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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2013

Chaim Meir Neria*
University of Chicago, Divinity School 1025 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA


Al-Fārābī's lost commentary on Aristotle's Ethica Nicomachea is without doubt one of the most sorely missed lost works of the Islamic falāsifa. In part, this is because the commentary was in some respects a scandal, and scholars accordingly believe it may hold the key to resolving present-day disagreements on how to interpret al-Fārābī's views as expressed in his independent treatises. Perhaps al-Fārābī's most shocking or scandalous statement is that preserved by the Hispano-Muslim philosophers Ibn Bājja, Ibn Ṭufayl, and Ibn Rushd. According to them al-Fārābī says in his commentary on Aristotle's Ethica Nicomachea that happiness is to be achieved only in this life, not in the afterlife; that there is no happiness but political happiness; and that union with the active intellect – generally considered the highest goal of human existence by the philosophers – is impossible. This paper addresses the following questions: What exactly is the debate about? Why is the question of immortality or conjunction related to Aristotle's Ethica Nicomachea? And why was it so controversial to say, in the context of the Ethica Nicomachea, that there is no happiness but political happiness? Although the bulk of al-Fārābī's commentary is still lost, I have discovered two quotations of it in Hebrew manuscripts. As I will argue in this paper, these newly-discovered quotations – which are included with an English translation in the appendix – can shed light on the mysteries concerning al-Fārābī's commentary.


Le commentaire perdu d'al-Fārābī à l’Ethique à Nicomaque d'Aristote est sans conteste, parmi les ouvrages perdus de philosophes islamiques, l'un de ceux dont on regrette le plus l'absence. Cela s'explique notamment par le caractère à certains égards scandaleux de ce commentaire, dont les spécialistes attendent dès lors qu'il recèle la clé pour résoudre les désaccords actuels quant à l'interprétation à donner aux idées formulées par cet auteur dans ses traités personnels. La thèse peut-être la plus choquante ou scandaleuse d'al-Fārābī est celle qui est préservée par les philosophes hispano-islamiques Ibn Bājja, Ibn Ṭufayl et Ibn Rushd: selon eux, il affirme, dans son commentaire à l’Ethique à Nicomaque, que le bonheur ne saurait se réaliser qu'en cette vie et non dans l'au-delà, qu'il n'y a pas de bonheur autre que le bonheur politique, et que l'union à l'intellect agent – généralement tenue par les philosophes pour être la fin suprême de l'existence humaine – est impossible. Cet article traite les questions suivantes: quel est exactement l'enjeu de ce débat? Pourquoi les questions de l'immortalité et de la conjonction sont-elles liées à l’Ethique à Nicomaque? Et en quoi était-il si problématique d'affirmer, en référence à cette œuvre, qu'il n'y a pas de bonheur autre que le bonheur politique? Même si le corps du commentaire d'al-Fārābī est encore perdu, j'en ai découvert deux citations dans des manuscrits hébreux. Comme je le soutiens ici, ces citations récemment découvertes – données dans l'appendice avec leur traduction anglaise – font un peu de lumière sur les mystères du commentaire d'al-Fārābī.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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1 I would like to thank the History of Judaism program of the University of Chicago Divinity School for a summer research grant which enabled me to complete research for this paper. Additional thanks to Beit Morasha Bern College in Jerusalem for their generous support. I would also like to thank my advisors Professor James Robinson and Professor Steven Harvey for their help and support; Beth Bidlack of the University of Chicago Library for bibliographical assistance; the librarian and staff of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts at the Jewish and National Library in Jerusalem and my friend Shatha Almutawa.

2 For Latin authors see St. Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica, Part III (Tertia Pars), Suppl. Q. 92 Art.1 (New York, 2007; first ed. London, 1912), p. 2946Google Scholar, and Bate, Henricus, Speculum Divinorum et Quorundam Naturalium (On Thinking and Happiness), Parts XIII–XVI, ed. Guldentops, G. (Leuven, 2002), p. 232Google Scholar. For Hebrew authors see Robinson, J. T., Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Commentary on Ecclesiastes: The Book of the Soul of Man (Tübingen, 2007), pp. 95–9Google Scholar, Samuel Ibn Tibbon's commentary on Ecclesiastes discusses at length the philosophical questions of immortality with respect to al-Fārābī's position, however, Ibn Tibbon based his discussion on the way in which Ibn Rushd describes al-Fārābī's position and not on direct access to al-Fārābī's commentary on the EN. See also Averroes with Narboni's commentary, The Epistle on the Possibility of Conjunction with the Active Intellect by Ibn Rushd with the Commentary of Moses Narboni, ed. and trans. Bland, K. P. (N.Y., 1982), p. 108 (Hebrew section), p. 85 (English Section)Google Scholar.

