Abstraction in al-Fârâbî

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Format of Original

18 p.

Publication Date



American Catholic Philosophical Association

Source Publication

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Source ISSN



Al-Fârâbî’s thought on intellect was known to the Latin West through the translation of his Letter on the Intellect, through the Long Commentary on the De Anima by Averroes and through some other works. Al-Fârâbî identified the active power of intellect in Aristotle’s De Anima 3.5 as the unique and separately existing Agent Intellect, but the role of the Agent Intellect in forming intelligibles in act in the human soul is by no means unequivocally clear. Further, the apprehension of intelligibles by human beings and the intellectual development of the soul, oftentimes described as an activity of abstracting (intaza`a), seems to be a genuine abstraction from experience, yet it somehow involves the emanative power of the Agent Intellect. This paper works to provide a coherent explanation of the nature of abstraction and the role of Agent Intellect in that activity.


Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, Vol. 80, (2006): 151-168. DOI: 10.5840/acpaproc20068011.