Selected Aphorisms And Other Texts
Category: Islam
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Al-Farabi was a renowned early Islamic philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was also a scientist, cosmologist, mathematician and music theorist. In Islamic philosophical tradition he was often called "the Second Teacher", following Aristotle who was known as "the First Teacher". He is credited with preserving the original Greek texts during the Middle Ages because of his commentaries and treatises.

The Political Writings

“Selected Aphorisms” and Other Texts

Translated and Annotated
Charles E. Butterworth

Cornell University Press
Ithaca and London

Charles “Chick” Evans Jr.,
Roland F. “Mac” McGuigan,
and Thomas Dutch,
with gratitude for their faith in
the promise of education


Widely referred to as “the second teacher,” that is, second after Aristotle, Abu Nasr Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Tarkhan Ibn Awzalagh al-Farabli (Alfarabi) is generally heralded as having founded political philosophy within the Islamic cultural tradition. Born in about 870/256 in the village of Farab in Turkestan, he resided in Bukhara, Marv, Harran, Baghdad, and perhaps in Constantinople, as well as in Aleppo, Cairo, and finally Damascus, where he died in 950/339. The son of an army officer in the service of the Samanids, Alfarabi first studied Islamic jurisprudence and music in Bukhara, then moved to Marv, where he began to study logic with a Nestorian Christian monk, Yuhanna Ibn Haylan. While in his early twenties, Alfarabi left for Baghdad, where he continued to study logic and philosophy with Ibn Haylan. At the same time, he improved his grasp of Arabic by studying with the prominent philologist Ibn al-Sarraj and is said to have followed the courses of the famous Nestorian Christian translator and student of Aristotle, Matta Ibn Yunus.

Around 905/293-910/298, Alfarabi left Baghdad for Byzantium (possibly even reaching Constantinople), where he remained for about eight years, studying Greek sciences and philosophy. On his return to Baghdad, he busied himself with teaching and writing until political upheavals in 942/330 forced him to seek refuge in Damascus. Two or three years later, political turmoil there drove him to Egypt, where he stayed until returning to Damascus in 948/337 or 949/338, a little over a year before his death.

His writings, extraordinary in their breadth as well as in their deep learning, extend through all of the sciences and embrace every part of philosophy. Alfarabi’s interest in mathematics is evidenced in commentaries on the Elements of Euclid and Almagest of Ptolemy, as well as in several writings on the history and theory of music. Indeed, his Kitab al-Musiqa al-Kabir, (Large Book on Music) may well be the most significant work in Arabic on that subject. He also wrote numerous commentaries on Aristotle’s logical treatises, was knowledgeable about the Stagirite’s physical writings, and is credited with an extensive commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics that is no longer extant. In addition to writing the accounts of Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophy that form the second and third parts of the trilogy published as the first volume in this series of Alfarabi’s political writings, the Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, he composed a commentary on Plato’s Laws.

As the first philosopher within the tradition of Islam to explore the challenge to traditional philosophy presented by revealed religion, especially in its claims that the Creator provides for human well-being by means of an inspired prophet legislator, Alfarabi has come to be known as the founder of Islamic political philosophy. In the first part of the Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle — that is, in the Attainment of Happiness — he seeks to pinpoint the common concerns that link Islam and its revealed law with pagan philosophy in its highest form — namely, the writings of Plato and Aristotle. That effort finds an echo in the Selected Aphorisms, the first writing presented in this volume, in two ways. First, the opening words of the treatise indicate that Alfarabi draws from what the ancients — that is, Plato and Aristotle — have to say about governing, but governing with a view to a particular purpose. For him, the goal is to govern cities so that they become prosperous and the lives of their citizens are improved — this in the sense that they be led toward happiness. Second, the overlap between this work and the Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, especially the Attainment of Happiness, indicated by these words is made even more explicit toward the end of the Selected Aphorisms. Indeed, a long passage in aphorism 94 paraphrases sections 11-20 of the Attainment of Happiness.

Yet Alfarabi seems always alert to the difficulties religion and revealed law pose for the older approach to politics. In the fifth chapter of the Enumeration of the Sciences, for example, he sets forth two accounts of the old political science. Both presuppose the validity of the traditional separation between the practical and the theoretical sciences, but neither is adequate for the radically new situation created by the appearance of revealed religion. The two accounts explain in detail the actions and ways of life required for sound political rule to flourish, but are utterly silent about opinions — especially the kind of theoretical opinions that have been set forth in the now dominant religion — and thus are unable, given this religion’s prevalence, to point to the kind of rulership needed. Nor can either speak about the opinions or actions addressed by the jurisprudence and theology of revealed religion. These tasks require a political science that both combines theoretical and practical sciences along with prudence and shows how they are to be ordered in the soul of the ruler.

