The Republic

The Virtuous City in Alfarabi and Plato’s Writings

The concept of the virtuous city is central to both Plato’s and Alfarabi’s treatments of political science. The respective analyses of Plato and Alfarabi bear many similarities, but their final goals differ radically. Plato’s description of the republic is both an ideal towards which cities should aim and a metaphor for balance in a virtuous person’s soul. Alfarabi refers frequently to Plato in his texts on political science, and was certainly influenced by The Republic and Plato’s other writings, but his virtuous city has no allegorical component. Instead, he lays down guidelines for the establishment of a real political entity. Whether the change is a distortion or an improvement is entirely a matter of perspective

To understand Plato’s teaching on the virtuous city, it is first necessary to understand the allegory of the cave introduced in The Republic. It tells of the arduous journey the philosopher must take in order to escape the “cave” of the reality he constructs for himself through sensory input and instead comprehend the ideals that lie outside of the cave beyond what he can perceive (514-519). Only those possessing the noblest natures may complete this “journey” and return to enlighten those left in the cave (520);...

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