JMC : Pre-Scholastic Philosophy / by Albert Stöckl

The Chief Peripatetics.

§ 38.

1. The disciples of Aristotle, during the two or three centuries following his death, for the most part abandoned metaphysical speculation, and devoted themselves, some to physical science, and others to the popular treatment of Ethics, from the naturalistic standpoint. The later Peripatetics, on the other hand, returned again to the genuine views of Aristotle, and rendered service chiefly by their interpretation of his writings.

2. Prominent among the older Peripatetics are:

(a) Eudemus of Rhodes, and Theophrastus of Lesbos, the latter of whom is said to have been appointed by Aristotle himself as his successor, and for thirty-five years presided over the Peripatetic School. Eudemus seems to have followed Aristotle with fidelity: Theophrastus exercised more independence in his teaching. In the details in which they differ from Aristotle, it will be observed that Eudemus shows a tendency to be theological, Theophrastus to be naturalistic. In Logic, Eudemus and Theophrastus gave fuller development to the doctrine of Problematical Judgments and the Syllogism.

(b) The chief merit of Theophrastus lies in the extension he gave to natural science, especially to botany (phytology), and in his life-like delineation of human character. His chief work Ethikoi charaktêres, is on the latter subject. In metaphysics and psychology he shows a disposition to adopt a theory of immanence, in the solution of problems to which Aristotle had applied the notion of transcendence. But he remains fasthful, in the main, to the Aristotelian views. He holds the nous to be the better and more divine part of man, and to come from an external source; he asserts it possesses a certain separateness in existence (chôrismos), and yet he will have it to be in some way or other congenital with man's nature (sumphutos). It is not clear what is the precise drift of his teaching on this point. The activity of thought he describes as motion (kinêsis), but not a motion in space. In his ethics he lays special stress on the "Choregia" secured to virtue by the possession of external goods, without which, he thinks, happiness is not attainable.{1}

Praxiphanes, a pupil of Theophrastus (B.C. 300), gave special attention to the study of Grammar.

(c) Aristoxenus of Tarentum, the "Musician," and Dicaearchus of Messene. The former held the soul to be the Harmony of the body. The latter assumes that individual substantial souls do not exist, but that a single living sensitive force is diffused through all organic beings, which is transiently individualized in corporeal forms (Cic. Tusc. I. 10.) He exalts practice over theory, and holds speculation to be of little moment. Phanias, Clearchus, and Demetrius follow him.

(d) Strato of Lampsacus, the "Physicist," who succeeded Theophrastus in his teaching functions about B.C. 288 or 287, and presided over the school for eighteen years. He transformed the teaching of Aristotle into a consistent system of Naturalism. He abandons the Aristotelian notion of a nous distinct from Matter, and he asserts that in everything which is produced, we have no more than the mere natural effects of gravity and motion. Nature is merely the comprehensive concept of the divine powers, which work unconsciously in the physical world. There is no difference between Perception and Thought; the seat of Thought is in the head, between the eyebrows; there the (material) traces (hupomonê) otthe images of perception persist -- to revive again when memory is exercised.

A similar line of speculation seems to have been followed by Plato's successors Lyco, his pupil, Aristo, Critolaus, Diodorus, Staseas, and Cratippus.

3. The most remarkable of the later Peripatetics are:

(a) Andronicus of Rhodes, the editor of the writings of Aristotle (B.C. 70); Boethus of Sidon (about the time of Julius Caesar); Nicolas of Damascus (under Augustus and Tiberius). These writers rendered important service in promoting the study of Aristotle's writings, and helping to make them understood. Andronicus, in his exposition of Aristotle's teaching, began with Logic. His pupil, Boethus, was of opinion that Physics is the science which first presents itself to us, which is more intelligible to us, and with which, therefore, philosophy should begin. The followers of these philosophers include Alexander of AEgae, Nero's tutor (A.D. 50); Adrastus of Aphrodisias (A.D. 100); Aspassas (A.D. 150), and Herminus.

(b) Aristocles of Messene, and his pupil Alexander of Aphrodisias, the "Exegete" (A.D. 200). In Aristocles we find a tendency to Stoicism -- an eclecticism which prepared the way for the fusion of the chief philosophical systems in Neo-Platonism. Alexander of Aphrodisias, was the most famous of the interpreters of Aristotle; he is the Exegete kat' exochên. He distinguishes in man a nous hulikos, a nous poiêtikos, and a nous epiktêtos or nous kath' hexin, but identifies the nous poiêtikos with the Godhead, as already indicated.

(c) From the Neo-Platonist school came also some distinguished interpreters of Aristotle, e.g., Porphyry (in the third century); Philoponus and Simplicius (sixth century.)

The celebrated physician, Galenus (born about A.D. 131), may be included amongst the interpreters of Aristotle. He was indeed an Eclectic, but his views are, on the whole, in accord with the Peripatetic teaching. We shall, however, have to notice him again when we speak of the Eclectics.

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{1} Cfr. Meuron. Peripateticorum Philosophia moralis secundum Stoboeum. Wiemar, 1859. In lafer times, Theophrastus was frequently reproached with having approved the maxim of the poet: Vitam regit fortuna non sapientia; but it would appear that he admitted the principle only in reference to external goods. Theophrastus distinctly holds that virtue is to be sought for its own sake, and that without virtue all external goods are worthless (Cic. Tusc. 5, 9; De Leg., 1, 131). A slight departure from moral virtue, Theophrastus would permit, and even enjoin, when it is necessary to aid a friend, to avoid some great evil, or attain some important good.