Such a view of political science is presented in the Book of Religion. It is a political science that is a part of philosophy. Yet even as Alfarabi offers this redemptive vision of political science, he suggests that religion and revelation must also be put into perspective or considered anew and then goes about explaining religion in such a manner that its theoretical and practical subordination to philosophy becomes manifest. Alfarabi’s account of this subordination makes it seem perfectly reasonable — so reasonable that the limitations thereby placed on dialectical theology and jurisprudence appear to follow necessarily from it.

To this explanation of the way Alfarabi elaborates the relationship between the philosophy of the ancients and the new revelation, one might object that it relies too much on a presumption of harmony and agreement between Plato and Aristotle on these matters. We know, however, that the two differed about many minor and not-so-minor questions. This issue is addressed in the last work presented in this volume, the highly enigmatic Harmonization of the Two Opinions of the Two Sages, Plato the Divine and Aristotle. Here Alfarabi, desirous of putting an end to the disputes and discord among his contemporaries about the disagreement they claim to discern between “the two eminent and distinguished sages, Plato and Aristotle,” sets out to show that their opinions are in agreement, to “remove doubt and suspicion from the hearts of those who look into their books,” and to “explain the places of uncertainty and the sources of doubt in their treatises.” These goals, set forth in the opening words of the treatise, are surely most appealing. But do they not too readily discount or ignore simple facts manifest to any student of Plato and Aristotle? Precisely for that reason, the reader must look again at Alfarabi’s final observation as he begins this treatise: he deems the attempt to show the agreement or harmonization between these two philosophers’ teachings to be of the utmost importance and, in addition, a most beneficial matter “to expound upon and elucidate.” Stated differently, whether such agreement exists in fact or not, concern for the commonweal prompts Alfarabi to seek for a means of bringing something like agreement to light.

Such are the general features of and linkages between the texts before us. Each has been translated anew for this volume, and each translation relies either on a text newly edited or on the revision of an older edition. To the extent consonant with readable English, Arabic terms have been rendered consistently by the same English word. Similarly, every effort has been made to ensure that once an English word is used for a particular Arabic term, it is subsequently used only for that term. The goal is to reproduce in faithful and readable English the argument of these Arabic texts in a manner that captures their texture and style and also communicates the nuances and variety of Alfarabi’s expression. To this end, notes sometimes point to particular problems in a passage or to the fact that considerations of style or sense have made it necessary to render an important term differently. An English-Arabic and Arabic-English glossary has been placed at the end of the volume to provide the interested reader with the possibility of investigating how particular words have been translated.

The translations presented here have benefited from the kindly suggestions of many readers, especially the students in undergraduate and graduate seminars at the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, and Harvard University, who wrestled valiantly with the complexities of Alfarabi’s thought and expression. May they and all those fellow scholars who have read these translations with such care, pondered over my attempts to render Alfarabi’s teaching in something approaching conventional English, and helped me present it more precisely or perhaps more elegantly, find here my warmest expressions of gratitude. Special thanks are due also to five individuals, each of whom contributed massively to this project. First, as all students of Alfarabi know so well. Professor Muhsin Mahdi discovered many of the manuscripts on which these translations are based and prepared the excellent critical edition of the Book of Religion. In addition, I have benefited greatly from his sound advice on how to resolve particular textual problems. Professor Fauzi M. Najjar’s sterling editions of Selected Aphorisms and Harmonization have proved to be especially helpful, as have his initiative and assistance in translating the latter for this book. Every translator should be so fortunate to have a reader like Miriam Galston, who allows almost nothing to pass unquestioned, especially not infelicities of expression that admit of remedy. If these translations now have anything approaching literary appeal or elegance and some greater accuracy, it is largely due to her painstaking reading of the final manuscript and to her constant probing; for that precious gift of time and effort, my gratitude is boundless. I was also fortunate to have in Thomas Pangle a series editor willing to read each translation with great care, suggest ever so tactfully how awkward formulations might be better phrased, and query passages whose opacity had eluded me. Rima Pavalko’s careful eye for details and gracious assistance with editorial tasks have been invaluable. To each of these benefactors, I express my deepest thanks and hope that this end product will seem worthy of their efforts. Finally, it is a great pleasure to acknowledge the support of the Earhart Foundation.

