Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) “The Second Teacher/Master”
Abu Nasr al-Farabi (Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi; known in the West as Alpharabius (c. 872 – between 14 December 950 and 12 January 951), was a Muslim polymath and one of the greatest scientists and philosophers of… the Islamic world in his time. He was also a cosmologist, logician, musician, psychologist and sociologist.
Al-Farabi made notable contributions to the fields of logic, mathematics, medicine, music, philosophy, psychology and sociology.
Al-Farabi was also the first Muslim logician to develop a non-Aristotelian logic. He discussed the topics of future contingents, the number and relation of the categories, the relation between logic and grammar, and non-Aristotelian forms of inference. He is also credited for categorizing logic into two separate groups, the first being “idea” and the second being “proof.”
Al-Farabi had great influence on science and philosophy for several centuries, and was widely regarded to be second only to Aristotle in knowledge (alluded to by his title of “the Second Teacher”) in his time. His work, aimed at synthesis of philosophy, paved the way for the work of Ibn Sina (Avicenna).
Al-Farabi is also known for his early investigations into the nature of the existence of void in Islamic physics. In thermodynamics, he appears to have carried out the first experiments concerning the existence of vacuum, in which he investigated handheld plungers in water. He concluded that air’s volume can expand to fill available space, and he suggested that the concept of perfect vacuum was incoherent.
His On the Cause of Dreams, which appeared as chapter 24 of his Book of Opinions of the people of the Ideal City, was a treatise on dreams, in which he was the first to distinguish between dream interpretation and the nature and causes of dreams.
According to Adamson, his work was singularly directed towards the goal of simultaneously reviving and reinventing the Alexandrian philosophical tradition, to which his Christian teacher, Yuhanna bin Haylan belonged. His success should be measured by the honorific title of “the second master” of philosophy (Aristotle being the first), by which he was known.