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History of Philosophy|
The Peripatetic School
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)
|Sources. Besides our primary sources, consisting of
treatises and commentaries of the philosophers of Aristotle's school,
we have, as secondary sources, the works of Diogenes Laertius and the
references made by Cicero, who, it should be said, is more trustworthy
when he mentions the Peripatetics than when he speaks of the
Theophrastus of Lesbos was born about the same year as
Aristotle. He seems to have become Aristotle's disciple even before the
death of Plato. After Aristotle's death he ruled the Peripatetic school
as scholarch for about thirty-five years. He wrote many works, of which
the best known are two treatises on botany and his Ethical
Characters, the latter consisting of lifelike delineations of types
of human character. He extended and completed Aristotle's philosophy of
nature, devoting special attention to the science of botany. In
his ethical doctrines he insisted on the choregia secured to
virtue by the possession of external goods. 
 Cf. Cic., Tusculanae Disputationes, V, 8.
Of the life of Eudemus of Rhodes little is known except that he
and Theophrastus were disciples of Aristotle at the same time. It is
probable that he continued to belong to the school
when Theophrastus became scholarch. He is the author of the Eudemian
Ethics, which, however, is merely a redaction of Aristotle's notes, or
at most a treatise intended to supplement Aristotle's Nicomachean
Ethics.  In his writings and doctrines Eudemus shows far less
originality and independence than does Theophrastus.
 Cf. Zeller's Arist., etc., Vol. I, p. 97, n.
Aritoxenus of Tarentum, known as the Musician, introduced
into the Peripatetic philosophy many of the ideas of the Pythagoreans,
attaching especial importance to the notion of harmony.
Strato of Lampsacus, the Physicist, succeeded
Theophrastus as scholarch in 288 B.C., and continued to preside over
the school for eighteen years. Like his predecessor, he devoted his
attention to the study of nature, manifesting, however, a
tendency to discard from natural philosophy the teleological concept
and the idea of the incorporeal.
Demetrius of Phalerus and others of the earlier Peripatetics
confined their literary labors to general history and the history of
Among the later Peripatetics mention must be made of Andronicus of
Rhodes, who edited the works of Aristotle (about 70 B.C.). To the
second century of our era belong Alexander of Aphrodisiae, the
Exegete, and Aristocles of Messene. To the third century
belongs Porphyry, and to the sixth century Philoponus and
Simpliclus. All these, though they belonged to Neo-Platonic or
Eclectic schools, enriched the literature of the Peripatetic school by
their commentaries on Aristotle. The physician Galen, born about
131 A.D., is also reckoned among the interpreters of Aristotle.
Retrospect. The second period of Greek philosophy has been
characterized as subjectivo-objective. Compared with the
preceding period, it is subjective, -- that is, it diverts the mind of
the inquirer from the problems of nature to those of thought. Compared
with the period immediately following, it is objective, -- that is, it
is not concerned solely with ethical problems and
the problems of the value of knowledge; it is not wholly subjective.
Historically the period is short, not extending over more than three
generations. Yet in that brief space of time much was accomplished. It
is, perhaps, because the period was so short, and because it was
dominated by three men, each of whom stood to his predecessor in the
relation of personal disciple, that there exists so perfect an organic
unity among the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The
philosophy of Socrates was the philosophy of the concept, -- it was
concerned with the inquiry into the conditions of scientific knowledge
and the basis of ethics. The philosophy of Plato was the philosophy of
the Idea, -- it claimed to be a scientific study of reality, a system
of metaphysics. The philosophy of Aristotle was centered around the
notion of essence, and essence implies the fundamental dualism of
matter and form. It is in Aristotle's philosophy, therefore, that the
objective and subjective are united in the highest and most perfect
synthesis; for organic unity is compatible with growth in organic
complexity. The concept is the simplest expression of the union of
subject and object; next in complexity is the Idea, which is a form of
being and knowing existing apart from what is and what is known, while
highest in complexity is the essence, which is in part the matter and
in part the form existing in the reality and also in the object of
knowledge. From Socrates to Aristotle there is, therefore, a true
development, the historical formula of which is ideally compact, --
concept, Idea, and essence.