Selected Aphorisms

The translation

This translation is based on the text of the Selected Aphorisms edited by Fauzi M. Najjar just over a quarter of a century ago. Najjar’s edition was intended to expand upon, correct, and generally improve the edition and translation published by D. M. Dunlop a decade earlier. It was primarily Muhsin Mahdi’s discovery in Turkey of an older and more reliable manuscript of this work that prompted the new edition. This manuscript, from the Diyarbekir Central Library (no. 1970), had not been known to Dunlop and offered better readings of key passages as well as a more complete text. In addition, Mahdi discovered another Turkish manuscript unknown to Dunlop — the Istanbul Millet Library, Feyzullah, no. 1279. Though it was not much more reliable than the two manuscripts on which Dunlop had based his work (the Chester Beatty, no. 3714; and Bodleian, Hunt., no. 307., Najjar’s acquisition of copies of two other manuscripts unknown to Dunlop (the University of Teheran, Central Library, Mishkat, no. 250, and the University of Teheran, Faculty of Divinity, Ilahiyyat, no. 695) allowed him to improve considerably upon Dunlop’s edition. These improvements appear throughout the text, but are especially evident in the new aphorisms (3, 15, 23, and 40) and the additional sentences in aphorisms 6, 8, and 26 (corresponding to Dunlop’s 5, 7, and 23). Again, in aphorisms 68-87, where Dunlop had to rely solely on the Chester Beatty source, Najjar’s richer manuscript base offered far better textual readings and clarified many problems Dunlop had not been able to resolve.

The numbering of the aphorisms in the present translation corresponds to Najjar’s edition, but the section titles and other material found within square brackets have been added by me. Some of these divisions are supported by marginal notations found in the Diyarbekir and University of Teheran Central Library manuscripts. Still, Dunlop’s erroneous division of the text into two parts (aphorisms 1-65 and 66-96) on the basis of a marginal note in the Chester Beatty manuscript shows that such decisions cannot be reached on the basis of scribal marginalia alone, but must also be consonant with the sense of the argument. Also of my doing is the sentence punctuation and paragraph divisions within the aphorisms. The numbers within square brackets refer to the pages of Najjar’s Arabic text. With these additions, as with the notes, my primary goal has been to make it easier for the reader to seize and follow Alfarabi’s argument.

The same goal guides this translation. Years of using Dunlop’s translation with students who do not read Arabic showed that it would not be sufficient merely to insert Najjar’s new aphorisms and otherwise lightly touch up his version. Rather, it had become clear that a technically rigorous rendering of the text was needed. For example, in aphorism 57, Dunlop renders the term al-madina al-fadila, not as “the virtuous city” (which corresponds to the context and its discussion of virtue) but as “the ideal city.” In aphorism 2, where Alfarabi contrasts noble actions (al-afal al-jamila) with base actions (al-afal al-qabiha), a contrast perfectly in keeping with the other one he is making between virtue and vice, Dunlop translates these as “fair actions” and “ugly actions,” thereby leaving the reader to wonder what Alfarabi is talking about. In keeping with this lack of rigor is Dunlop’s tendency to use different English terms for the same Arabic terms and the same English term to translate different Arabic ones, a practice that deprives the reader of learning anything about Alfarabi’s philosophic or political vocabulary.

To be sure, the contrary practice I have adopted sometimes obliges the reader to pause and puzzle out certain passages. The attempt to render Arabic terms consistently with the same English ones does not always lend itself to seamless, fluid prose. It should come as no surprise that particularly when he is engaged in discussions of difficult questions, as when he is explaining wisdom (aph. 37), Alfarabi’s Arabic prose is equally strained. The extremes to be avoided in translation seem to be the excessive pedantry or desire for precision that creates confusion where none exists and the insufficient attentiveness that leads to smoothing over just those difficulties that one ought not remove. Though awareness of them offers no immunity, it is surely a better portent for a translation than nescience.

The title of the work

Only one of the known manuscripts — namely, the “Book of the Aphorisms of the Statesman, by Abu Nasr al-Farabl” — offers a title. It is also one of the latest and least reliable manuscripts, the Bodleian. Moreover, no medieval bibliographic source attributes a book with this title to Alfarabi; nor does the famous nineteenth century historian of medieval Islamic and Jewish philosophy, Moritz Steinschneider, ever refer to it by this name. He, like Najjar, looks back to those traditional sources as well as to the way the work is identified in the first few lines of the other manuscripts and opts for the appellation “The Selected Aphorisms”; in doing so, Steinschneider departs only minutely from the other title traditionally assigned the work, the one Najjar opts for — “Selected Aphorisms.”