3 The Harmonization of the Opinions of the Two Sages, the Divine Plato and Aristotle, trans. in Alfarabi, The Political Writings, “Selected Aphorisms” and Other Texts, trans. Butterworth, C. E. (Ithaca / London, 2001), p. 147Google Scholar; the English translation is based on the Arabic text published by Najjar, F. M. and Mallet, D. in Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī, L'Harmonie entre les opinions de Platon et d'Aristote, texte et traduction, ed. Najjar, F. M. and Mallet, D. (Damascus, 1999)Google Scholar. From al-Fārābī's various references, it is not clear to which part of the EN he refers, and whether the references are to the EN, the Ethica Eudemia, or some other work. However, at least with this paragraph it seems as if al-Fārābī has EN 2:1 1103a14–1103a26 in mind.

4 The Harmonization, pp. 147–8.

5 Porphyry's commentary on the EN is no longer extant. It does not appear in the Greek list of Porphyry's works, see: Porphyrius Fragmenta: Porphyrii Philosophi Fragmenta, ed. Smith, A. (Leipzig, 1993), pp. 67Google Scholar. The existence of such a commentary is known only from Arabic sources. Ibn al-Nadīm mentions it, and it is cited by al-ʿĀmirī in al-Saʽāda wa-al-isʽād and by Ibn Miskawayh in his Tahdhīb al-akhlāq, See id., Porphyrius Fragmenta, p. 9, 161–3, Miskawayh, The Refinement of Character, a Translation from the Arabic of Ahmad Ibn-Muhammad Miskawayh's Tahdhīb Al-Akhlāq, trans. C. K. Zurayk (Beirut, 1968), pp. 73, 79. See further Dunlop, D. M., “Introduction,” in The Arabic Version of the Nicomachean Ethics, ed. Akasoy, A. and Fidora, A., Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus (Leiden / Boston, 2005), pp. 1012, 23–6, 31, 47, 86–8Google Scholar.

6 One can find a nearly identical discussion of this topic at the beginning of the second chapter of Miskawayh's Tahdhīb al-akhlāq. Miskawayh gives the reader of his book diverse opinions held by the ancients about this subject. Unlike al-Fārābī, Miskawayh does not mention that this was a debate between Plato and Aristotle, but he does refer to the differing opinions of the Stoics, “others who came before the Stoics,” Galen, and finally Aristotle. Miskawayh fears that to view character as unchangeable will lead to the “nullification of the faculty of discernment and reason, to the rejection of all forms of guidance, [and] to the surrender of people to savagery and neglect.” See Miskawayh, The Refinement of Character, pp. 29–31.

7 In his commentary on the EN, Aspasius argues that Aristotle's practical philosophy includes the inquiry concerning character traits and politics; see Aspasius, On Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics 1–4, 7–8, trans. Konstan, D. (Ithaca N.Y., 2006)Google Scholar, p. 1. In the Alexandrian introductions to the study of Philosophy, a tradition that had great impact on al-Fārābī, there are different views concerning practical philosophy. In Ammonius’ prolegomena, practical philosophy is divided into: (1) ethics, (2) economics, and (3) politics. Ammonius rejects the view that they are identical and he argues that each can subdivide into: (a) legislation, and (b) jurisdiction. See Westerink, L. G., “The Alexandrian commentators and the introductions to their commentaries,” in Sorabji, R. (ed.), Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and their Influence (Ithaca N.Y., 1990), pp. 345–7Google Scholar. In David's prolegomena, “The Platonists who oppose the Aristotelians with regard to the division of practical philosophy into ethics, economics, and politics, themselves argue for a division of practical philosophy into only two parts: legislation and justice.” See David, , Definitions and Divisions of Philosophy, trans. Kendall, B. and Thomson, R. W. (Chico, Calif., 1983), p. 153Google Scholar. Finally, in his Enumeration of the Sciences, al-Fārābī himself gives a slightly different description than given here. He argues that political science investigates inter alia voluntary actions, ways of life, morals, inclinations, and true happiness. It “explains that this [happiness] comes about only through a rulership by which [the ruler] establish these actions.” Lerner, R. and Mahdi, M., Medieval Political Philosophy. A Sourcebook (New York, 1963), p. 14Google Scholar. This final argument is similar to the argument here in that it takes ethics to be a branch of Political philosophy.

8 Al-Kindī, Rasā’il al-Kindī al-falsafīya, ed. Abū Rīda, M. A., 2 vols. (Cairo, 1953)Google Scholar, vol. 1, p. 369 (5–6); Dunlop, “Introduction,” p. 7.

