Article ID: CBB001553171

Al-Farabi's Cave: Aristotle's Logic and the Ways of Socrates and Thrasymachus (2015)


In his commentary on Aristotle's Rhetoric al-Farabi harmonizes Plato and Aristotle in terms of philosophic education by ordering Aristotle's eight logical works onto Plato's famous image of the cave. He represents the way out of the cave with Aristotle's four logical works of ascent (Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, and Posterior Analytics) and the return into the cave through Aristotle's four logical works of the descent (Topics, Sophistical Refutations, Rhetoric, and Poetics). Al-Farabi's image of ascent and descent also alludes to Socrates' conception of protreptic education in Book VII of the Republic. In essence, protreptic education consists in the Socratic art that freely turns the soul from the images and political interpretations of things to being itself. In this essay I argue that for al-Farabi the four logical works of ascent guide the soul to free itself from its habituations so as to contemplate real beings, particularly the good of one's own soul and the souls of one's fellow citizens. Yet the ruler needs to use the arts of “descent,” as demonstrated by Thrasymachus, in order to rule the city well. The way of Socrates consists of the logical methods used to come to possess knowledge of being, while the way of Thrasymachus comprises the methods of persuasion to habituate citizens and protect the philosophic quest for the truth. Al-Farabi, I conclude, combines the way of Socrates and the way of Thrasymachus in order to show that both ways are useful and necessary for good governance.

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Authors & Contributors
Wolfsdorf, David
Aouad, Maroun
Schoeler, Gregor
Gutas, Dimitri
Castagnoli, Luca
Thom, Paul
Arabic Sciences and Philosophy
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Dianoia: Annali di storia della filosofia
History and Philosophy of Logic
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
Warburg Institute, Univ. of London
Harvard University
Edizioni Cadmo
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
al-Fārābī, Abū Naṣr Muḥammd ibn Muḥammad
al-Rāzī, Muḥammad ibn Zakariyyā
Middle and Near East
Andalusia (Spain)
Mediterranean region
10th century
14th century
12th century
9th century

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