to Arabic practice."Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city" is one of the major works of Al-Farabi, completed in 948 (Russian translation was published: Al-Farabi. Philosophical treatises. Alma-Ata, 1970). The first version of the text was known as 942 separate essays "Kitab al-siyasa madaniyya" - "Civil politics" (Russian translation was published: Al-Farabi. Social and ethical treatises. Alma-Ata, 1973). It is a systematic account of the views of Al-Farabi on the world, society and people. "Treatise" contains, though not directly expressed, the postulate of all deductive arranged teachings of Al-Farabi: the universe as a proprietary physical world, which includes people with his gift of thinking, and is inexplicable without the interpretation of the ability to think as a special case of motion, because necessary assumption of a supersensible nature, functions, and by the existence of which is a special kind of translation activity in the current state of potential. Following Aristotle Al-Farabi considered possible existence of only one, but two-level (sublunary and superlunary) world, the eternal and dynamic existence of which is due to be inseparable from the world supersensible essence, Aristotle called the prime mover, Al-Farabi - the first cause. In contrast to the Platonic-Plotinian principle generated by the demiurge, or one world, Al-Farabi accepted the Aristotelian principle of eternal and not generated world. The task of philosophy he thought a description and explanation of existing forever and eternity of existence through a qualitative analysis of the various parts of the universe, a qualitative description of the processes in detail in it, understood as the actualization of potential though, but the existing one. Ethics in the modern sense of the category of "virtue" for Al-Farabi is the key to the teleological interpretation of being as the universe and human itself, and human in society, as a virtue is a way of thinking, knowledge. In fact, education is one of the most important social phenomena in Al-Farabi's philosophical system. It is concerned with the human soul and makes sure that the individual is

prepared from an early age to become a member of society, to achieve his own level of perfection, and thus to reach the goal for which he was created. However, while it is true that there are no writings specifically devoted to education in al-Farabi's books, anyone who follows his writings with care will come upon various texts scattered here and there containing clear educational elements corresponding to his overall philosophical views, which incline to integrate separate concepts and thoughts into a ‘unified world view'.Indeed, the whole activity of education, in Al-Farabi's view, can be summed up as the acquisition of values, knowledge and practical skills by the individual, within a particular period and a particular culture. The goal of education is to lead the individual to perfection since the human being was created for this purpose.The perfect human being (), thought Al-Farabi, is the one who has obtained theoretical virtue—thus completing his intellectual knowledge—and has acquired practical moral virtues—thus becoming perfect in his moral behaviour. Then, crowning these theoretical and moral virtues with effective power, they are anchored in the souls of individual members of the community when they assume the responsibility of political leadership, thus becoming role models for other people. Al-Farabi unites moral and aesthetic values: good is beautiful, and beauty is good; the beautiful is that which is valued by the intelligentsia (Al-Farabi, 1982). So this perfection which he expects from education combines knowledge and virtuous behavior; it is happiness and goodness at one and the same time. Al-Farabi concerned not only personal, but also social perfection and his "virtuous city" (madina fadylya) built on principles borrowed primarily from Platonism, Neo-Platonic and Aristotelian although construction elements of his teaching can not be underestimated. The political philosophy of Al-Farabi had little to do with the political theory in the Arab-Muslim culture, which was focused on the realities of the Islamic state and was represented primarily by name of al-Mawardi (974-1058). Al-Farabi’s comments to "Nicomachean ethics" was lost, and although some minor works - "Phi tahsyl al-sa'ada" ("On finding happiness"), "al-sabil tanbit ala al-sa'ada" ("Reminder on the way to happiness ")," Kitab al-mill "("Book of the mill ") and others give some idea of his views on personal perfection, but predominant interest to Al-Farabi was the dispensation of the society in order to maximize the perfection of its citizens. Relevant views expressed by him in a number of small works, as well as two major works - "Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city" and "Civil politics" are very similar in their content. Al-Farabi based on the separation of science and installed them on the general laws,studying the subject as a whole (kulliyya), and private, dealing with individual things (dzhuz'iyya). Opposition whole-unit sets the unique gradation sciences and related occupations: single science depends on the totality, since they use established laws. Political philosophy (falsafa madaniyya) or civil science (ilm ma-danian) is looking for general laws and makes recommendations for their use in a variety of specific cases. This science is divided into two parts. One learns what happiness is true and untrue, what are the vices and virtues and the virtues different from nonvirtues; the second - how they are distributed in human cities, and what kinds of art of government.True happiness Al-Farabi considered achievable only in the afterlife. Happiness is good in its absolute sense, but an absolute good it is absolute being. Such has the first principle, understood in the spirit of neo-Platonic, but often referred in Aristotelian terms as an effective mind. The dichotomy of body and soul is very clearly stated in Al-Farabi: the soul is tormented by a "prison", composed of the four elements, and its only hope of release - wisdom (hikma), true and complete knowledge that will cause "unity" (it- tihad) soul with the metaphysical principles of the universe.

