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Review: Al-Fārābī's Imperfect State

Reviewed Work: Al-Farabi on the Perfect State: Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī's Mabādiʾ Ārāʾ Ahl al-Madīna al-Fāḍila by Richard Walzer
Review by: Muhsin Mahdi
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 110, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1990), pp. 691-726
DOI: 10.2307/602898
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/602898
Page Count: 36
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Al-Fārābī's Imperfect State
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Abstract

Richard Walzer's revised text of the Arabic philosophic classic, al-Fārābī's Virtuous City, published with an introduction, translation, and commentary, is an impressive work of recent scholarship on Islamic philosophy. After a general account of his intention and method (sec. 1) and of his understanding of the Virtuous City's subject matter and place in al-Fārābī's life and writings (sec. 2), the article examines Walzer's approach to source criticism (the imagined Greek author, special authority, predecessor, prototype, or source of the Virtuous City, as against the generally-known Greek philosophic tradition available to al-Fārābī [sec. 3]), and to contextual analysis (the assertion that in the Virtuous City al-Fārābī gives full expression to his religious commitment as an Imāmī Shīʿite sectarian [sec. 4]). Next, it presents certain cautions that may help those who wish to benefit from the translation (sec. 5). Finally (sec. 6), it describes the newly constructed Arabic text and the assumptions underlying the stemma (6a), points to the characteristic features of the apparatus (6b), and explains the implications of what is known about the history of the text and the evidence of the manuscripts for a future edition, which, it is suggested, must abandon the notion of a single recension of the original and recover the text of al-Fārābī's chapter-headings and summary of the Virtuous City absent from all existing editions (6c).

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