Al-Farabi’s ecumenical state and its modern connotations

Skepsis: A Journal for Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Research:253-261 (2012)
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al-Fārābi was well aware that ecumenism can easily convert to tyranny if a certain city–state attempts to impose its laws outside its territory. State legislation depends on specific cultural and historical factors which deprives it from being universal because culture and history could not unite different nations in an ecumenical state. Legislation has to be built on universal premises, e.g. on philosophy, so as to serve the needs of a global state. Philosophy is the bond which unites humans and communities, while religion and legislation are disruptive factors. Despite the fact that in our days there are different philosophies, philosophy encourages dialogue, not hatred. As a result, al-Fārābi was right when he founded his ecumenical state on philosophy. Consequently, philosophers ought to persuade the citizens through rational arguments, dialectic, symbols and religion so as to accept the existence of an ecumenical state. The goal of this state is the supreme good, understood as the theoretical living. Al-Fārābi’s ecumenism is a means for the perfection of human beings and societies and not simply for the augmentation of wealth, as it is seen today. Al-Fārābi dreams of an anthropocentric ecumenical state. I support that this should be the form of modern ecumenism. While modern scholars have strong objections to the governing of philosophers, we should agree that philosophy is the appropriate universal language. The persistence on power and other divisive factors, such as religion or tradition, is doomed to fail

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Georgios Steiris
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens


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