I n addition to true, there is happiness inauthentic. On the one hand, this is what people are

mistaken for happiness, not having any idea about it. But on the other, it is a dispensation of earthly

life, which contributes to the achievement of true happiness. The fact is that everything that is

useful for true happiness and good, also have the benefit and happiness, but not in itself, but

because it serves the purpose. The aim of political philosophy is finding what true happiness, then

strengthen in people and their cities and promote the virtues of doing good deeds. At the head of the

virtuous city rulers are philosophers, acting both as leaders of the religious community. In the

virtuous cities strive to achieve true happiness to all residents, is dominated by goodness and

justice, condemned injustice and evil. Virtuous city according to Al- Farabi contrasts ignorant of

the city (al-madina al-jahiliyyah), the rulers and the people there have no idea about the true

happiness and do not seek it, but only focus on physical health, pleasure and wealth. It contains the

doctrine of the "virtuous city", which is headed by a philosopher. Al-Farabi believes that the goal of

human activity - happiness, which can be achieved only by means of rational knowledge. The

society thinker identified with the state. State arranged best when each member takes place as

possible to the individual inclinations and abilities, Al-Farabi believed that everyone contributes to

the overall goal, if constantly being improved. Considering the state as a hierarchy of power, Al-

Farabi, however, is not linked notion of human dignity with the social status of the individual. For

him, every member of society, every human life was social value as a person according to their

capabilities contributes to overall happiness entirely to himself while learning about happiness,

appropriate to his rank in society. That is why Al-Farabi approved the value and preference of

every human life than death. According to Al-Farabi, the man "must seek means to live as long as

possible so that he could do more, that brings him happiness, and that people are not deprived of

the benefit of the city, dealing with his goodness" (Al-Farabi, 1961). Death of any person he

justified only if it was for the good of society. Considering a human as social value, Al- Farabi

however did not share the purely pragmatic approach to the people of the state, according to which

all who are unable to perform a useful function in the city, old men, cripples, patients should be

expelled. On the contrary, he said, the city should take care of these people. He repeatedly stressed

that only with the active cooperation of every citizen is possible to achieve a good state. This

assistance is in constant improvement, the level of perfection for different people are different and

depend on both the natural and acquired from the training and education of personal qualities. Al-

Farabi evaluated the society as a certain form of human existence that is different from other forms

of its domestic laws, he perceives man as a "collectivistic". But to achieve happiness as the goal of

society, human existence, he considered a man as being "individualistic", as in the personal

qualities of individuals saw a pledge to achieve the common good. These qualities are the physical

and spiritual. Understanding of man as a spiritual and bodily unity Al- Farabi set out from this point

of view, the theory of the perfect man. This harmonious development of personality, combining

physical and mental qualities: healthy body, a clear mind, imagination, a good memory, wit,

expressive speech, curiosity, intelligence in sensual pleasures, love of truth, nobility of soul,

contempt for wealth, etc. Particularly necessary Al- Farabi considered the quality of justice in the

presence of the perfect man, who must "love" ... justice and its advocates, hate injustice and tyranny

and those from whom they come; to be fair to his people and to others, to encourage justice and

indemnify the victims of injustice ... to be fair, but not stubborn, do not be capricious and not to

persist in the face of justice, but to be quite adamant to every injustice and meanness” (Al-Farabi,

1970). Man that combines all of these qualities, worthy to be a ruler. Such a person needs society as head of the city.Thus, the mayor must be a person of high morals, not only knowledgeable happiness, but also leading other people to it.Therefore, its management people quite naturally, because it contributes to happiness. The perfect man according to Al- Farabi is a person who can give his all energy for the benefit of society and will find happiness in serving the public interest. He is a harmonious blend of mind and morality. This is a sample of the true philosopher who Al-Farabi opposed false, imaginary, "not real" (Al-Farabi, 1926). In the theory of knowledge Al-Farabi defended a person's ability to improve its creative activity, opposed the Koranic dogma of inherence last only God, and against Plato's theory of "innate ideas"; Al-Farabi in the social utopia, tried to defend a point of view of the need for a natural, natural, and not the estate, hereditary dynastic sanctions on the government. In the teachings of the perfect man fully expressed the moral and ethical utopianism of the thinker. It is ideal as a true ruler and a virtuous city it is easy to see the traits of a long-term dream of the peoples of the Middle East on the about "fair state" and "a fair ruler" under the banner of which were mass anti-feudal rebellion in the era of Al-Farabi.


