Chapter 2. ARISTON (c. 320-250
Ariston the Bald, of Chios, who was also called the
Siren, declared the end of action to be a life of perfect
indifference to everything which is neither virtue nor vice ;
recognizing no distinction whatever
indifferent, but treating them all alike. The wise man he compared
to a good actor, who, if called upon to take the part of a Thersites
or of an Agamemnon, will impersonate them both becomingly. He
wished to discard both Logic and Physics, saying that Physics was
beyond our reach and Logic did not concern us : all that did concern
us was Ethics.
Dialectical reasonings, he said, are like
spiders' webs, which, though they seem to display some artistic
workmanship, are yet of no use. He would not admit a plurality of
virtues with Zeno, nor again with the Megarians one single virtue
called by many names ; but he treated virtue in accordance with the
category of relative modes. Teaching this sort of philosophy, and
lecturing in the Cynosarges, he acquired such influence as to be
called the founder of a sect. At any rate Miltiades and Diphilus
were denominated Aristoneans. He was a plausible speaker and suited
the taste of the general public. Hence Timon's verse about him1
One who from wily Ariston's line
boasts his descent.2
After meeting Polemo, says Diocles of Magnesia, while Zeno was
suffering from a protracted illness, he recanted his views. The
Stoic doctrine to which he attached most importance was the wise
man's refusal to hold mere opinions. And against this doctrine
Persaeus was contending when he induced one of a pair of twins to
deposit a certain sum with Ariston and afterwards got the other to
reclaim it. Ariston being thus reduced to perplexity was refuted. He
was at variance with Arcesilaus ; and one day when he saw an
abortion in the shape of a bull with
he said, "Alas, here Arcesilaus has had given into his hand an
argument against the evidence of the senses."
Academic alleged that he had no certainty of anything, Ariston said,
"Do you not even see your neighbour sitting by you ?" and when the
other answered "No," he rejoined,
Who can have blinded you ?
who robbed you of luminous eyesight ?
The books attributed to
him are as follows :
Exhortations, two books.
Lectures, six books.
Dissertations on Philosophy, seven books.
Commonplaces on Vainglory.
Memorabilia, three books.
Anecdotes, eleven books.
Against the Rhetoricians.
An Answer to the Counter-pleas of Alexinus.
Dialecticians, three books.
Letters to Cleanthes, four
Panaetius and Sosicrates consider the Letters to be
alone genuine ; all the other works named they attribute to Ariston
The story goes that being bald he had a
sunstroke and so came to his end. I have composed a trifling poem
upon him in limping iambics as follows3
Wherefore, Ariston, when old and bald did you let the sun roast
your forehead ? Thus seeking warmth more than was reasonable, you
lit unwillingly upon the chill reality of Death.
also another Ariston, a native of Iulis4
; a third, a musician of Athens ; a fourth, a tragic
poet ; a fifth, of Halae, author of treatises on rhetoric ; a sixth,
a Peripatetic philosopher of Alexandria.