Najjar relies principally upon the Diyarbekir manuscript to establish this title. With minor variations, the first few lines of this manuscript and three of the other five manuscripts read:

Selected aphorisms that comprise the roots of many of the sayings of the Ancients concerning that by which cities ought to be governed and made prosperous, the ways of life of their inhabitants improved, and they be led toward happiness.

The emphasis here is thus on the partial character of the treatise: it contains selected aphorisms that encompass the foundations, principles, or grounds of several — that is, not all — of the sayings of the ancients. Moreover, those sayings are limited to political subjects, especially ones relating to rule. Only in the two Teheran manuscripts is a reading substantially different from this prefatory passage to be found. Because it places greater stress upon human virtue than on political order and thereby suggests a different orientation to the work, it is worth citing in full:

These are the sentences and aphorisms chosen from the science of morals [and] comprise: acquiring the virtues of the human soul, avoiding its vices, moving the human being himself from his bad habits to fine habits, making firm the virtuous city, and making firm the household and the rulership over its inhabitants. They are all brought together in this epistle.

Moreover, in both these manuscripts the work is identified as an epistle (risala). Such differences notwithstanding, insofar as both versions provide a summary preview of the argument to come, they may well be nothing more than attempts on the part of industrious scribes to offer readers a preliminary synopsis of the work.

In translating the term fusul (sing. fasl) as “aphorisms” here, I do no more than follow in the steps of the first editor and translator — Dunlop — just as the second editor — Najjar — and most other scholars have done. Yet Dunlop’s recourse to Maimonides in order to urge that aphorisms are necessarily incomplete or fall short of a fully scientific explanation seems unwarranted. Nor, pithy as they are, is anything to be gained by conjecturing that Alfarabi understands fusul to mean “aphorisms” in the sense Nietzsche ascribes to the term almost a millennium later. The matter is much more straightforward: we need only note how “aphorism,” derived from the Greek aphorizein (“to mark off” or “to determine”), is aptly captured by the Arabic fasl and understand the English term in light of its Greek origin. Indeed, since Alfarabi at no point indicates why he calls the divisions of this work fusul, he may mean nothing more by the term than “sections” or some other form of textual break. Still, given the shortness of many of the fusul, there is no good reason to call them “chapters.”

The structure of the work

The work itself consists of 96 aphorisms. The four additional and contested aphorisms, found only in the most recent and least reliable of the six manuscripts, are sufficiently problematic that it is best to set them apart. In the Selected Aphorisms, Alfarabi begins with, then develops, a comparison between the health of the soul and that of the body. That is, somewhat abruptly, he starts his exposition by defining the health of each and then explains how the health of the more important of the two — that of the soul — may be obtained and its sickness repulsed. The first word of the Selected Aphorisms is simply “soul,” while the last is “virtue.” In the 96 aphorisms occurring between these two words, Alfarabi first enters upon a detailed examination of the soul, then provides an account and justification of the well-ordered political regime that the soul needs in order to attain its perfection. At no point in the treatise or epistle does he speak of prophecy or of the prophet or legislator. The terms are not even evoked. He is equally silent with respect to the philosopher and mentions “philosophy” only twice, both in the antepenultimate aphorism 94 — the same aphorism in which he mentions, for the only time, the word “revelation.” On the other hand, Alfarabi speaks constantly throughout these aphorisms of the statesman (madani) and of the king.

The “Ancients” referred to in the few lines preceding the first aphorism are, of course, none other than Plato and Aristotle. Alfarabi calls upon them in this work to identify the political order that will bring about human happiness. The individual who succeeds in understanding how a political community can be well-ordered — whether this person is a statesman or a king — will do for the citizens what the physician does for individual sick persons and will accomplish for the citizens who follow his rules what the prophet accomplishes for those who follow his. Nonetheless, to attain such an understanding, one must first be fully acquainted with the soul as well as with political life. More precisely, the virtuous political regime is the one in which the souls of all the inhabitants are as healthy as possible: “the one who cures souls is the statesman, and he is also called the king” (aph. 4).

