The school dates from around 335 BC when Aristotle began teaching in the Lyceum. It was an informal institution whose members conducted philosophical and scientific inquiries. After the middle of the 3rd century BC, the school fell into a decline, and it was not until the Roman era that there was a revival. Later members of the school concentrated on preserving and commenting on Aristotle's works rather than extending them; it died out in the 3rd century.
The study of Aristotle's works continued by scholars who were called Peripatetics through Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the works of the Peripatetic school were lost to the Latin West, but in the East they were rediscovered and incorporated into early Islamic philosophy, which would play a fundamental role in the revival of Aristotelian philosophy in Europe through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The term "Peripatetic" is a transliteration of the ancient Greek word περιπατητικός (peripatêtikos), which means "of walking" or "given to walking about". The Peripatetic school, founded by Aristotle, was actually known simply as the Peripatos. Aristotle's school came to be so named because of the peripatoi ("colonnades" or "covered walkways") of the Lyceum where the members met. The legend that the name came from Aristotle's alleged habit of walking while lecturing may have started with Hermippus of Smyrna.
Unlike Plato (428/7–348/7 BC), Aristotle (384–322 BC) was not a citizen of Athens and so could not own property; he and his colleagues therefore used the grounds of the Lyceum as a gathering place, just as it had been used by earlier philosophers such as Socrates. Aristotle and his colleagues first began to use the Lyceum in this way about 335 BC, after which Aristotle left Plato's Academy and Athens, and then returned to Athens from his travels about a dozen years later. Because of the school's association with the gymnasium, the school also came to be referred to simply as the Lyceum. Some modern scholars argue that the school did not become formally institutionalized until Theophrastus took it over, at which time there was private property associated with the school.
Originally at least, the Peripatetic gatherings were probably conducted less formally than the term "school" suggests: there was likely no set curriculum or requirements for students, or even fees for membership. Aristotle did teach and lecture there, but there was also philosophical and scientific research done in partnership with other members of the school. It seems likely that many of the writings that have come down to us in Aristotle's name were based on lectures he gave at the school.
Among the members of the school in Aristotle's time were Theophrastus, Phanias of Eresus, Eudemus of Rhodes, Clytus of Miletus, Aristoxenus, and Dicaearchus. Much like Plato's Academy, there were in Aristotle's school junior and senior members, the junior members generally serving as pupils or assistants to the senior members who directed research and lectured. The aim of the school, at least in Aristotle's time, was not to further a specific doctrine, but rather to explore philosophical and scientific theories; those who ran the school worked as equal partners.
The doctrines of the Peripatetic school were those laid down by Aristotle, and henceforth maintained by his followers.
Whereas Plato had sought to explain things with his theory of forms, Aristotle preferred to start from the facts given by experience. Philosophy to him meant science, and its aim was the recognition of the "why" in all things. Hence he endeavoured to attain to the ultimate grounds of things by induction; that is to say, by a posteriori conclusions from a number of facts toward a universal. Logic either deals with appearances, and is then called dialectics; or of truth, and is then called analytics.
All change or motion takes place in regard to substance, quantity, quality, and place. There are three kinds of substances – those alternately in motion and at rest, as the animals; those perpetually in motion, as the sky; and those eternally stationary. The last, in themselves immovable and imperishable, are the source and origin of all motion. Among them there must be one first being, unchangeable, which acts without the intervention of any other being. All that is proceeds from it; it is the most perfect intelligence – God. The immediate action of this prime mover – happy in the contemplation of itself – extends only to the heavens; the other inferior spheres are moved by other incorporeal and eternal substances, which the popular belief adores as gods. The heavens are of a more perfect and divine nature than other bodies. In the centre of the universe is the Earth, round and stationary. The stars, like the sky, beings of a higher nature, but of grosser matter, move by the impulse of the prime mover.
For Aristotle, matter is the basis of all that exists; it comprises the potentiality of everything, but of itself is not actually anything. A determinate thing only comes into being when the potentiality in matter is converted into actuality. This is achieved by form, the idea existent not as one outside the many, but as one in the many, the completion of the potentiality latent in the matter.
The soul is the principle of life in the organic body, and is inseparable from the body. As faculties of the soul, Aristotle enumerates the faculty of reproduction and nutrition; of sensation, memory and recollection; the faculty of reason, or understanding; and the faculty of desiring, which is divided into appetition and volition. By the use of reason conceptions, which are formed in the soul by external sense-impressions, and may be true or false, are converted into knowledge. For reason alone can attain to truth either in understanding or action.
