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What is the difference between Plato, Aristotle, and Alfarabi's ideal leader and ideal city?


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It can be difficult to distinguish between the different approaches taken by various philosophers.  Plato and Aristotle were directly linked to each other and to Socrates in a student-teacher relationship. Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle.  However, Alfarabi was not part of this relationship.  While he was very influenced by Plato’s philosophy, in many ways he took a very different approach to philosophy, particularly the understanding of the relationship between the body and the soul.  The difference in philosophical approaches is very noticeable in how each of the three philosophers viewed the ideal leader and the ideal city.

To Plato, the ideal city was similar to the soul. The ideal city would be ruled by a philosopher king.  The city would be enlightened and based on the highest universal principles.  In direct parallel to the three parts of the soul, to Plato the ideal city had three parts: guardians, auxiliaries, and craftsmen. 

For Alfarabi, the ideal city was comparable to the living body.  Like Plato, he believed that a perfect state would be ruled by a philosopher king.  However, in addition to Platonic ideals, Alfarabi’s ideal city incorporated ideas from Islam.  There is a distinct reference to Islam and its concentration on the unification of spiritual and political authority.  Initially that person was Muhammed.  Muhammed was not only a spiritual leader for Islam, but was also responsible for establishing Medina, which was seen as the model of a perfect city.

Aristotle focused more on the physical construction of the perfect city.  To him, a city was composed of its citizenry.  Organizing the citizenry in relationship to the facilities, temples, and public buildings was important.  He believed there should be three main sections: one of soldiers, one of magistrates, and one of the priests. 

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