This is why such a patently political treatise contains two long discussions of the soul. One, very reminiscent of what is found in the Nico- machean Ethics, explains all the faculties of the soul except for the theoretical part of the rational faculty (aphs. 6-21). The other analyzes this theoretical part as well as its companion, the practical part, by discussing the intellectual virtues (aphs. 33-56). In addition, there is an investigation of the sound and erroneous opinions with respect to the principles of being and happiness (aphs. 68-87). These three groups of aphorisms constitute a little less than two-thirds of the treatise. Void of formal structure or divisions, the treatise unfolds in such a manner that each moral discussion is preceded and followed by other groups of aphorisms that go more deeply into its political teaching.

Thus, the discussion of the soul in general is preceded by a series of analogies between the soul and the body as well as between the soul and the body politic (aphs. 1-5) and followed first by a discussion devoted to domestic political economy (aphs. 22-29) and then by an inquiry into the king in truth (aphs. 30-32). The second discussion of the soul, preceded by these three aphorisms, is followed by an inquiry into the virtuous city (aphs. 57-67). This in turn precedes the investigation of sound and erroneous opinions, itself followed by the account of the virtuous regime (aphs. 88-96). Subsequent to each moral digression, the tone of the discussion seems to become more elevated, almost as though the moral teaching were the driving force for the political teaching of the treatise or were at least giving it direction.

Here, then, is the schematic structure of the treatise or epistle as I understand it:




D. ON THE KING IN TRUTH (aphs. 30-32)


F. THE VIRTUOUS CITY (aphs. 57-67)


H. THE VIRTUOUS REGIME (aphs. 88-96)


Such an explanation of the general structure of Alfarabi’s Selected Aphorisms and identification of its major themes raise at least two questions. First, what do aphorisms 22-29 and 30-32 bring to the general exposition that warrants their interrupting Alfarabi’s explanation of the human soul and its faculties (aphs. 6-21 and 33-56)? Or, differently stated, why can Alfarabi not provide a full account of the soul’s facul¬ ties — especially of its intellectual faculty — before having discussed the way human beings live together and a particular kind of monarch? Clearly, his discussion of the deeper significance behind seemingly basic practical arrangements to facilitate life in community and of the qualities obviously desirable in one identified as the best possible ruler prepares — indeed, it presupposes — a fuller account of the soul. That is, Alfarabi’s exposition points to the limitations of moral virtue. For life in common and, even more, for the best kind of political rule, human beings need more than moderation and courage.

The second question arising from attention to the structure of this work has to do with the topics of aphorisms 68-87. Once the human soul has been fully explained — that is, once its moral and intellectual excellences have been identified and described in detail — Alfarabi focuses on providing for the soul in a proper political order. So what prompts him to pause in the middle of that discussion and turn to questions having to do with physical science as well as with metaphysics or even theology? This question, too, admits of a different formulation: why is it necessary to distinguish the sound opinions about the principles of being and the status of happiness from the erroneous ones before moving from a discussion of a particular form of virtuous political community, the city, to the virtuous regime in general? It almost seems that the virtuous city is so particular and so dependent on a series of fortuitous circumstances coming about as to absolve Alfarabi from providing a full-blown account of being and happiness when his attention is focused on that city. With respect to it, a merely persuasive account of such matters will suffice. When the broader political entity encompassed by the term regime is being investigated, however, something more is needed. Something more is needed because what can be gained in the regime, for the ruler as well as for the ruled, far surpasses what can be gained in the city. The distinction between the two turns not on their relative size — not, that is, on the notion that the regime is larger insofar as it encompasses a number of cities — but on the greater virtue and greater happiness to which both ruler and ruled can aspire in the virtuous regime (aph. 89). Here alone, or so it seems, can ruler and ruled aspire to completing themselves as human beings.

In this sense, the title formerly ascribed to the work, Aphorisms of the Statesman, is almost more appropriate than the one by which it is presented here, Selected Aphorisms. These are aphorisms that tell the would-be statesman precisely the kind of things he needs to know in order to rule. They answer, with concision, the questions he might raise about the moral and intellectual virtues, about the way people live together, and so forth. What is more, these aphorisms draw upon the wisdom of Plato and Aristotle — as much the one as the other — in order to answer such questions.

The same line of reasoning explains another characteristic of this work: the fundamental or basic character of its teaching — its appearance as something like a primer for politics. Alfarabi posits in this work the fundamentals with respect to the soul, the city, and ruling. Drawing on Aristotle without saying so, he provides an excellent summary of the key points of the Nicomachean Ethics with respect to the moral virtues, the distinction between virtue and self-restraint, and the intellectual virtues. Then, drawing on Plato without saying so, he provides a kind of summary of the Republic to explain the idea of political justice and the basic distribution of duties in the virtuous city. He also explains what opinions one should hold about the soul and its faculties, the life to come, the principles of being, ultimate happiness, and similar matters. As a result, it becomes perfectly patent here that good practice presupposes correct understanding or that knowledge is virtue.