9 See Ghorab, A. A., “The Greek commentators on Aristotle quoted in al-ʿĀmirī's As-Saʿāda wa ’l-Isʿād,” in Stern, S. M., Hourani, A., and Brown, V. (eds.), Islamic Philosophy and the Classical Tradition; Essays Presented by his Friends and Pupils to Richard Walzer on his Seventieth Birthday (Columbia S.C., 1972), pp. 7788Google Scholar, pp. 78–80.

10 “Aristotle does the same in the Ethics as he does here. There, he first says that ‘our method aims at these things, being in a sense political,’ and he states that his purpose has to do with constitutions or political power. But only after ten books does he give account of these things, thereby suggesting that it is necessary first of all to speak of human character and to say which characters are required in those who make up a State, since they are the primary parts of a State.” Alexander of Aphrodisias, On Aristotle's Prior Analytics 1.1-7, trans. Barnes, J. and et. al. (Ithaca N.Y., 1991)Google Scholar, 8.30–9.2, pp. 51–2.

11 The best modern discussion of the political dimensions of Aristotle's EN is probably Bodéüs’ Le philosophe et la cité. With striking similarity to al-Fārābī, though never mentioning his name, Bodéüs understands the EN as having as its primary purpose “the instruction of the lawgiver.” He argues that “For Aristotle, as for Plato, legislation is the tool required for the realization of the ends pursued by the life in the city, that is, not only the political life but life in general as lived in the framework constituted by the political organization… Put into perspective in this way, Aristotelian ethics, far from describing an individual ethics alien to politics, presents, on the contrary, the essential body of learning with which the lawgiver must fortify himself when legislating.” R. Bodéüs, The Political Dimensions of Aristotle's Ethics, trans. Garrett, J. E. (Albany N.Y., 1993)Google Scholar, p. 123.

12 I am aware that any evidence from al-Fārābī's Harmonization should be handled with care. J. Lameer, and most recently M. Rashed have questioned the authenticity of the Harmonization as a genuine work of al-Fārābī. These scholars argue that there are some doctrines in this book that cannot be found elsewhere in the works of al-Fārābī. Lameer acknowledges the passage above in which the author of the Harmonization evidently refers to “our commentary on that book,” i.e., Aristotle's EN. While Lameer admits that we know of no one other than al-Fārābī to whom such a commentary can be ascribed, he argues “that the attribution to al-Fārābī of such a (partial) commentary does not rule out the possibility that other commentaries could have existed as well.” The fragments from the EN presented for the first time in this paper present additional evidence for the attribution of the Harmonization to al-Fārābī. The Harmonization states that Aristotle's EN is primarily a book about political laws. This rather unusual doctrine – at least among Arabic authors – is found also in al-Fārābī's commentary on the EN. See Lameer, J., Al-Fārābī and Aristotelian Syllogistics: Greek Theory and Islamic Practice (Leiden / N.Y., 1994), pp. 30–9Google Scholar, Rashed, M., “On the authorship of the treatise On the harmonization of the opinions of the two sages attributed to al-Fārābī,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 19.1 (2009): 4382CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 In an article on al-Fārābī's ethics, Thérèse-Anne Druart argues that for al-Fārābī there are three approaches to ethics: (1) rhetorical – presented by religion, (2) dialectical – which is required at the beginning of philosophical education, and (3) demonstrative or scientific ethics, “which is reached at the end of one's philosophical training.” See Druart, Th.-A., “Al-Farabi, ethics, and first intelligibles,” Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale: rivista della Società internazionale per lo studio del Medioevo latino, 8 (1997): 403–23Google Scholar, p. 403.

14 Berman, L. V., “Ibn Rushd's Middle Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics in medieval Hebrew literature,” in Jolivet, J. (ed.), Multiple Averroès (Paris, 1978), pp. 287321Google Scholar, pp. 307–8.

15 For references, see Butterworth in Alfarabi, The Political Writings, p. 148, n. 58.

16 See, e.g., Altmann, A., “Ibn Bajja on man's ultimate felicity,” in Lieberman, al. (ed.), Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of his Seventy-Fifth Birthday (Jerusalem, 1965), pp. 73108Google Scholar; Davidson, H. A., “Maimonides on metaphysical knowledge,” Maimonidean Studies, 3 (1992–1993), pp. 49103Google Scholar; id., Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes on Intellect: Their Cosmologies, Theories of the Active Intellect, and Theories of Human Intellect (New York, 1992), pp. 70–4;Google Scholar Dunlop, “Introduction” pp. 48–55. Pines, S., “The limitation of human knowledge according to Alfarabi, Ibn Bajja and Maimonides,” in Twersky, I. (ed.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1979), pp. 82109;Google Scholarid., Translator's introduction: the philosophical sources of the Guide of the Perplexed,” in Moses Maimonides, the Guide of the Perplexed (Chicago, 1963), pp. xxviiixciiGoogle Scholar, and Harvey, S., “The place of the philosopher in the city,” in Butterworth, C. E. (ed.), The Political Aspects of Islamic Philosophy: Essays in Honor of Muhsin S. Mahdi (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), pp. 225–8Google Scholar.

