Facts about Cynicism:
Cynicism, like most schools of philosophy, originated in Ancient Athens. The principal beliefs of Cynicism involved ascetic lifestyles and few possessions, as well as being in harmony with nature. The founder of cynicism is usually credited as Diogenes of Sinope, famous for living on the streets of Athens in a tub, and often called the dog man for his lifestyle. He begged for a living. He had no possessions. At one point, he was captured by pirates and decided to live in Corinth instead. The other person usually credited with the founding of Cynicism is Antisthenes, an extremely sarcastic philosopher. Alexander the Great once said that if he could be anyone except himself, he would be Antisthenes. Antisthenes died around 80 years old, and was a follower of Socrates. Cynicism had a great impact on some prominent members of Greek society, notably Crates of Thebes, who renounced a large fortune to live a life of Cynic poverty. Cynicism gradually faded away around 5th Century BCE, although some say that early Christians used some of its principle beliefs.
The famous Cynic Diogenes of Sinope, his tub, and some dogs on the streets of Athens. Note the lack of possessions, and general look of poverty.
Five tips for how to become the perfect Cynic:
- You must be prepared to renounce all possessions, fame, wealth, and power if you want to be a prominent Cynic.
- To be truly happy, you must be self-sufficient, and happiness is the chief virtue of Cynics.
- You must be shameless to be a Cynic.
- You must be indifferent to insults.
- As a Cynic, it is your job to hound people about the error of their ways.
“Cynicism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 08 June 2012. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynicism>.
“Cynicism and Stoicism.” Cynicism and Stoicism. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/stoicism.html>.
“Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Antisthenes. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/antisthe/>.
“Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Diogenes of Sinope. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/diogsino/>.
- Originated in Classical Greece
- Is a precursor of Stoicism
- Virtue is the only thing you need for happiness
- Goal of cynics is to attain happiness
- Neglect everything (besides virtue): society, hygiene, family, sex, power, money
- Believed that world belonged equally to everyone
- Believes that suffering by false judgments of what was valuable, worthless customs and possessions of society
- Word cynic is derived from Greek word for dog (because to be a cynic, one would live like a dog)
- Become self sufficient
- Live in accordance with nature
Antisthenes of Athens (445-365 BCE)
- Founder of Cynicism
- Pupil of Socrates
- Contemporary of Plato
- “I have enough to eat till my hunger is stayed, to drink till my thirst is sated; to clothe myself as well; and out of doors not [even] Callias there, with all his riches, is more safe than I from shivering; and when I find myself indoors, what warmer shirting do I need than my bare walls?”
Diogenes of Sinope (412-323 BCE)
- Adopted Antisthenes way of life (self-sufficiency, austerity, and shamelessness)
- Slept in a tub
- Ate raw meat
Crates of Thebes (365-285 BCE)
- Pupil of Diogenes
- Renounced a large inheritance
- Married and lived on street like beggar (with wife)
- Taught Zeno of Citium (founder of Stoicism), had heavy influence of Stoic behaviour
This bust of Antisthenes, considered the father of Cynicism, demonstrates his Cynicness; shaggy, unkept hair and beard, and simple clothes.
5 Prescriptive Tips
- Cynics have no property. Reject all conventional values of money, fame, power or reputation.
- Cynics also live in harmony with nature, you must do this too.
- Cynics are the watchdogs of society. You must hound people in the error of their ways.
- Your body and mind must be at their top level. One cannot function properly without the other.
- All cynics are Cosmopolitan. If someone asks you where you are from, say you are a citizen of the world.
“Cynicism.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynicism>.
Hanson, Scott. “How to Be a Cynic: 7 steps.” wikiHow – The How-to Manual That You Can Edit. N.p., 28 July 2012. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Cynic>.
Piering, Julie. “Cynics.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., 18 Apr. 2006. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/cynics/>.
Today’s homework is to conduct your own research into one of the later Greek schools of Philosophy. Research your assigned school and prepare a manual telling people “How to live like a ______”
Your manual must include the following components:
1. A slogan (2 marks)
2. Background information about the school, its origins, important figures, impact on Greek society and legacy (3 marks)
3. Five prescriptive tips on how to live like a Stoic, Cynic or Epicurean (5 marks)
4. A relevant image with an explanatory caption (2 marks)
5. Neatness, clarity, organization and well documented research (3 marks)
Total: 15 marks
Please email these to me by tomorrow morning. Your pamphlets will be posted on the blog.