City/Body

Al-Farabi (872-950 AD)

Al-Farabi (872-950 AD)

I just wanted to share an aphorism from the great Al-Farabi, a man who is known in the Muslim world as “the second teacher” – the first teacher being Aristotle. An influential political philosopher, he also wrote extensively about cities.  When reading this  following passage of his, I couldn’t help but think about Kabul, our open city which resembles a painfully ill living body with no physician around to take care of it – to use the Farabian metaphor.

“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.”

Al-Farabi (2004). The Political Writings: Selected Aphorisms and Other Texts (trans. by Charles Butterworth). Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p.12

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