Farabi’s Plato

"Farabi's Plato," Louis Ginzberg Jubilee Volume, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1945.  Reprinted, revised and abbreviated, in Persecution and the Art of Writing.


Farabi followed Plato not merely as regards the manner in which he presented the philosophic teaching in his most important books.  He held the view that Plato’s philosophy was the true philosophy. To reconcile his Platonism with his adherence to Aristotle, he could take three more or less different ways.  First, he could try to show that the explicit teachings of both philosophers can be reconciled with each other. He devoted to this attempt his Concordance of the opinions of Plato and Aristotle. The argument of that work is partly based on the so-called Theology of Aristotle: by accepting this piece of neo-platonic origin as a genuine work of Aristotle, he could easily succeed in proving the substantial agreement of the explicit teachings of both philosophers concerning the crucial subjects. It is however very doubtful whether Farabi considered his Concordance as more than an exoteric treatise, and thus whether it would be wise of us to attach great importance to its explicit argument. Secondly, he could show that the esoteric teachings of both philosophers are identical.  Thirdly, he could show that “the aim” of both philosophers is identical.