The best and highest goal is the happiness which originates from virtuous actions. Aristotle did not, with Plato, regard virtue as knowledge pure and simple, but as founded on nature, habit, and reason. Virtue consists in acting according to nature: that is, keeping the mean between the two extremes of the too much and the too little. Thus valor, in his view the first of virtues, is a mean between cowardice and recklessness; temperance is the mean in respect to sensual enjoyments and the total avoidance of them.
The names of the first seven or eight scholarchs (leaders) of the Peripatetic school are known with varying levels of certainty. A list of names with the approximate dates they headed the school is as follows (all dates BC):
There are some uncertainties in this list. It is not certain whether Aristo of Ceos was the head of the school, but since he was a close pupil of Lyco and the most important Peripatetic philosopher in the time when he lived, it is generally assumed that he was. It is not known if Critolaus directly succeeded Aristo, or if there were any leaders between them. Erymneus is known only from a passing reference by Athenaeus. Other important Peripatetic philosophers who lived during these centuries include Eudemus of Rhodes, Aristoxenus, Dicaearchus, and Clearchus of Soli.
Sometime shortly after the death of Alexander the Great in June 323 BC, Aristotle left Athens to avoid persecution by anti-Macedonian factions in Athens, due to his ties to Macedonia. After Aristotle's death in 322 BC, his colleague Theophrastus succeeded him as head of the school. The most prominent member of the school after Theophrastus was Strato of Lampsacus, who increased the naturalistic elements of Aristotle's philosophy and embraced a form of atheism.
After the time of Strato, the Peripatetic school fell into a decline. Lyco was famous more for his oratory than his philosophical skills, and Aristo is perhaps best known for his biographical studies; although Critolaus was more philosophically active, none of the Peripatetic philosophers in this period seem to have contributed anything original to philosophy. The reasons for the decline of the Peripatetic school are unclear. Undoubtedly, Stoicism and Epicureanism provided many answers for those people looking for dogmatic and comprehensive philosophical systems, and the scepticism of the Middle Academy may have seemed preferable to anyone who rejected dogmatism. Later tradition linked the school's decline to Neleus of Scepsis and his descendants hiding the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus in a cellar until their rediscovery in the 1st century BC, and even though this story may be doubted, it is possible that Aristotle's works were not widely read.
In 86 BC, Athens was sacked by the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla; all the schools of philosophy in Athens were badly disrupted, and the Lyceum ceased to exist as a functioning institution. Ironically, this event seems to have brought new life to the Peripatetic school. Sulla brought the writings of Aristotle and Theophrastus back to Rome, where they became the basis of a new collection of Aristotle's writings compiled by Andronicus of Rhodes which forms the basis of the Corpus Aristotelicum which exists today. Later Neoplatonist writers describe Andronicus, who lived around 50 BC, as the eleventh scholarch of the Peripatetic school, which would imply that he had two unnamed predecessors. There is considerable uncertainty over the issue, and Andronicus' pupil Boethus of Sidon is also described as the eleventh scholarch. It is quite possible that Andronicus set up a new school where he taught Boethus.
Whereas the earlier Peripatetics had sought to extend and develop Aristotle's works, from the time of Andronicus the school concentrated on preserving and defending his work. The most important figure in the Roman era is Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. 200 AD) who wrote commentaries on Aristotle's writings. With the rise of Neoplatonism (and Christianity) in the 3rd century, Peripateticism as an independent philosophy came to an end, but the Neoplatonists sought to incorporate Aristotle's philosophy within their own system, and produced many commentaries on Aristotle's works. In the 5th century, Olympiodorus the Elder is sometimes described as a Peripatetic.
The last philosophers in classical antiquity to comment on Aristotle were Simplicius and Boethius in the 6th century AD. After this, although his works were mostly lost to the west, they were maintained in the east where they were incorporated into early Islamic philosophy. Some of the greatest Peripatetic philosophers in the Islamic philosophical tradition were Al-Kindi (Alkindus), Al-Farabi (Alpharabius), Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd). By the 12th century, Aristotle's works began being translated into Latin during the Latin translations of the 12th century, and gradually arose Scholastic philosophy under such names as Thomas Aquinas, which took its tone and complexion from the writings of Aristotle, the commentaries of Averroes, and The Book of Healing of Avicenna.
