~ ابونصر محمد بن محمد فارابی ~

Chapter Twenty-Four

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XXIV. Religion and Philosophy

147. If a religion depends on a philosophy perfected after all the syllogistic arts have been distinguished from one another in the way and the order that we have recounted, it will be an excellently valid religion.

However, if philosophy has not yet become excellently demonstrative and certain, but continues to validate its opinions instead by rhetorical, dialectical, or sophistical [arguments], it is possible as a consequence that all, most, or a large part of it incorporates opinions that are all false without this being noticed so that it is a philosophy based on belief or false reasoning. If a religion is constructed [154] on the basis of such a philosophy, it will incorporate numerous false opinions. If in addition many of these false opinions are imaged and their paradigms are taken instead of them - as religions usually do with what is difficult for the multitude to conceive - that religion will be still further from what is real and will be a corrupt religion whose corruptness is not noticed. A religion that is even more corrupt than that religion will result when, subsequently, a lawgiver comes who does not adopt the opinions in his religion from the philosophy that happens to exist in his own time, adopting instead the opinions set down in the earlier religion on the assumption that they are what is real, images them, and adopts their paradigms to teach the multitude. If after him there comes yet another lawgiver who depends on this second lawgiver, the corruption will be still worse.

Hence a valid religion will be realized in a nation only when it is realized in it according to the first manner; a corrupt religion will be realized in a nation when it is realized according to the second manner. However, in both cases religion emerges only after philosophy, whether after certain philosophy, which is genuinely philosophy, or after the philosophy based on belief, which is believed to be philosophy even though it is not genuinely philosophy. This, then, is the situation when religion emerges in a nation out of its own innate gifts and own natural make-up.

148. On the other hand, if religion is transferred from a nation where it belongs to a nation without a religion- or if a religion belonging to a certain nation is adopted and improved by additions, deletions, or some other change being made, and then is made the religion of another nation - and its character is formed by that religion, it is taught that religion, and it is governed by it, then it is possible that religion will emerge in this nation before philosophy is realized and even before dialectic and sophistry are realized. As for philosophy, when it does not emerge in a nation out of its innate gifts, but is transferred to it from another people where it had belonged, it can emerge in this nation after the religion that has been transferred to it.

149. [155] Now if the [original] religion depended on a perfect philosophy, yet the theoretical matters in the philosophy were not set down in the religion in the same way as they were in the philosophy, using the very utterances with which they were expressed in the philosophy; rather, the religion had adopted the paradigms of all or most of those theoretical matters in their place.

If this religion was transferred to another nation without this nation recognizing that it depends on philosophy or that its contents are paradigms of theoretical matters validated in philosophy through certain demonstrations; rather, all this was passed over in silence so that this nation came to believe that the paradigms contained in that religion are what is real and the theoretical matters themselves.

If subsequently the philosophy on which this religion’s excellence depends is transferred to this nation. [Were this chain of events to take place], there is the risk that this religion will be contrary to philosophy and its adherents will oppose philosophy and discard it. The adherents of philosophy will also oppose this religion so long as they do not know that this religion consists of paradigms of what is in philosophy. Once they come to know that they are paradigms of what is in philosophy, they themselves will not oppose the religion. Nevertheless the adherents of the religion will still oppose the adherents of this philosophy. Philosophy and its adherents will have no authority over this religion nor over its adherents; rather, philosophy will be discarded, as will its adherents, and the religion will receive no great support from philosophy. And there is the risk that philosophy and its adherents will suffer enormous harm at the hand of this religion and its adherents. Therefore at this point the adherents of philosophy may be forced to oppose the adherents of the religion for the sake of the safety of the adherents of philosophy. They will try to oppose, not the religion itself, but only its adherents’ belief that religion is contrary to philosophy; they will make an earnest effort to cure them of this belief by seeking to make them discern that the contents of their religion are paradigms of the contents of philosophy.

150. On the other hand, if the religion that was transferred to them is a religion that originally depended on an earlier, corrupt - rhetorical, dialectical, or sophistical philosophy.

If subsequently, valid and demonstrative philosophy is transferred to them. In this case philosophy will oppose that religion in every respect, and the religion will be totally opposed to this philosophy. Each one of them will attempt [156] to eliminate the other. Whichever of the two triumphs and becomes firmly established in their souls will eliminate the other: whichever of the two overwhelms this nation will eliminate the other from it.

151. If dialectic or sophistry are transferred to a nation having a religion that has taken root and is firmly established in it, then each of these two [arts] will harm this religion and will belittle it in the souls of the faithful, regardless of whether the religion was based on a philosophy that is genuinely philosophy or on a corrupt philosophy that was only believed to be philosophy. For, given that the activity of these [two, namely, dialectic and sophistry] has the force of proving and disproving precisely the same thing, it happens that the application of dialectical and sophistical methods to the opinions that have become firmly established in [people’s] souls through the religion will destroy their hold on them, cast doubts about them, and confer on them the status of what is not yet valid but awaiting validation, or make them matters of perplexity to the point where it is believed that neither they nor their contraries can ever be validated. This is why most lawgivers came to prohibit and very strenuously forbid dialectic and sophistry. Similarly, the princes appointed to preserve religion - whatever religion it may be - strenuously forbid its adherents these two methods and warn them most severely against them.

152. As for philosophy, some people urged that it be pursued; others permitted it; and still others passed over it in silence. Others, finally, prohibited it for the following reasons. The nation in question is not such that it may be taught what is real in an unadulterated fashion or theoretical matters as they are; instead - due to the natural make-up of its people or due to the purpose that it pursues or that [the lawgiver or prince intends to achieve] through it – the nation may not come across what is itself real but only have its character formed exclusively by paradigms of what is real. Or the nation in question is such that its character may be formed by activities, occupations, and practical things exclusively and not by theoretical matters or, at any rate, rarely by these.

Alternately, the religion the founder introduced is corrupt and ignorant: he did not use it to seek out the nation’s happiness but his own, wanting to exploit it as a means to his own happiness exclusively. He was therefore afraid, were he to permit it to inquire into philosophy, the nation would recognize the corrupt character of what he attempted to establish in their souls.

153. [157] It is apparent in the case of every religion that opposes philosophy that the art of theology in that religion will oppose philosophy and that those who pursue theology will oppose those who pursue philosophy to the extent that that religion opposes philosophy.

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