The Role of Images in al-Fārābī’s Political Thought


  • Sarah Virgi SOAS University of London, UK


Community, Image, Islam, Perfection, al-Fārābī


This essay examines the concept of image in Abū Nasr al-Fārābī’s philosophical thought and the relevance of this idea within his envisioning of the perfect state. Through careful analysis of his writings concerning the arts and methods of representation and his political works, I shall demonstrate that images provide an essential key for the supreme legislator and religious leader to guide people towards happiness or the achievement of ultimate perfection. However, this relies on a redefinition of the author’s idea of happiness in the terms of what one could call a “political happiness,” that is the perfection of the community as a whole. Hence, I explore the way in which, in al-Fārābī’s thought, images contribute to this ultimate goal through their ability to inspire the audience’s will to follow moral values and obey political rule. This is built upon his understanding of images from a psychological perspective, rather than from a scientific approach to them, which was common in Ancient philosophical texts. Furthermore, it also relies on a defined methodology of production of virtuous images, which I elaborate in this article.




How to Cite

Virgi, S. (2017). The Role of Images in al-Fārābī’s Political Thought. Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, (9), 10–26. Retrieved from