17 For Ibn Bājja, see Rasā’il Falsafiyya li-Abī Bakr ibn Bājja, ed. Alaoui, J. (Casablanca, 1983), pp. 197202Google Scholar; Dunlop, D. M., “Remarks on a text of Avempace,” in Traini, R. (ed.), Studi in Onore Di Francesco Gabrieli Nel Suo Ottantesimo Compleanno (Rome, 1984), pp. 291300Google Scholar; Pines, “The limitations,” pp. 82–109. For Ibn Ṭufayl see Ibn Ṭufayl, Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān, ed. Gauthier, L. (Beirut, 1936), p. 14Google Scholar; Lerner and Mahdi, Medieval Political Philosophy, p. 140.

18 For Ibn Rushd, see Averroes with Narboni's commentary, The Epistle on the Possibility of Conjunction, cited above; Averrois Cordubensis, Commentarium Magnum in Aristoteles De Anima Libros, ed. Crawford, F. S. (Cambridge, Mass., 1953), p. 433Google Scholar; translated in Averroes (Ibn Rushd) of Cordoba, Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle, trans. & intro. Taylor, R. C., subeditor Druart, Th.-A. (New Haven, 2009), p. 383–8, 401Google Scholar; Davidson, Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes on Intellect, pp. 70–4; Taylor, R. C., “The agent intellect as ‘form for us’ and Averroes's critique of al-Fârâbî,” in Proceedings of the Society for Medieval Logic and Metaphysics (2005), pp. 1832Google Scholar.

19 Ibid. See also Averroes, Drei Abhandlungen Über Die Conjunction Des Separaten Intellects Mit Dem Menschen Von Averroes (Vater Und Son), ed. and trans. Hercz, J. (Berlin, 1869), pp. 713Google Scholar (Hebrew section).

20 Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 3:18.

21 i.e., The separate good, identified also with intellect or light.

22 In arguing this, I side with Davidson against Pines. However, there is internal evidence that Ibn Rushd read and used al-Fārābī's commentary to the EN contrary to what Davidson suggests. See below, n. 23, and Appendix A, Fragment No. 2, nn. 59, 60. In addition, Averroes’ introduction to his commentary on Plato's Republic resembles very much with respect to word and context al-Fārābī's introduction to his commentary to the EN. Cf. the discussion in the articles of Davidson and Pines cited above.

23 Averroes, Be'ur Ha-Emsaʽi Shel Ibn Roshd Le-Sefer Ha-Midot Le-Aristo; Averroes’ Middle Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics in the Hebrew Version of Samuel Ben Judah, ed. Berman, L. V. (Jerusalem, 1999), p. 73Google Scholar, lines 314–18. Averroes also seems to use al-Fārābī's words and arguments in the introduction to his commentary of Plato's Republic. He follows al-Fārābī in arguing that the rank of the EN “is the first part or the parts of the science of governing cities” and in some other definitions. See Averroes, On Plato's Republic, ed. and trans. Lerner, Ralph (Ithaca, 2005), p. 4Google Scholar (21 L. 15–22 L. 8) and Averroes, Commentary on Plato's Republic [Based on the Hebrew Translation of Samuel B. Yehūdā], trans. Rosenthal, E. I. J. (Cambridge [Eng.], 1956), p. 22Google Scholar i 7–9.

24 On the influence of Averroes’ Middle Commentary on the EN, see Korolec, J. B., “Le commentaire d'Averroès sur l'Ethique à Nicomaque,” Bulletin de philosophie médiévale, 27 (1985): 104–7Google Scholar. Koreloc mentions Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus and Alexander of Hales, among others who used Averroes’ Middle Commentary on the EN.

25 See above, n. 2.

26 “Et Alpharabius in Commento Arabico dicit quod impotentia et paupertas et infortunia et pronepotis contristant beatitudinem et ita impediunt optimum actum beati,” cited from D. Salman, “The medieval Latin translations of Alfarabi's works,” New Scholasticism, 13 (1939): 245–61Google Scholar. Dunlop refers to EN 1:8 (1098b1–1099a1 15–16) regarding the discussion of external goods, see Dunlop, “Introduction,” p. 93.

27 Berman, L. V., “Greek into Hebrew. Samuel Ben Judah of Marseilles, fourteenth-century philosopher and translator,” in Altmann, A. (ed.), Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Cambridge Mass., 1967), pp. 289320Google Scholar.

28 Berman, “Ibn Rushd's Middle Commentary,” cited above.

29 Oxford Bodleian, MS Oppenheim 591 (Neubauer 1426) [Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts No. 22450] and Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica ebr. 556. [Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts No. 560].

