Article ID: CBB001252564

Al-Farabi's Lost Commentary on the Ethics: New Textual Evidence (2013)


Al-Farabi's lost commentary on Aristotle's Ethica Nicomachea is without doubt one of the most sorely missed lost works of the Islamic falasifa. In part, this is because the commentary was in some respects a scandal, and scholars accordingly believe it may hold the key to resolving present-day disagreements on how to interpret al-Farabi's views as expressed in his independent treatises. Perhaps al-Farabi's most shocking or scandalous statement is that preserved by the Hispano-Muslim philosophers Ibn Bajja, Ibn ufayl, and Ibn Rushd. According to them al-Farabi says in his commentary on Aristotle's Ethica Nicomachea that happiness is to be achieved only in this life, not in the afterlife; that there is no happiness but political happiness; and that union with the active intellect -- generally considered the highest goal of human existence by the philosophers -- is impossible. This paper addresses the following questions: What exactly is the debate about? Why is the question of immortality or conjunction related to Aristotle's Ethica Nicomachea? And why was it so controversial to say, in the context of the Ethica Nicomachea, that there is no happiness but political happiness? Although the bulk of al-Farabi's commentary is still lost, I have discovered two quotations of it in Hebrew manuscripts. As I will argue in this paper, these newly-discovered quotations -- which are included with an English translation in the appendix -- can shed light on the mysteries concerning al-Farabi's commentary.

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Authors & Contributors
Janos, Damien
Adamson, Peter
Halper, Yehuda
Aouad, Maroun
Schoeler, Gregor
Thom, Paul
Arabic Sciences and Philosophy
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism
Micrologus: Natura, Scienze e Società Medievali
Warburg Institute, Univ. of London
Edizioni Cadmo
McGill University (Canada)
Harvard University
Klasik Yayınları
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
al-Fārābī, Abū Naṣr Muḥammd ibn Muḥammad
Albertus Magnus
Mediterranean region
Andalusia (Spain)
10th century
11th century
14th century
12th century

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