Alexander of Aphrodisias (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Ἀφροδισιεύς; fl. AD 200) was a Peripatetic philosopher and the most celebrated of the Ancient Greek commentators on the writings of Aristotle. He was a native of Aphrodisias in Caria, and lived and taught in Athens at the beginning of the 3rd century, where he held a position as head of the Peripatetic school. He wrote many commentaries on the works of Aristotle, extant are those on the Prior Analytics, Topics, Meteorology, Sense and Sensibilia, and Metaphysics. Several original treatises also survive, and include a work On Fate, in which he argues against the Stoic doctrine of necessity; and one On the Soul. His commentaries on Aristotle were considered so useful that he was styled, by way of pre-eminence, "the commentator" (ὁ ἐξηγητής).Andronicus of Rhodes
Andronicus of Rhodes (Ancient Greek: Ἀνδρόνικος ὁ Ῥόδιος, romanized: Andrónikos ho Rhódios; Latin: Andronicus Rhodius; fl. c. 60 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Rhodes who was also the scholarch (head) of the Peripatetic school. He is most famous for publishing a new edition of the works of Aristotle that forms the basis of the texts that survive today.Aristobulus of Alexandria
Aristobulus of Alexandria (Greek: Ἀριστόβουλος) also called Aristobulus the Peripatetic (fl. 181–124 B.C.E.) and once believed to be Aristobulus of Paneas, was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of the Peripatetic school, though he also used Platonic and Pythagorean concepts. Like his successor, Philo, he attempted to fuse ideas in the Hebrew Scriptures with those in Greek thought.Aristotelianism
Aristotelianism ( ARR-i-stə-TEE-lee-ə-niz-əm) is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. This school of thought, in the modern sense of philosophy, covers existence, ethics, mind and related subjects. In Aristotle's time, philosophy included natural philosophy, which preceded the advent of modern science during the Scientific Revolution. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school and later on by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings. In the Islamic Golden Age, Avicenna and Averroes translated the works of Aristotle into Arabic and under them, along with philosophers such as Al-Kindi and Al-Farabi, Aristotelianism became a major part of early Islamic philosophy.
Moses Maimonides adopted Aristotelianism from the Islamic scholars and based his famous Guide for the Perplexed on it and that became the basis of Jewish scholastic philosophy. Although some of Aristotle's logical works were known to western Europe, it was not until the Latin translations of the 12th century that the works of Aristotle and his Arabic commentators became widely available. Scholars such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas interpreted and systematized Aristotle's works in accordance with Christian theology.
After retreating under criticism from modern natural philosophers, the distinctively Aristotelian idea of teleology was transmitted through Wolff and Kant to Hegel, who applied it to history as a totality. Although this project was criticized by Trendelenburg and Brentano as non-Aristotelian, Hegel's influence is now often said to be responsible for an important Aristotelian influence upon Marx.
Recent Aristotelian ethical and "practical" philosophy, such as that of Gadamer and McDowell, is often premissed upon a rejection of Aristotelianism's traditional metaphysical or theoretical philosophy. From this viewpoint, the early modern tradition of political republicanism, which views the res publica, public sphere or state as constituted by its citizens' virtuous activity, can appear thoroughly Aristotelian.
