AskDefine | Define peripatetic

Dictionary Definition

peripatetic adj : traveling especially on foot; "peripatetic country preachers"; "a poor wayfaring stranger" [syn: wayfaring]


1 a person who walks from place to place
2 a follower of Aristotle or an adherent of Aristotelianism [syn: Aristotelian, Aristotelean]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Peripatetic



From peripateticus < περιπατητικός < περιπατέω < περί + πατέω.


  • /ˌpɛr.ɪ.pəˈtɛt.ɪk/|/ˌpɛr.ə.pəˈtɛt.ɪk/, /%pEr.I.p@"tEt.Ik/, /%pEr.@.p@"tEt.Ik/
  • Rhymes with: -ɛtɪk


  1. Walking about; itinerant; nomadic.


walking about; itinerant


  1. One who walks about; a pedestrian; an itinerant.


one who walks about; a pedestrian; an itinerant

Extensive Definition

The Peripatetics were members of a school of philosophy in ancient Greece. Their teachings derived from their founder, the Greek philosopher Aristotle and Peripatetic (&#960;&#949;&#961;&#x03b9;&#960;&#945;&#964;&#951;&#964;&#x03b9;&#x03ba;&#x1f79;&#x03c2;) is a name given to his followers. As an adjective, "peripatetic" is often used to mean itinerant, wandering, meandering, or walking about.


The term means "the ones walking about". The name may derive from the public walk at the Lyceum in Athens that Aristotle and his disciples frequently took, where the covered walkways were known as peripatoi. However some writers on Aristotle suggest that the sect of his followers was called this because Aristotle walked about as he discoursed with his students. Aristotle founded the Peripatetic school in 335 BC when he first opened his philosophical school at the Lyceum. He was followed as head by Theophrastus. 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. According to some writers, the Peripatetics were not in fact the direct followers of Plato or Aristotle, but rather a set of admirers perpetually following the philosophers and their students in their daily walk. Such accounts also suggest that sometimes these "followers" were known for their use of drink and unruly behavior.
"Peripatetics" is also sometimes used to describe those philosophers not having any fixed academy or building.


The doctrines of the Peripatetic school are the doctrines 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 to 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 appetite 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.

History of the school

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:
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.
In 86 BCE, Athens was sacked by Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and all the schools of philosophy in Athens were badly disrupted. The Peripatetic school there may have come to an end, although later Neoplatonist writers describe Andronicus of Rhodes, who lived around 50 BCE, as the eleventh scholarch of the 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.
In the Roman era there are few notable Peripatetic philosophers; the most important figure is Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. 200 CE) who commentated 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.


main article Aristotelianism The last philosophers in classical antiquity to comment on Aristotle were Simplicius and Boethius in the 6th century. After this, although his works were mostly lost to the west, they were maintained in the east where they were incorporated into Islamic philosophy. Some of the greatest peripatetic philosophers in the Islamic philosophical tradition were al-Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes. By the 12th century Aristotle's works began being translated into Latin, and gradually arose scholastic philosophy under such names as Thomas Aquinas, which took its tone and complexion from the writings of Aristotle.



  • Walter Kaufman, History of Ancient Philosophy Vol 1-2.
peripatetic in Czech: Peripatos
peripatetic in German: Peripatos
peripatetic in Spanish: Escuela peripatética
peripatetic in Persian: مشائی
peripatetic in French: École péripatétique
peripatetic in Italian: Scuola peripatetica
peripatetic in Hebrew: האסכולה הפריפתטית
peripatetic in Russian: Перипатетики
peripatetic in Slovak: Peripatetici
peripatetic in Slovenian: Peripatetiki
peripatetic in Finnish: Peripateettinen koulukunta
peripatetic in Swedish: Peripatetiska skolan

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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