30 Judah b. Isaac Cohen is a little-known Jewish thinker, student of Gersonides, who wrote a work on Logic; for more information, see Berman, E. Z. (L. V.), “A manuscript named ‘Shoshan Limmudim’ and its relationship to a Provençal ‘circle of scholars’ [in Hebrew],” Kiryath Sepher, 53 (1978): 368–72Google Scholar.

31 Fragment 1 appears without ascription to al-Fārābī in a series of glosses in the margins of Shoshan Limmudim. In my opinion, some of these glosses are also taken from al-Fārābī's commentary to the EN, but in this paper I will restrict myself to the fragments explicitly ascribed to al-Fārābī's commentary on the EN. Since there is a clear connection between the three manuscripts, i.e., (1) Oxford, Bodleian, MS Oppenheim 591 (Neubauer 1426), (2) Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica ebr. 556 and (3) Shoshan Limmudim, it is safe to assume that all three of them were written by Judah b. Isaac Cohen or members of his circle.

32 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, ed. Barnes, J., The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1984)Google Scholar, vol. 2, p. 1731.

33 See, for example, al-Fārābī's introduction to the EN published by Berman, cited above, in which he says that book one of the Ethics is divided into four chapters. There are other inconsistencies between these texts.

34 The term “species of the good,” which appears in these fragments of al-Fārābī's commentary, is unusual. It is different than what we find in the corresponding passages of the Arabic translation. However, the term does appear elsewhere in the Arabic translation, in EN 1:6 (see below, n. 57).

35 Appendix A, Fragment 2, lines 45–46.

36 Cf. Mahdi, M., “Alfarabi against Philoponus,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 26 (1967): 233–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also below, n. 65.

37 Appendix A, Fragment 2, lines 98–99.

38 Appendix A, Fragment 2, lines 188–195.

39 Dunlop's English text of the Arabic EN 1095a26–28 has: “Some have thought there is another good, existing by itself besides these many goods, which is the cause of these being goods.”

40 Cf. n. 84 below.

41 Appendix A, Fragment 2, lines 60–61.

42 Cf. Druart, Th.-A., “Al-Farabi, emanation and metaphysics,” in Morewedge, P. (ed.), Neoplatonism and Islamic Thought (Albany, 1992), pp. 200203Google Scholar.

43 Appendix A, Fragment 2, lines 200–203.

44 There is no evidence I find to help identify the author/translator/compiler of this super-commentary.

45 Richler, B. (ed.), Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library Catalogue, Studi E Testi 438 (Città del Vaticano, 2008), p. 473Google Scholar.

46 Berman, “Ibn Rushd's Middle Commentary,” cited above.

47 The text added throughout in square brackets is my own; the same is true of titles, section headings, paragraph divisions and punctuation.

48 The text is based on Oxford, Bodleian, MS. Oppenheim 591 (Neubauer 1426), 11a, and on Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica ebr. 556, 8b. The Vatican MS does not quote the Middle Commentary in full except for the first lemma.

49 The Arabic version of the Ethics has here: tadbīr al-madanī; Averroes’ Middle Commentary changes this to melekhet hanhagat ha-medinot, i.e., the art of political governance. Averroes is very consistent in his middle commentary on the EN, rendering ethics as the “art” of political governance, and not the “science.” Cf. Berman, Middle Commentary, 1094a22–1094b9, p. 59 line 40–44. However, following Aristotle, and using the metaphor of medicine, Averroes argues for the division of general and particular aspects of ethics. The general is compared to the theoretical or scientific aspect of the medicine, and the particular is compared to the practical or artistic aspect of the medicine. According to Averroes, the EN describes the theoretical aspect of ethics, while Plato's Republic is the practical aspect of ethics. See Berman, Middle Commentary, p. 354, lines 722–725; and Averroes, Commentary on Platos Republic, pp. 111–12. Cf. Feldman, N., Reading the Nicomachean Ethics with Averroes (Oxford, D. Phil., 1994), pp. 3580Google Scholar; and Celano, A., “The end of practical wisdom: ethics as science in the thirteenth century,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 33 (1995): 225–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

50 This is Ross's English translation of Aristotle: Now fine and just actions, which political science investigates, exhibit much variety and fluctuation, so that they may be thought to exist only by convention, and not by nature.” Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. by Ross, W. D. (N.Y., 1980)Google Scholar. Dunlop's English translation of the Arabic reads as follows: “Noble deeds and those related to justice, which the art of politics investigates, contain an amount of difference and error […], so that it is thought that we have them only by law no by nature.”

51 Here Averroes returns to citing Aristotle's words.

52 Aristotle seems to answer this question at EN 6:11 1143b6–14.

53 I have omitted here the text of the Anonymous Hebrew super-commentary in order to go directly to the citation from al-Fārābī. As mentioned above, Fragment 1 appears without ascription to al-Fārābī in one of a series of glosses in the margin of the manuscript called Shoshan Limmudim. See above n. 31.

