Cynics (Ancient Philosophies)

Cynics (Ancient Philosophies)

Language: English

Pages: 296

ISBN: 0520258614

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Far from being pessimistic or nihilistic, as modern uses of the term "cynic" suggest, the ancient Cynics were astonishingly optimistic regarding human nature. They believed that if one simplified one's life—giving up all unnecessary possessions, desires, and ideas—and lived in the moment as much as possible, one could regain one's natural goodness and happiness. It was a life exemplified most famously by the eccentric Diogenes, nicknamed "the Dog," and his followers, called dog-philosophers, kunikoi, or Cynics. Rebellious, self-willed, and ornery but also witty and imaginative, these dog-philosophers are some of the most colorful personalities from antiquity. This engaging introduction to Cynicism considers both the fragmentary ancient evidence on the Cynics and the historical interpretations that have shaped the philosophy over the course of eight centuries—from Diogenes himself to Nietzsche and beyond. Approaching Cynicism from a variety of thematic perspectives as well—their critique of convention, praise of natural simplicity, advocacy of self-sufficiency, defiance of Fortune, and freedom—William Desmond offers a fascinating survey of a school of thought that has had a tremendous influence throughout history and is of continuing interest today.

Copub: Acumen Publishing Limited
















Seleucid Syria. Some of these foreign cities became new centres of Hellenic culture, notably Alexandria, Tarsus (later the birthplace of St Paul), Antioch, and Gadara (home to the Cynics Menippus, Meleager and Oenomaus). As individuals went to and fro between cities and kingdoms, and Greeks from the old cities mixed in foreign capitals, a new “common dialect” of Greek appeared (the Koinē), old tribal loyalties became less important, and people increasingly tended to identify themselves less by

themselves. According to Diogenes, some masters 97 cynics are “evil” (DL 6.39), and when they are gluttons, slaves are justified in stealing from them (6.28). When Dio’s Diogenes consoles the owner of the runaway slave, he wonders aloud whether the slave had good reason to flee (D. Chr. 10.3–4, 10.7). Pseudo-Lucian’s Cynic berates his interlocutor for treating slaves like wagons and beasts of burden, and considering this to be happiness (ps.-Luc. Cyn. 10). Such statements are not surprising

compositions aloud and display their statues (e.g. D. Chr. 8.9). The greatest display of all was brought to the assembled Greeks by Peregrinus in the Games of 165 ce: it is a fitting culmination of the Cynic rejection of athletics that Peregrinus chose to kill himself at Olympia, where for over 900 years already the Greeks had gathered at the customary time to celebrate strength, speed and endurance – in a word, life. 107 cynics Customs for the city: politics, war, citizenship Politics “Man is

to transcend the body and time but rather to complete one’s nature, and to actualize all one’s natural potencies. For Aristotle, each existent has a definite essence, which determines it as a particular type of thing, different from other types: a human being, for instance, is not a monkey, or a horse, or a stone, or a cloud. What distinguishes a human being is his or her humanity, which might in turn be equated with high intelligence, reason, self-consciousness, the ability to laugh, upright

contemporary debates and struggles? Were any of them political theorists, and can various stray comments about the Athenian people, Hellenistic kings, Roman consuls, the city, law and the like add up to a recognizable political philosophy? More generally, what kind of political rhetoric did they favour? What political implications could the Cynic way of life have for their contemporaries? Once more, the issues involved are complex and can be approached from a variety of perspectives. As a result,

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