The most famous contemporary Aristotelian philosopher is Alasdair MacIntyre. Especially famous for helping to revive virtue ethics in his book After Virtue, MacIntyre revises Aristotelianism with the argument that the highest temporal goods, which are internal to human beings, are actualized through participation in social practices. He juxtaposes Aristotelianism with the managerial institutions of capitalism and its state, and with rival traditions — including the philosophies of Hume and Nietzsche — that reject Aristotle's idea of essentially human goods and virtues and instead legitimate capitalism. Therefore, on MacIntyre's account, Aristotelianism is not identical with Western philosophy as a whole; rather, it is "the best theory so far, [including] the best theory so far about what makes a particular theory the best one." Politically and socially, it has been characterized as a newly "revolutionary Aristotelianism". This may be contrasted with the more conventional, apolitical and effectively conservative uses of Aristotle by, for example, Gadamer and McDowell. Other important contemporary Aristotelian theorists include Fred D. Miller, Jr. in politics and Rosalind Hursthouse in ethics.Avicennism
Avicennism is a school in Islamic philosophy which was established by Avicenna. He developed his philosophy throughout the course of his life after being deeply moved and concerned by the Metaphysics of Aristotle and studying it for over a year. According to Henry Corbin and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, there are two kind of Avicennism: Islamic or Iranian Avicennism, and Latin Avicennism. According to Nasr, the Latin Avicennism was based on the former philosophical works of Avicenna. This school followed the Peripatetic school of philosophy and tried to describe the structure of reality with a rational system of thinking. In the twelfth century AD, It became influential in Europe, particularly in Oxford and Paris, and affected some notable philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon and Duns Scotus. While the Latin Avicennism was weak in comparison with Latin Averroism, according to Étienne Gilson there was a "Avicennising Augustinism". On the other hand, Islamic Avicennism is based on his later works which is known as "The oriental philosophy" (حکمت المشرقیین). Therefore, philosophy in the eastern Islamic civilization providing became close to gnosis and tried to provide a vision of a spiritual universe. This approach paved the road for the Iranian school of Illuminationism (حکمت الاشراق) by Suhrawardi.Henry Corbin referred to divergences between Iranian Avicennism and Latin Avicennism. Besides he showed that we can see three different schools in Avicennism, which he called Avicennising Augustinism, Latin Avicennism and Iranian Avicennism.Commentaries on Aristotle
Commentaries on Aristotle refers to the great mass of literature produced, especially in the ancient and medieval world, to explain and clarify the works of Aristotle. The pupils of Aristotle were the first to comment on his writings, a tradition which was continued by the Peripatetic school throughout the Hellenistic period and the Roman era. The Neoplatonists of the late Roman empire wrote many commentaries on Aristotle, attempting to incorporate him into their philosophy. Although Ancient Greek commentaries are considered the most useful, commentaries continued to be written by the Christian scholars of the Byzantine Empire and by the many Islamic philosophers and Western scholastics who had inherited his texts.Critolaus
Critolaus (; Greek: Κριτόλαος Kritolaos; c. 200 – c. 118 BC) of Phaselis was a Greek philosopher of the Peripatetic school. He was one of three philosophers sent to Rome in 155 BC (the other two being Carneades and Diogenes of Babylon), where their doctrines fascinated the citizens, but scared the more conservative statesmen. None of his writings survive. He was interested in rhetoric and ethics, and considered pleasure to be an evil. He maintained the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of the world, and of the human race in general, directing his arguments against the Stoics.Diodorus of Tyre
Diodorus of Tyre (Greek: Διόδωρος), was a Peripatetic philosopher, and a disciple and follower of Critolaus, whom he succeeded as the head of the Peripatetic school at Athens c. 118 BC. He was still alive and active there in 110 BC, when Licinius Crassus, during his quaestorship of Macedonia, visited Athens. Cicero denies that he was a genuine Peripatetic, because it was one of his ethical maxims, that the greatest good consisted in a combination of virtue with the absence of pain, whereby a reconciliation between the Stoics and Epicureans was attempted.Lyco of Troas
Lyco of Troas (; Greek: Λύκων Lykon, gen.: Λύκωνος; c. 299 – c. 225 BC), son of Astyanax, was a Peripatetic philosopher and the disciple of Strato, whom he succeeded as the head of the Peripatetic school, c. 269 BC; he held that post for more than forty-four years.On Indivisible Lines
On Indivisible Lines (Greek Περὶ ἀτόμων γραμμῶν; Latin De Lineis Insecabilibus) is a short treatise attributed to Aristotle, but likely written by a member of the Peripatetic school some time before the 2nd century BC.
On Indivisible Lines seeks to refute Xenocrates' views on lines and minimal parts.On Melissus, Xenophanes, and Gorgias
On Melissus, Xenophanes, and Gorgias (Greek: Περὶ Μελίσσου, Ξενοφάνους καὶ Γοργίου; Latin: De Melisso, Xenophane, Gorgia) is a short work falsely attributed to Aristotle. The work was likely written during the 1st century CE or later by a member of the peripatetic school.On Virtues and Vices
On Virtues and Vices (Greek: Περὶ Ἀρετῶν καὶ Κακιῶν; Latin: De Virtutibus et Vitiis Libellus) is the shortest of the four ethical treatises attributed to Aristotle. The work is now regarded as spurious by scholars and its true origins are uncertain though it was probably created by a member of the peripatetic school.Onomasti komodein
Onomasti komodein (Ancient Greek: ὀνομαστὶ κωμῳδεῖν, onomasti kōmōidein, "to ridicule by name in the manner of the comic poets") was an expression used in Ancient Greece to denote a witty personal attack made with total freedom against the most notable individuals (see Aristophanes' attacks on Cleon, Socrates, Euripides) in order to expose their wrongful conduct.
