Aristippus

, of Cyrene in Africa, disciple of Socrates, founder of the Cyrenaic sect, quitted Libya, the seat of his family, that he might go and hear Socrates at Athens; but he differed widely from the plan of wisdom laid down by that great man. The basis of his doctrine was, that pleasure is the sovereign good of man, and he made no distinction between the pleasures of the soul and those of the senses. He admitted of no certain knowledge, but that which we owe to the inward sentiment. “We have,” said he, “distinct ideas of pleasure and pain; but that which causes the sensations of it is unknown, because we are perpetually deceived by the outward senses. The same person judges differently of an outward object, according as he is differently affected. Of two persons who taste of the same dish, the one shall find it insipid, and the other agreeable. Consequently there is nothing certain in outward things, but only in what touches us internally. Of the different internal sentiments, some are agreeable, others disagreeable, while others again are indifferent. Nature abhors those which cause pain, and seeks the sovereign' good in those which occasion pleasure.Aristippus, however, did not reject virtue; but regarded it only as a good, inasmuch as it produces pleasure. He held that it was not to be sought after for itself, but only upon account of the pleasures and advantages it may procure. In consonance with his principles, he denied himself nothing that could render life agreeable; and, as he was of a pliant and insinuating temper, and his philosophy easy and accommodating, he had a great number of followers. The nobles were fond of him; Dionysius the tyrant courted him, and at his court he covered the cloak of the philosopher with the mantle of the courtier. He danced and drank with him, regulated the banquets; and the cooks took his orders for the preparation and the delicacy of the viands. His conversation was rendered agreeable by continued flashes of wit. Dionysius the tyrant having asked him, how it happened that the philosophers were always besieging the doors of the great, whereas they never went to the philosophers?“It is,” replied Aristippus, “because the philosophers know their wants, and the great are ignorant of theirs.” According to others, his answer was more concise: “Because the pnysicians usually go to the sick.” One day that prince gave him the choice | of three courtesans. The philosopher took them allthree, saying: “That Paris did not fare the better for having pronounced in favour of one goddess against two others.” He then conducted them to the door of his house, and there took leave of them. Being rallied one day on his intercourse with the wanton Lais: “It is true,” said he, “that I possess her, but she possesses not me.” On being reproached with living in too much splendour, he said, “If indulgence in good living were blameable, would such great feasts be made on the festivals of the gods?” “If Aristippus could be content to live upon vegetables (said Diogenes the cynic to him), he would not stoop so low as to pay his court to princes.” “If he who condemns me (replied Aristippus) was qualified to pay his court to princes, he would not be obliged to be content with vegetables.” On being asked, “What philosophy had taught him?” “To live well with all the world, and to fear nothing.” In what respect are philosophers superior to other men?“In this,” said he, “that though there were 110 laws, they would live as they do.” On being rallied, he used gently to withdraw. One day, however, he by whom he was attacked pursued him, and asked him why he went away?“Because, as you have a right to throw jests at me, I have also a right not to stay till they reach me.” It was one of his maxims, that it was better to be poor than ignorant, because the poor man Wants only to be assisted with a little money, whereas the ignorant man wants to be humanized. One bragging that he had read a great deal, Aristippus told him that it was no sign of good health to eat more than one can digest. It is said that he was the first who took payment of his disciples. Having asked 50 drachmas of a father for the instruction of his son: “How, fifty drachmas!” exclaimed the man, “I can buy a slave for that money.” “Well,” replied the philosopher, (who could assume the cynic as well as the courtier) “buy one, and then thou wilt have two.Aristippus flourished about the year 400 B. C. He died at Gyrene, on his return from the court of Syracuse. He composed books of history and ethics, which have not reached our times. One on ancient luxury, mentioned by Diogenes Laertius, is certainly not his. He left a daughter named Arete, whom he carefully instructed in all the parts of philosophy, who was of extraordinary virtue as | well as beauty, and obtained a place among the class of philosophers. 1

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Diogenes Laertius. Stanley. Brucker. Feuelon. Gen,. Dict. —Saxii Onomasticon.