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A BRIEF HISTORY OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY

 
Introductory Paragraph

Early Ionic Natural Philosophers

The Pythagoreans

The Eleatics

Heraclitus

Later Natural Philosophers

General Character of the First Period in the History of Greek Philosophy

The Sophist

Socrates

The Followers of Socrates

The Lesser Socratics

Plato. Life. Works

Plato. Philosophy

The Disciples of Plato

The Old Academy

Aristotle: Life and works

Aristotle: Theory of Knowledge

Aristotle: Metaphysics

Aristotle: Physics

Aristotle: Psychology

Aristotle: Practical Philosophy

Aristotle: Rhetoric and Poetic

Aristotle: Sources

Aristotle: Unity of Plato and Aristotle

Aristotle: result

The Peripatetic School

Three Leading Post-Aristotelian Schools

The Stoics and Stoicism

The Epicureans and Epicureanism

The Sceptics

The Common Ground of the Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics

Philosophy in Rome: Eclecticism

The Later Peripatetics

The Later Academics

The Later Stoics

General Character of the Second Period

Standpoint and Schools of the Third and Latest Period of Greek Philosophy

Jewish-Alexandrian School

Neo-Pythagoreanism

The Eclectic Platonist

Neo-Platonism. Plotinus

Neo-Platonism. Porphyry. Jamblichus

Neo-Platonism. Proclus

 

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY                    

B. C. BURT (1852-1915) - Table of contents                        
         

 

 

GREEK PHILOSOPHY - II. RATIONALISM

§ 15 - The Peripatetic School

That, after the death of Aristotle, there should arise a thinker who should grasp and develop on all sides his philosophy as he had grasped and developed Plato's would appear strange indeed; and, as a matter of fact, there was no such thinker.

 

  The immediate followers of Aristotle comprehended and adopted only portions of his system, and those not of the highest importance in speculative thought. Of the school of Aristotle, the so-called Peripatetic School, there were very few thinkers even worthy of being remembered. We speak here of but three—Theophrastus of Lesbos, Strato of Lampsacus, and Dicœarch of Messene. Mention will be made later of Peripatetics who were, it would appear, scarcely more than Aristotelian editors and commentators.

Theophrastus of Lesbos

Theophrastus (circa 372-287 B.C.) a favorite disciple of Aristotle and chosen by him to be his successor at the head of the Peripatetic school, gave the theories of Aristotle a marked naturalistic interpretation; being apparently moved by the desire to bring reason and sense into closer union than, as it seemed to him, Aristotle had brought them. He did not, however, give up completely the transcendence of reason, but treated motion, in which he included, as Aristotle had not done, genesis and destruction as a limitation of the soul, and treated "energy" not merely as pure activity, or actuality, but as akin to physical activity. He affirmed, practically, that there was no motion that did not contain an "energy". This was equivalent to giving an absolute character to motion, whereas with Aristotle the absolute was unmoved. The alleged motions of the soul (Aristotle had denied motion to the soul) were of two kinds: corporeal—e.g., desire, passion, anger,—and incorporeal, e.g., judgment and the act of cognition. He retained Aristotle's notion that external goods are a necessary concomitant of virtue and an essential to happiness, and "held that a slight deviation from the rules of morals was permissible and required when such deviation would result in warding off a great evil from a friend or in securing for him a great good". "The principal merit of Theophrastus consists in the enlargement which he gave to natural science, especially to botany (phytology), in the fidelity to nature with which he executed his delineation of Human Characters, and next to these things, in his contributions to the constitution and criticism of the history of these sciences" (1).

Strato of Lampsacus

A pupil of Theophrastus and the next leader, after him, of the Peripatetic School (281-279 B.C.) was Strato of Lampsacus. Strato discarded the doctrine of the real transcendence of reason, and held that there could be nothing in the human intellect which had not already been in sense. " He placed the seat of sensation not in the members of the body, nor in the heart, but in the seat of the understanding; gave to sensation a share of the activity of the understanding; made the understanding inter-convertible with thought directed upon sensible phenomena, and so came near resolving the thought of the understanding into sense" (2). This was done in the attempt to derive from Aristotle's conception of nature as a power working unconsciously towards ends a perfectly simple organic (even materialistically so) conception of the universe. Strato did not, it would seem, busy himself with experimental fact, but erected his theory upon a purely speculative basis. The theory of Strato is obviously a forward step in the direction taken by Theophrastus.

Dicœarch of Messene

Dicœarch went still further and reduced all particular forces, including souls, to a single omnipresent, natural "vital and sensitive force". Here we have the naturalistic conception of organic unity in perfect simplicity. Dicœarch is said to have devoted himself more to empirical investigation than to speculation.

__________

(1) Ueberweg's Hist, of Phil., Vol. I. p. 182.

(2) Ritter's Hist of Phil.

 

 

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