An opinion which originated in the Peripatetic school is that onomasti komodein was the fundamental characterizing aspect of the ancient Greek comedy of the first period (known as Old Comedy).Peripatetic axiom
The Peripatetic axiom is: "Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses" (Latin: "Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu"). It is found in Thomas Aquinas's De veritate, q. 2 a. 3 arg. 19.Aquinas adopted this principle from the Peripatetic school of Greek philosophy, established by Aristotle. Aquinas argued that the existence of God could be proved by reasoning from sense data. He used a variation on the Aristotelian notion of the "active intellect" ("intellectus agens") which he interpreted as the ability to abstract universal meanings from particular empirical data.Phaenias of Eresus
Phaenias of Eresus (Ancient Greek: Φαινίας ὁ Ἐρέσιος, Phainias; also Phanias) was a Greek philosopher from Lesbos, important as an immediate follower of and commentator on Aristotle. He came to Athens about 332 BCE, and joined his compatriot, Theophrastus, in the Peripatetic school. His writings on logic and science appear to have been commentaries or supplements to the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus. He also wrote extensively on history. None of his works have survived.Problems (Aristotle)
The Problems (Greek: Προβλήματα; Latin: Problemata) is an Aristotelian or possibly pseudo-Aristotelian, as its authenticity has been questioned, collection of problems written in a question and answer format. The collection, gradually assembled by the peripatetic school, reached its final form anywhere between the third century BC to the 6th century AD. The work is divided by topic into 38 sections, and the whole contains almost 900 problems.
Later writers of Problemata include Plutarch, Alexander of Aphrodisias, and Cassius Iatrosophista.Ptolemy-el-Garib
Ptolemy-el-Garib (Arabic, more correctly al-gharīb, "Ptolemy the foreigner," explained as meaning "Ptolemy the unknown") (fl. c300 AD) was a Hellenistic pinacographer, probably of the Peripatetic school, who wrote a Life of Aristotle notable for its catalog of Aristotle's works. This work survives in an Arabic manuscript in Istanbul.Satyrus the Peripatetic
Satyrus (Greek: Σάτυρος) of Callatis was a distinguished peripatetic philosopher and historian, whose biographies (Lives) of famous people are frequently referred to by Diogenes Laërtius and Athenaeus. He came from Callatis Pontica, as we learn from a Herculaneum papyrus. He lived earlier than the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor (181–146 BC) when his Lives were epitomized by Heraclides Lembus, probably during the 3rd century BC. Athenaeus frequently refers to him as a Peripatetic, but his connection to the Peripatetic school is otherwise unknown. His biographies dealt with many eminent people including kings (Dionysius the Younger, Philip), statesmen (Alcibiades), orators (Demosthenes), poets (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides), and philosophers (Bias of Priene, Chilon of Sparta, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Zeno of Elea, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Diogenes, Anaxarchus, Stilpo). He also wrote on the population of Alexandria, and a work On Characters (Περὶ χαρακτήρων). Fragments of his biography of the Athenian dramatist Euripides were found at the end of a papyrus scroll discovered at Oxyrhynchus in the early twentieth century.Theophrastus
Theophrastus (; Greek: Θεόφραστος Theόphrastos; c. 371 – c. 287 BC), a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death, he attached himself to Aristotle who took to Theophrastus his writings. When Aristotle fled Athens, Theophrastus took over as head of the Lyceum. Theophrastus presided over the Peripatetic school for thirty-six years, during which time the school flourished greatly. He is often considered the father of botany for his works on plants. After his death, the Athenians honoured him with a public funeral. His successor as head of the school was Strato of Lampsacus.
The interests of Theophrastus were wide ranging, extending from biology and physics to ethics and metaphysics. His two surviving botanical works, Enquiry into Plants (Historia Plantarum) and On the Causes of Plants, were an important influence on Renaissance science. There are also surviving works On Moral Characters, On Sense Perception, On Stones, and fragments on Physics and Metaphysics. In philosophy, he studied grammar and language and continued Aristotle's work on logic. He also regarded space as the mere arrangement and position of bodies, time as an accident of motion, and motion as a necessary consequence of all activity. In ethics, he regarded happiness as depending on external influences as well as on virtue.
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