54 See below n. 57.

55 The text is based on Oxford, Bodleian, MS Oppenheim 591 (Neubauer 1426) 14b–16a, and Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica ebr. 556, 10a–11b.

56 The words “outside the soul” have no source in the Arabic version of the EN (see below, n. 57). These words can make sense only if we assume (contrary to what some scholars have argued) that Averroes read the EN with al-Fārābī's commentary and that he is using that commentary while writing his commentary on the EN (see below, n. 60).

57 Dunlop's English translation of the Arabic EN 1095a26–28 is as follows: “Some have thought there is another good, existing by itself besides these many goods, which is the cause of these being goods.” The unique term “species of good” used here in Averroes’ text and in al-Fārābī's text is not part of the Arabic text of the EN as we have it. It does appear twice in a different context in the Arabic text of the EN, at 1096b. Though it is clear from the manuscript, and from Averroes’ text (see below) that these sources understand al-Fārābī as referring directly to EN 1095a26–28, we may wonder if al-Fārābī actually writes this passage on EN 1096b. Certain elements in al-Fārābī's commentary, for example his insistence that every word in Aristotle must fit the correct explanation, do support the tradition that he did write this passage referring to EN 1095a26–28. However, other elements, such as discussion of relevant opinions concerning the good, seem closer to the text of EN 1096b (see below). Aristotle's text in Barnes’ English translation is as follows: “Now some thought that apart from these many goods there is another good which is good in itself and causes the goodness of all these as well.”

58 The expression is based on Job 22:28, which the translator adapts to the philosophical context.

59 The Hebrew word here is hiddabeq. The Latin translation of Averroes has: “et applicatio ad ipsum.”

60 What Averroes says here: “the knowledge of this good, which is over and above, and the conjunction with it, is what account for happiness,” can hardly make sense unless we assume Averroes refers directly to al-Fārābī's commentary and that he is using that commentary while writing his own commentary on the EN (see below, in the text section 4.5, for al-Fārābī's explanation). However, unlike al-Fārābī, Averroes does not explicitly engage the question why Aristotle rejects this opinion. He simply alludes to the fact that it is similar to the discussion of the Forms. See above, nn. 22, 23.

61 Here begins the citation from al-Fārābī's lost commentary on the EN.

62 The Hebrew here is: maʾamar.

63 In the passage from The Harmonization cited above p. 3, al-Fārābī refers to “Porphyry and many later commentators.” Porphyry is also mentioned in al-Fārābī's Introduction to EN published by Berman, cited above (see also n. 5 above).

64 In The Harmonization, p. 162, al-Fārābī says as follows: “Since God, may He be exalted, is living, willing, and the Innovator of this world with all that is in it, is there any doubt that among the stipulations concerning the living and willing [God] is that He has concept of what He wills to do and has within Himself the forms of what He wills to carry out?” God as Creator must have the pattern according to which He creates the world. This pattern is not outside of God, but must be in God's intellect, consistent with how the Platonic Forms are presented, according to some, in the Demiurge of the Timaeus. Al-Fārābī must be understood as meaning that God possesses an image of all the things which He creates as part of His essence. And since God is eternal, these images must be eternal as well. That must be the meaning of the Hebrew expression mefuttaḥim bo. For detailed discussion of this section in The Harmonization, see Rashed, “On the authorship,” pp. 51–2.

65 The idea that God is an efficient cause may seem at first to be a departure from Aristotle. However, several Neoplatonist authors, such as Ammonius, had explicitly argued that Aristotle's God was an efficient cause of being, not just a final cause of motion; according to Simplicius, Ammonius wrote a book devoted to this topic. See Sorabji, R. (ed.), The Philosophy of the Commentators, 200–600 AD: A Sourcebook (Ithaca / N.Y., 2005), vol. 2, Physics, pp. 164–7Google Scholar. This is also al-Fārābī's view; he sides with Ammonius against Philoponus. See Mahdi, “Alfarabi against Philoponus,” and Alfarabi, The Political Writings, pp. 155–7.

66 Al-Fārābī, in The Harmonization, p. 162, argues again that, with respect to this point, there is agreement, i.e., harmony, between the views of Plato and Aristotle.

67 Aristotle is referring here to “some people” who held this idea.

68 i.e., extra-mental.

69 Apparently he means the contemplation the soul has of the quiddity of that thing.

70 According to this explanation, what Aristotle is doing here is refuting the concept of Ideas held by the Platonists. This explanation is probably the most common explanation for this passage. See, for example, Aquinas, Thomas, Sententia Libri Ethicorum, trans. Litzinger, C. I. (Chicago, 1964), Lect. 4 1095a151095b12Google Scholar.

