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Chapter 2. ARISTON (c. 320-250 b.c.)

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 in things 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.

[161] 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

[162] 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 a uterus, he said, "Alas, here Arcesilaus has had given into his hand an argument against the evidence of the senses."

[163] When some 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.

Of Zeno's Doctrines.


Lectures, six books.

Dissertations on Philosophy, seven books.

Dissertations on Love.

Commonplaces on Vainglory.

Notebooks, twenty-five volumes.

Memorabilia, three books.

Anecdotes, eleven books.

Against the Rhetoricians.

An Answer to the Counter-pleas of Alexinus.

Against the Dialecticians, three books.

Letters to Cleanthes, four books.

Panaetius and Sosicrates consider the Letters to be alone genuine ; all the other works named they attribute to Ariston the Peripatetic.

[164] 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.

There was 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.

1 Frag. 40 D.

2 So Wachsmuth. Diels would prefer : "deriving winning manners from the wiles of Ariston."

3 Anth. Plan. v. 38.

4 The town in Ceos to which Bacchylides belonged : Ael Var. Hist. iv. 15.

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