[23] Selected aphorisms that comprise the roots of many of the sayings of the Ancients concerning that by which cities ought to be governed and made prosperous, the ways of life of their inhabitants improved, and they be led toward happiness.

[A. Analogies between the Soul and the Body and Then between the Soul and the Body Politic]

1. Aphorism. The soul has health and sickness just as the body has health and sickness. The health of the soul is for its traits and the traits of its parts to be traits by which it can always do good things, fine things, and noble actions. Its sickness is for its traits and the traits of its parts to be traits by which it always does evil things, wicked things, and base actions. The health of the body is for its traits and the traits of its parts to be traits by which the soul does its actions in the most complete and perfect way, whether those [24] actions that come about by means of the body or its parts are good ones or evil ones. Its sickness is for its traits and the traits of its parts to be traits by which the soul does not do its actions that come about by means of the body or its parts, or does them in a more diminished manner than it ought or not as was its wont to do them.

2. Aphorism. The traits of the soul by which a human being does good things and noble actions are virtues. Those by which he does evil things and base actions are vices, defects, and villainies.

3. Aphorism. Just as the health of the body is an equilibrium of its temperament and its sickness is a deviation from equilibrium, so, too, are the health of the city and its uprightness an equilibrium of the moral habits of its inhabitants and its sickness a disparity found in their moral habits. When the body deviates from equilibrium in its temperament, the one who brings it back to equilibrium and preserves it there is the physician. So, too, when the city deviates from equilibrium with respect to the moral habits of its inhabitants, the one who brings it back to uprightness and preserves it there is the statesman. So the statesman and physician have their two actions in common and differ with respect to the two subjects of their two arts. For the subject of the former is souls and the subject of the latter, bodies. And just as the soul is more eminent than the body, so, too, is the statesman more eminent than the physician.

4. Aphorism. The one who cures bodies is the physician; and the one who cures souls is the statesman, and he is also called the king. However, the intention of the physician in curing bodies is not to make its traits such that the soul does good things or wicked ones by means of them. Rather, he intends only to make its traits such that by means of them the actions of the soul coming about by means of the body and its parts are [25] more perfect, whether those actions are wicked things or fine ones.

The physician who cures the body does so only to improve a human being’s strength, regardless of whether he uses that improved strength in fine things or wicked ones. The one who cures the eye intends thereby only to improve sight, regardless of whether he uses that in what he ought and becomes fine or in what he ought not and becomes base. Therefore, to look into the health of the body and its sickness from this perspective is not up to the physician insofar as he is a physician, but up to the statesman and the king. Indeed, the statesman by means of the political art and the king by means of the art of kingship determine where it ought to be done, with respect to whom it ought to be done and with respect to whom not done, and what sort of health bodies ought to be provided with and what sort they ought not to be provided with.

Therefore, the case of the kingly and the political art with respect to the rest of the arts in cities is that of the master builder with respect to the builders. For the rest of the arts in cities are carried out and practiced only so as to complete by means of them the purpose of the political art and the kingly art, just as the ruling art among the arts of the builders uses the rest of them in order to complete its intention by means of them.

5. Aphorism. The physician who cures bodies needs to be cognizant of [26] the body in its entirety and of the parts of the body, of what sicknesses occur to the whole of the body and to each one of its parts, from what they occur, from how much of a thing, of the way to make them cease, and of the traits that when attained by the body and its parts make the actions coming about in the body perfect and complete. Likewise, the statesman and the king who cure souls need to be cognizant of the soul in its entirety and of its parts, of what defects and vices occur to it and to each one of its parts, from what they occur, from how much of a thing, of the traits of the soul by which a human does good things and how many they are, of the way to make the vices of the inhabitants of cities cease, of the devices to establish these traits in the souls of the citizens, and of the way of governing so as to preserve these traits among them so that they do not cease. And yet he ought to be cognizant of only as much about the soul as is needed in his art just as the physician needs to be cognizant of only as much about the body as is needed in his art, and the carpenter with respect to wood or the smith with respect to iron only as much as is needed in his art.

[B. The Human Soul, its Virtues and Vices]

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