Law and Society

Authored by: Steven Harvey

The Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415881609
eBook ISBN: 9781315708928
Adobe ISBN: 9781317484332


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The medieval Islamic philosophers did not have access to Aristotle’s Politics. Whether this was by design or not, it was the one of the few major works of the Aristotelian corpus that was not translated into Arabic. In its stead, al-Fārābī (d. 950), the inaugurator of the tradition of Aristotelian philosophy in Islam, and his followers turned to Plato’s Republic and Laws—two works that were available in Arabic, or at least summaries of them. From Plato they learned inter alia about the place of the philosopher in the city, the distinction between the few and the many and the proper ways of educating each of them, the purpose of law, and the importance of religion for the well-being of society. They learned from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics that human beings are political by nature and that to achieve that end, a human being must live with others in society. They also learned from Aristotle that a human being’s end is to attain happiness, and that the purpose of the city is to make possible the attainment of happiness for its citizens to the extent that is possible for each of them.

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