Thursday, March 3, 2022

Diogenes the Cynic

DIOGENES THE CYNIC (Greek, c. 412-323 BCE)

You're downtown somewhere and see a tattered man walking along with a lantern raised who, when asked, says he's "looking for an honest man." Lock him up! But this was one of the tamer stunts of Diogenes, called "the Cynic" for the philosophical school he helped form. (His teacher was the school's founder, Anisthenes, a student of Socrates.) The Cynics tried to live in agreement with nature; for Diogenes this meant eating and sleeping wherever he chose, often in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. Captured by pirates and enslaved, Diogenes settled in Corinth, where his student Zeno fashioned Cynicism into Stoicism.

  • In a jingoistic time, Diogenes said he was a "citizen of the world."
  • He criticized Plato and disrupted his lectures, and mocked Alexander the Great to his face.
  • He embraced the insult Cynic, meaning "dog" (for their lifestyle).
  • We have no writings of Diogenes; all that remain are anecdotes.


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