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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF ARISTON



I. ARISTON the Bald, a native of Chios, surnamed the Scion, said, that the chief good was to live in perfect indifference to all those things which are of an intermediate character between virtue and vice; making not the slightest difference between them, but regarding them all on a footing of equality. For that the wise man resembles a good actor; who, whether he is filling the part of Agamemnon or Thersites, will perform them both equally well.

II. And he discarded altogether the topic of physics, and of logic, saying that the one was above us, and that the other had nothing to do with us; and that the only branch of philosophy with which we had any real concern was ethics.

III. He also said that dialectic reasonings were like cobwebs; which, although they seem to be put together on principles of art, are utterly useless.

IV. And he did not introduce many virtues into his scheme, as Zeno did; nor one virtue under a great many names, as the Megaric philosophers did; but defined virtue as consisting in behaving in a certain manner with reference to a certain thing.

V. And as he philosophized in this manner, and carried on his discussions in the Cynosarges, he got so much influence as to be called a founder of a sect. Accordingly, Miltiades, and Diphilus were called Aristoneans.

VI. He was a man of very persuasive eloquence, and one who could adapt himself well to the humours of a multitude. On which account Timon says of him:

And one who, from Ariston's wily race,
Traced his descent.

Diocles, the Magnesian, tells us that Ariston having fallen in with Polemo, passed over to his school, at a time when Zeno was lying ill with a long sickness. The Stoic doctrine to which he was most attached, was the one that the wise man is never guided by opinions. But Persaeus argued against this, and caused one of two twin brothers to place a deposit in his hands, and then caused the other to reclaim it; and thus he convicted him, as he was in doubt on this point, and therefore forced to act on opinion. He was a great enemy of Arcesilaus. And once, seeing a bull of a monstrous conformation, having a womb, he said, "Alas! here is an argument for Arcesilaus against the evidence of his senses." On another occasion, when a philosopher of the Academy said that he did not comprehend anything, he said to him, "Do not you even see the man who is sitting next to you?" And as he said that he did not, he said:

Who then has blinded you, who's been so harsh,
As thus to rob you of your beaming eyes?

VII. The following works are attributed to him. Two books of Exhortatory Discourses; Dialogues on the Doctrines of Zeno; six books of Conversations; seven books of Discussions on Wisdom; Conversations on Love; Commentaries on Vain Glory; twenty-five books of Reminiscences; three books of Memorabilia; eleven books of Apophthegms; a volume against the Orators; a volume against the Rescripts of Alexinus; three treatises against the Dialecticians; four books of Letters to Cleanthes. But Panaetius and Sosicrates say, that his only genuine writings are his letters; and that all the rest are the works of Ariston the Peripatetic.

8 It is said that he, being bald, got a stroke of the sun, and so died. And we have written a jesting epigram on him in Scayon iambics, in the following terms:

Why, O Ariston, being old and bald,
Did you allow the sun to roast your crown?
Thus, in an unbecoming search for warmth,
Against your will, you've found out chilly Hell.

IX. There was also another man of the name of Ariston; a native of Julii, one of the Peripatetic school. And another who was an Athenian musician. A fourth who was a tragic poet. A fifth, a native of Aloea [Hicks: "Halae"], who wrote a treatise on the Oratorical Art. A sixth was a peripatetic Philosopher of Alexandria.










Scanned and edited for Peithô's Web from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853. Footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Some, but not all, of Yonge's spellings of ancient names have been updated.

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