71 Met. A.9. Cf. EN 1096a12–1097a15, which consists of a long discussion of happiness as a separate good. Al-Fārābī uses here the argument given by Aristotle at EN 1096b29–1097a15 that such an investigation would be out of order since the matter belongs to another science, namely, metaphysics.

72 In the Categories 2b8–2b21 Aristotle says that: But as the primary substances stand to the other things, so the species stands to the genus: the species is a subject for the genus (for the genera are predicated of the species but the species are not predicated reciprocally of the genera).” Aristotle, Categories and De Interpretatione, trans. Ackrill, J. L (Oxford [U.S.], 1975)Google Scholar. Following Plotinus (Enneads VI ii 2.12–13), Porphyry in the Isagoge seems to introduce conceptual or logical priority of genus to species while also saying several times that species is under, or subordinated to, genus, a doctrine which he repeats in his commentary on Aristotle's Categories. See Porphyry, , Porphyry's Introduction, trans. Barnes, J. (Oxford, 2003), Ch. 2, Species, 4:35Google Scholar. Aristotle does argue for the priority of definition, i.e., genus and differentia, to species (Top. 141b27–30). Cf. Cat. 14a35–14b10 on the proper use of the term “prior.” See also below, n. 79.

73 That is, a mental entity.

74 The Medieval Hebrew translation of Averroes’ Middle Commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge uses almost the same Hebrew terms as employed here. I shall cite from Davidson's translation of the Hebrew: “Porphyry states: Genus in the third sense the one with which the present work is concerned, has been described by the early philosophers as that which is predicated of a number of things that differ in respect to species, by the way of stating what it is.” Averroes, Middle Commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge and on Aristotle's Categoriae, ed. and trans. Davidson, H. A. (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), p. 7Google Scholar.

75 This is the famous discussion concerning the nature of universals which Porphyry omits in the Isagoge, 1, 9–16.

76 According to this explanation, Aristotle's expression “exist in itself” should not be taken literally.

77 What Aristotle says in the EN is: “this good is the cause of goodness in these species of good.” al-Fārābī is asking: “how can the universal be the cause for the existence of the parts?”

78 Literally: “the Book of Demonstration.” This is how it appears in Berman's translation of al-Fārābī's introduction, where al-Fārābī refers to the same book.

79 I have not found the exact source of this reference to Posterior Analytics. In Post. An. 93a1–94a19, Aristotle speaks about “another kind of definition [which] is a formula exhibiting the cause of a thing's existence.” I assume that in saying: “the genus is the cause for the existence of the species since it is partially under it,” al-Fārābī has in mind the genus as a formal cause. While it is not mentioned explicitly in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, Porphyry in the Isagoge does argue for causal relation between genus and species. Hence Porphyry says (Isagoge 14, 10–12): “It is a common feature [of genus and differentia] that if either genus or differentia is taken out of existence, what falls under them is taken out of existence. For as neither horse nor man exists, if animal does not exist, so animal using reason will not exist, if rational does not exist.” Sorabji, R. (ed.), The Philosophy of the Commentators, 200-600 AD (Ithaca / N.Y., 2005), vol. 3Google Scholar, Logic and Metaphysics, p. 157. Cf. id., section 5 (h) on: Forms as a causes: genus as causative in Neoplatonism, pp. 160–2. Al-Fārābī follows Porphyry's concept of causality in his Principles of the Opinions: “The First is not divisible in thought into things which would constitute its substance. For it is impossible that each part of the explanation of the meanings of the First should denote one of the parts by which the substance of the First is so constituted. If this were the case, the parts which constitute its substance would be causes of its existence, in the same way as the meanings denoted by the parts of the definition of a thing are causes of the existence of the thing defined, and in the same way as matter and Form are causes of the existence of things composed of them. But this is impossible with regard to the First, since it is the First and its existence has no cause whatsoever.” Translation from Walzer, R., Al-Farabi on the Perfect State (Oxford, 1985), p. 67; cf. id., pp. 5861Google Scholar.

80 According to Aristotle (Topics 139a28–30): “for the framer of a definition should first place the object in its genus, and then append its differences.” Al-Fārābī accepts this statement and says that: “the first part of the definition of every species is its genus, and the second part of it is its differentia, which is what completes its definition and constitutes it, since it indicates it by what particularizes it in its substance.” Dunlop, D. M., “Al-Fārābī's Eisagoge,” Islamic Quarterly, 3 (1956): 117–38, p. 132Google Scholar.

