ARISTON OF CHIOS (’Αριστον& ‘ο Χιος)—a Stoic philsopher, lived approximately 320–260 BC.
He was a student of Zeno of Citium. He also listened to the lectures of the academic Polemon. He had the reputation of an outstanding speaker. Because of his ability to convince his listeners he was named the “Siren”. He was famous in Athens for the furious philosophical discussions he had with the academic Archesilaus. Ariston founded his own philosophical school in the gymnasium of Cynosarges, the same in which Antisthenes, the founder of the Cynic school, had lectured.
The list of Ariston’s works provided by Diogenes Laertius includes fourteen positions, among which only fragments of the work ’Ομοιωματα ([Homoiomata], Similarities).
Ariston modified the doctrine of his master, Zeno of Citium, and connected Stoic ideas with those of the Cynic school. He regarded dialectic as useless and compared it to a spider-web that impresses us with its precise construction but is completely useless in daily life; he also rejected physics (as going beyond human cognitive abilities), logic (because it is not concerned with man), and he reduced Stoic doctrine to ethics.
He recommended indifference to everything except virtue. Only virtue which allows us to make right choices is a value. All other things have no value in themselves: they are neither good nor bad. Ariston’s ethical views were based on the conception that he received from Zeno of cataleptic perceptions (also called “grasping” παντασια καταληπτικη [phantasia kataleptike]). The kind of perception was supposed to be an infallible criterion of truth. Ariston thought that because of the existence of such perceptions the wise man will never err. The term “grasping perceptions” is interpreted in several ways: they should ”grasp”, that is, faithfully render known objects; they are “grasped” by the mind and this allows us to acquire knowledge about the object; they “grasp;” the mind and relentlessly impose themselves upon the mind.
The existence and cognitive value of cataleptic perceptions were the main topic in the controversies between Ariston and the academic Archesilaus who thought that this kind of perception is fictitious and says that the wise man should abstain from making a judgment.
Ariston initially was recognized as an eminent representative of Stoicism, but he lost his position after another representative of this school, Chrysippus, began his philosophical work. Ariston’s work was first esteemed by later Roman Stoics (Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus) who referred to his views in their works.
K. Leśniak, Słownik filozofów [Lexicon of philosophers], Wwa 1966, 30–31; DLaert VII 1; A. Krokowiecz, Zarys filozofii greckiej. Od Talesa do Platona [Outline of Greek philosophy. From Thales to Plato], Wwa 1971, 200, 376–394; A. M. Ioppolo, Ariston di Chio e lo stoicismo antico, Na 1980; M. Schofield, Ariston of Chios and the Unity of Virtue, Ancient Philosophy 4 (1984), 83–96; A. A. Long, Socrates in Hellenistic Philosophy, Classical Quarterly 38 (1988), 150–171; G. Boys-Stones, The epeleusike dynamis in Ariston’s Psychology of Action, Phronesis 41 (1996), 75–94.
Robert T. Ptaszek