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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF EUCLIDES



I. EUCLIDES was a native of Megara on the Isthmus, or of Gela, according to some writers, whose statement is mentioned by Alexander in his Successions. He devoted himself to the study of the writings of Parmenides; and his successors were called the philosophers of the Megaric school; after that they were called the Contentious school, and still later, the Dialecticians, which name was first given to them by Dionysius the Carthaginian; because they carried on their investigations by question and answer. Hermodorus says that after the death of Socrates, Plato and the other philosophers came to Euclides, because they feared the cruelty of the tyrants.

II. He used to teach that the chief good is unity; but that it is known by several names; for at one time people call it prudence; at another time God; at another time intellect, and so on. But everything which was contrary to good, he discarded, denying its existence. And the proofs which he used to bring forward to support his arguments, were not those which proceed on assumptions, but on conclusions. He also rejected all that sort of reasoning which proceeds on comparison, saying that it must be founded either on things which are like, or on things which are unlike. If on things which are like, then it is better to reason about the things themselves, than about those which resemble them; and if on things which are unlike, then the comparison is quite useless. And on this account Timon uses the following language concerning him, where he also attacks all the other philosophers of the Socratic school:

But I do care for none of all these triflers,
Nor for any one else; not for your Phaedon,
Whoever he may be; not for the quarrelsome
Euclides, who bit all the Megareans
With love of fierce contention.

III. He wrote six dialogues-the Lamprias, the Aeschines, the Phoenix, the Crito, the Alcibiades, and the Amatory dialogue.

IV. Next in succession to Euclides, came Eubulides of Miletus, who handed down a great many arguments in dialectics; such as the Lying one; the Concealed one; the Electra; the Veiled one; the Sorites; the Horned one; the Bald one.1

And one of the Comic poets speaks of him in the following terms :

Eubulides, that most contentious sophist,
Asking his horned quibbles, and preplexing
The natives with his false arrogant speeches,
Has gone with all the fluency of Demosthenes.

For it seems that Demosthenes had been his pupil, and that being at first unable to pronounce the C, he got rid of that defect. Eubulides had a quarrel with Aristotle, and was constantly attacking him.

V. Among the different people who succeeded Eubulides, was Alexinus of Elis, a man very fond of argument, on which account he was nicknamed Elenchinos.2 He had an especial quarrel with Zeno; and Hermippus relates of him that he went from Elis to Olympia, and studied philosophy there; and that when his pupils asked him why he lived there, he said that he wished to establish a school which should be called the Olympic school; but that his pupils being in distress, through want of means of support and finding the situation unhealthy for them, left him; and that after that Alexinus lived by himself, with only one servant. And after that, when swimming in the Alpheus, he was pricked by a reed, and the injury proved fatal, and he died. And we have written an epigram on him which runs thus :

Then the report, alas! was true,
        That an unhappy man,
While swimming tore his foot against a nail;
        For the illustrious sage,
Good Alexinus, swimming in the Alpheus,
        Died from a hostile reed.

And he wrote not only against Zeno, but he composed other works also, especially one against Ephorus the historian.

VI. One of the school of Eubulides was Euphantus of Olynthus, who wrote a history of the events of his own time; he also composed several tragedies, for which he got great distinction at the festivals. And he was the preceptor of Antigonus, the king to whom he dedicated a treatise on Monarchy, which had an exceedingly high reputation. And at last he died of old age.

VII. There are also other pupils of Eubulides, among whom is Apollonius Cronus, who was the preceptor of Diodorus of Iasos, the son of Aminias; and he too was surnamed Cronus, and is thus mentioned by Callimachus in his epigrams:

Momus himself did carve upon the walls,
Cronus is wise.

And he was a dialectician, and, as some believe, he was the first person who invented the Concealed argument, and the Horned one. When he was staying at the court of Ptolemy Soter, he had several dialectic questions put to him by Stilpo; and as he was not able to solve them at the moment, he was reproached by the king with many hard words, and among other things, he was nicknamed Cronus, out of derision. So he left the banquet, and wrote an essay on the question of Stilpo, and then died of despondency. And we have written the following epigram on him:

O Diodorus Cronus, what sad fate
        Buried you in despair?
So that you hastened to the shades below,
        Perplexed by Stilpo's quibbles-
You would deserve your name of Cronus3 better,
        If C and r were gone.

VIII. One of the successors of Euclides was Icthyas, the son of Metellus, a man of great eminence, to whom Diogenes the Cynic addressed a dialogue. And Clinomachus of Therium, who was the first person who ever wrote about axioms and categorems, and things of that kind. And Stilpo the Megarian, a most illustrious philosopher, whom we must now speak of.

1. The French translator gives the following examples, to show what is meant by these several kinds of quibbling arguments:

The lying one is this: Is the man a liar who says that he tells lies. If he is, then he does not tell lies; and if he does not tell lies, is he a liar?

The concealed one: Do you know this man who is concealed? If you do not, you do not know your own father; for he it is who is concealed.

The veiled one is much the same as the preceding.

The electra is a quibble of the same kind as the two preceding ones. Electra sees Orestes : she knows that Orestes is her brother, but does not know that the man she sees is Orestes; therefore she does know, and does not know, her brother at the same time.

The Sorites is universally known.

The bald one is a kind of Sorites; pulling one hair out of a man's head will not make him bald, nor two, nor three, and so on till every hair in his head is pulled out.

The horned one: You have what you have not lost. You have not lost horns, therefore you have horns.

2. From elenchô, to confute.

3. Kronos, take away K., r., leaves onos, an ass.










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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