Aristotelian Notion of Intellect from the Viewpoint of Alexander of Aphrodisias and Al-Farabi



Intellect is a fundamental topic of concern in the Peripatetic philosophy. A comparison of Al-Farabi’s approach to ‘intellect’ (an Iranian Muslim philosopher with an Oriental background) with that of Alexander of Aphrodisias’ (a Greek philosopher with an Occidental background) may reveal the contrasting features of Aristotelian Peripatetic philosophy and the Islamic philosophy. Basing itself on the methodology of comparative philosophy, this study carries out analysis and comparison of A Treatise on the Intellect of both Al-Farabi and Alexander Aphrodisias. According to Alexander Aphrodisias, intellect (in Aristotle’s On the Soul) is of three kinds: intellectus materialis, intellectus habitus, and intellectus agens and intellectus agens is the regulator of intellectus materialis. But according to Al-Farabi this intellect (intellectus agens) comprises three ranks: intellectus materialis, intellect in act and intellectus adeptus and it is the intellectus agens which radiates its light upon the cosmos containing world-souls and immaterial intellects. It seems that this classification of intellect was formulated for the first time by Al-Farabi. On the other hand, leaning on his Islamic beliefs and mystical inclinations Al-Farabi has identified intellectus agens (Active Intellect) with Gabriel and thus, made ‘union with Active Intellect’ acceptable in the view of Revelation and reckoned the effort and endeavour for this union with Active Intellect to be a spiritual-intellectual journey and considered the subsistence of this union after the extinction of body synonymous with eternal beatitude.