Philosophy Phocus: Diogenes the Cynic
Issue #49 — 3.9 minute read
👋 Hey phi-lazy-phers
I first heard about Diogenes when I came across this story:
A philosopher named Aristippus, who had quite willingly sucked up to Dionysus and won himself a spot at his court, saw Diogenes cooking lentils for a meal. "If you would only learn to compliment Dionysus, you wouldn't have to live on lentils."
Diogenes replied, "But if you would only learn to live on lentils, you wouldn't have to flatter Dionysus.
What a baller. He wasn’t thought of as a baller to certain people of his time, though, considering he lived in a wine barrel on the street among the stray dogs. A passerby attempted to mock Diogenes after seeing his filthy living situation, saying he was just like the dogs around him. Diogenes embraced the name-calling and proceeded to urinate on the individual right there on the street.
This dude was not your typical academic philosopher. In fact, he continued to roast those philosophers alongside other well-respected figures of the time.
Here are a few more examples:
Once Diogenes saw the officials of a temple leading away someone who had stolen a bowl belonging to the treasurers, and said, "The great thieves are leading away the little thief.
Alexander the Great wanted to meet Diogenes when he visited Corinth. He saw Diogenes laying on the ground and said, “If you would ask anything of me, I would grant it.” Despite one of the richest and most-powerful figures of the time saying this to him, Diogenes simply replied, “I would ask you to move, for you are blocking my sunlight.”
In another encounter, Alexander the Great found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. When asked what he was doing, Diogenes explained, "I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.
Not only did Diogenes live in an abandoned wine barrel, he had but one possession: a wooden bowl. Upon seeing a child cup his hands in the nearby river to drink water, Diogenes got rid of his bowl realizing it was no longer necessary. God forbid he become too materialistic…
Diogenes was a firm believer in the philosophy of Cynicism. Today, the word cynicism holds a different meaning than its original. According to Cynics, the purpose of life is to live in virtue, in agreement with nature. As reasoning creatures, we gain happiness through rigorous training and by living in a way that is natural. We should reject all conventional desires for wealth, power, and fame, even flouting conventions openly in public. We were meant to lead a simple life free from all possessions.
Diogenes took this school of thought to its extremes. Some may think he was mad, but one might argue he saw things more clearly than any of us.
I’ll leave you with some of my favorite Diogenes quotes.
I am a citizen of the world.
The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.
Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.
I am Diogenes the Dog. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy, and bite scoundrels.
What I like to drink most is wine that belongs to others.
✌️ Until next week, happy philosophizing.
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