By Majid Fakhry

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Extra resources for Al-Farabi, Founder of Islamic Neoplatonism: His Life, Works, and Influence

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All this, however, does not justify the claim that they were at odds regarding their respective conceptions of moral probity and political organization. It simply shows that there were some differences between their two modes of life, stemming from ‘a certain deficiency in philosophical powers of one and an excess of (these powers) in the other’,55 al-Fa¯ra¯bi states cryptically. Equally noteworthy are the different methods of writing and instruction adopted by the Two Sages; Plato is known to have favored the use of allegory and symbolism to shield his views from those who are unworthy of them, while Aristotle favored clarity and systematism in expounding his views.

Aristotle then reduces the activities of the intellect to two kinds, theoretical and practical. The latter, Aristotle held, we are told, are subservient to the former, to the extent that the theoretical intellect is superior to the practical. When he proceeds to discuss how the intellect is actualized, he observes that the potential intellect is in possession of certain first principles or intelligibles, which exist in it by nature, although it has received them from a higher intellect, which is always in act.

55f. 38. Jawa¯mi‘ al-Shi‘r, p. 172. 39 Of these principles or premises, he mentions the universal laws of being, peculiar to corporeal substances, what they are and why. To each of these substances correspond a potential principle which he called matter and an actual principle which he called form. For the potential principle to become actualized, we are told by al-Fa¯ra¯bi, Aristotle stipulated that it requires an active principle, or cause. He then proceeded to show that, with respect to every movable or changeable entity, four essential principles or causes are needed: the material, efficient, formal and final causes.

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