Antiperistasis, in philosophy, is a general term for various processes, real or contrived, in which one quality heightens the force of another, opposing, quality. Historically, this explanation was applied to numerous phenomena, from the interaction of quicklime with cold water, to the origin of thunder and lightning.
The term is Greek, ἀντιπερίστασις, formed of ἀντί ("against") and περίστασις ("standing around"), and hence resistance to anything that surrounds or besets another.
It was using this explanation that academic philosophers claimed that cold, on many occasions, increases a body's temperature, and dryness increases its moisture. Thus, it was said, quicklime (CaO) was apparently set ablaze when doused with cold water (an effect later explained as an exothermic reaction). It was also the understood reason for why water, such as that in wells, appeared warmer in winter than in summer (later explained as an example of sensory adaptation). It was also suggested that thunder and lightning were the results of antiperistasis caused by the coldness of the sky.
Other examples used by the patrons of antiperistasis included the aphoristical saying of Hippocrates, "the viscera are hottest in the winter"; and the production of hail in the upper atmosphere, believed to occur only in the summer due to the increased heat of the sun.
Robert Boyle examined the doctrine in his work, "New Experiments and Observations upon Cold"
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain:
- "Antiperistasis", Cyclopædia, Ephraim Chambers, 1728