The results show that the great scientist and philosopher Abu Nasir Al-Farabi developed a deeply original, consistent with the spirit of his age, humanistic inherently system of views on human rights. By addressing the individual and society, he came up with the position of the best achievements of natural science and social thought of his time, as well as ancient Greek philosophy. The first socio-political thinker among the Arabic philosophers, Al-Farabi expanded the boundaries of speculation prior to the consideration of human nature, the meaning of his life, his place in the universe, its role in society, the nature of the state association, expressing their dissatisfaction with the Islamic concept of man. In the era of universal domination of the religious worldview approach of blind faith led to the interpretation of the person is fundamentally different from the officially accepted. In contrast to the Islamic concept of a man as a creature among creatures and servant of God, Al- Farabi considered a man in several aspects of his life: as a physical being, as a living being, as the highest natural mixture, as a rational animal, as a civil creature. On the basis of reasonable activity of a man as his natural properties Al-Farabi made a number of conclusions about the humanistic equality of all people as a result of the overall reasonable nature of the autonomy of the human being, the creative activity of the person, freedom of the human will, independent of the value of human life. However, his worldview inherent characteristic of all medieval thinking the antithesis of the divine and human. But God, conceived in the spirit of Aristotle as a distant first cause, recedes into the background, giving the world of human development according to its laws. Acting as the global mind, he is consubstantial with the human being, and the ideals of reason, happiness, virtue, act in relation to man and society as resultants of God. Pantheistic idea of oneness of God with a human being, expressed Al-Farabi in his doctrine of emanation of the world of the mind to the world of intelligent human activity was a means of overcoming the opposition of the Islamic monotheistic creator and creation, and the creation of a coherent picture of the human being, where the person is in harmony with oneself, with nature and God. Linking the level of intellectual development of the person with the personal qualities of the individual both congenital and acquired, Al-Farabi proclaimed the uniqueness and intrinsic value of each person. This individualistic setting under the domination of religious beliefs on all people as one faceless flock of God was undoubtedly progressive. Humanism of Al-Farabi has intellectual, 128

educational nature. In his views on man, he comes from the recognition of a certain common to mankind natural properties, they perceived in a reasonable activity. However, in the Middle Ages, when there was still broken dictatorship of the church, there is a reasonable man proclamation led to the humanistic ideas of ownership of man to God, the freedom of the human will, his ability to choose between good and evil, of the independence of his judgments, and his ability to improvement, the important role of knowledge in human society, about the bright future of mankind. All of these ideas in one form or another have found expression in the socio-political doctrine of the thinker from Otrar. The peculiarity of Al-Farabi’s humanism, something new, that he gave the development of humanistic ideas, it is against the Islamic fatalism, which, in the apt remark of Karl Marx, the core of the Muslim religion. The value of its humanistic teachings to contemporary era was great, as this was the first attempt to philosophical understanding of human problems and human society in an atmosphere of dominance of religious orthodoxy. Basing on the best examples of ancient Greek humanist thought, Al-Farabi subjected to a critical understanding of a number of its provisions, especially sociopolitical a number of its provisions, especially the sociopolitical doctrine of Plato. In contrast to ancient Greek philosophers, he did not limit the concept of '' man'' by ethnic framework. Asserting the idea of the possibility of familiarizing people to knowledge, irrespective of their national, racial, social, religious affiliation, Al-Farabi had risen to the proclamation of the ideals of universal humanism. These are his "virtuous city" and "the perfect man". The concept of a man, created by Al-Farabi, had a significant impact on the subsequent medieval philosophy representatives of the peoples of the Middle East: Ibn Sina, Al-Biruni, Al-Mahari, Ibn-Budge, Ibn Tufeylya, Ibn Rushd, who followed Al-Farabi and argued the need for a rationalist, or philosophical, that, according to their understanding, the same term, approach to the problem of a man. Deepening and developing the various aspects of progressive conditions in medieval doctrine of a man, whose foundations were laid by Al- Farabi, these thinkers continued to struggle against the dominance of religious dogma and mysticism, of humanism and enlightenment. For example, the Clean Brothers developed the ideas of brotherhood and justice, which, according to them, were to be the moral principle of society. The famous poet Al-Maari free thinker passionately defended the idea of innate natural equality of all human beings. Ibn Shiba in their socio-political views largely followed the thinker of Otrar. Ibn Baja, being heavily influenced by "Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city'' of Al-Farabi in the product '' lifestyle retire", developed the idea of the necessity of moral fortitude person under any circumstances. Al-Farabi’s influence, especially in the classification of ''Cities '', there is a sociological works of Ibn Rushd, in particular in his comments to Plato’s ”State” (Satybekova, 1975). Throughout the middle ages the works of Al-Farabi enjoyed great popularity in Western Europe and undoubtedly contributed to the development of Renaissance humanism.


  • Al-Farabi, Talkhis nawamis Aflatun, edited by ‘Abd al-Rahman Badawi, in: Aflatan fi l-islam, Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1982, p. 54.

  • Al- Farabi, The Fusul al-Madani, D.M.Dunlop. Cambridge, 1961, p.39.

  • Al-Farabi.Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city. Alma-Ata, 1970, p.318-319.

  • Al-Farabi. Book of happiness achievement. Hyderabad, 1926, p.44-46.

  • Satybekova S.K. Humanism of Al-Farabi. Alma-Ata.1975, p.136-138.

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Tanabayeva, A., Massalimova, A., Mukhatova, O., Alikbayeva, M., & Alikbayeva, Z. (2015). Al-Farabis humanistic principles and "virtuous city". In Z. Bekirogullari, & M. Y. Minas (Eds.), Cognitive - Social, and Behavioural Sciences – icCSBs 2015 January, vol 2. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 124-129). Future Academy.