81 This is probably the key to al-Fārābī's explanation. When comparing the other explanations presented above, al-Fārābī argues that the discussion concerning the good in the EN is different than the discussion in Metaphysics, or in other sciences. In the EN, the discussion concerning the separate good is dealt with only insofar as the idea or concept of this good is relevant to politics, hence it is not a theoretical or categorical discussion, it is practical one. Cf. M. Galston, “The theoretical and practical dimensions of happiness as portrayed in political treatises of al-Farabi,” in The Political Aspects of Islamic Philosophy, cited above, pp. 95–151.

82 Here it seems that al-Fārābī accepts the Aristotelian notion of happiness as an action. What al-Fārābī argues is that the good discussed here must be, in the end, a certain action.

83 The final cause is defined by al-Fārābī as: “the end and what is considered [to belong] with it,” Alon, I., Al-Fārābī's Philosophical Lexicon (Warminster, 2002), V. II, p. 560Google Scholar.

84 The analogy between intellectual apprehension and sight is an old one. Plato in the Republic (509) compares the Form of Good to the Sun. In De Anima (3:5 430a10–15), Aristotle compares the intellect to the faculty of sight. Aristotle mentions the same idea in the EN (1096b28–30). Plotinus compares intellect to light in several places in Enneads (IV.3.17 13–25 light and illumination; V.3.12 40–45 light and intellect; V.6.4. light, intellect and good). In The Theology of Aristotle there are parallel passages to Enneads (V.3.12; V.6.4). See Pseudo-Aristotle, , “The Theology of Aristotle/Plotiniana Arabica,” in Plotini Opera, ed. Henry, P. and Schwyzer, H. R. (Paris, 1951), p. 321Google Scholar. In “the Letter Concerning the Intellect,” al-Fārābī says that the active intellect sheds light on things which makes it possible we can comprehend them; see this description in n. 85, below.

85 Or: ultimate felicity. This description of happiness is the view adopted by al-Fārābī in “the Letter Concerning the Intellect,” the intellect overcomes its corporeality through interaction with the ‘active intellect’. “Afterwards, it undertakes to bring them [the forms in matter] closer to that which is immaterial little by little until there comes to be the acquired intellect and with that the substance of man or man, insofar as he becomes a substance through it, becomes something closer to the agent intellect. This is the ultimate happiness and the afterlife, namely that there comes to man some other thing through which he becomes a substance. And there comes to him his final perfection, namely that there acts some other thing through which he becomes a substance with some other action through which he becomes a substance, and this is the meaning of the afterlife. But its action is not in some other thing outside its essence, and it acts in order that its essence may exist, and its essence, its act, and that it acts, are one and the same thing.” Al-Fārābī identifies this state with “ultimate happiness” and the “afterlife.” “The Letter concerning the intellect,” trans. A Hayman, in Hayman, A. and Walssh, J. J. (eds.), Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions (Indianapolis, 1973), pp. 215–21Google Scholar, 219–20. Here, in contrast, he seems eager to reject this idea. See also, Walzer, Al-Farabi on the Perfect State, pp. 47–5, 62–3, 100–5; M. Galston, Politics and Excellence: The Political Philosophy of Alfarabi (Princeton, 1990), pp. 55–92.

86 See Altmann, A., “The ladder of ascension,” in Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershom G. Scholem (Jerusalem, 1967), pp. 132Google Scholar, for this motif.

87 That the good is not said of the end in the same way it is said of what is other than the end.

88 There seems to be a lacuna here; it should be read as follows: Afterwards, he proved this statement, saying that it is possible in two ways: either we say that (1) this end, that the human being will become…

89 Literally: “he is he.”

90 מספרי העמודים מובאים על פי א והם מצויינים על פי הסימן הזה [].

91 דילגתי על הביאור האנונימי עד לקטע שבו הוא מצטט מפירושו של אלפאראבי.

92 כן נפל… רבים במה] ו חסר

93 הביאורים] ו הברואים

94 מאלה] ו מאלו

95 יכספוהו] ו יכספו

96 הנה] ו בזה

97 שיאמ'] ו שיאמר.

98 לא] ו ולא

99 היה] ו היא

100 או… משותף] ו על שהוא משותף

101 כאמ'] ו נאמר

102 כי אצל] ו מטושטש

103 לפעל] ו לפועל

104 תכלית ומה שזולתו] ו תכלית מה ושזולתו

105 מסכימים] ו מסכימים עליו

106 הצלחה] ו ההצלחה

107 מן הטוב…מן האנשים] ו חסר

108 אמר] ו עליו

109 וירצה] א ויראה[?]

110 זה האור או השכל] ו זה האור או זה השכל

111 הקצויית] ו הקצונית.

112 והנגלות] ו והם גלות

113 ב א ישנה גלוסה לא ברורה בצד המתחילה במילים "וזה מה שדרשתי.." לא נראה שהיא שייכת לגוף דברי אלפארבי.

114 בעינו] א במינו [?]

115 אינו] ו ו הוא [?]

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