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Diogenes the Cynic Greek Philosopher


Diogenes by John William Waterhouse (1849–1917)

Diogenes by John William Waterhouse (1849–1917)

PD Courtesy of Wikipedia Image ID: 1624762. Diogenes before Alexander the Great. (1908)

Image ID: 1624762. Diogenes before Alexander the Great. (1908)

NYPL Digital Library

The Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412-c. 323 B.C.) was a Cynic -- that is, a practitioner of the philosophy of Cynicism. Diogenes is said to have been homeless, to have begged or stolen what he needed to survive, and to have preferred to live without any luxuries.

One of the many anecdotes about Diogenes the Cynic is that when the philosopher was rude to Alexander the Great, Alexander responded by saying that if he weren't Alexander, he would want to be Diogenes. Diogenes and Alexander the Great are said to have died on the same day. Diogenes is depicted in art carrying a lantern with which he is said to have vainly hunted by daylight for an honest man. Diogenes is also said to have worked minting coins with his father until he was 60, but was then exiled for debasing the coinage.

Diogenes was called Kynos -- Greek for dog -- for his lifestyle and contrariness. It was from this word for dog that we get the word Cynic.

"At a feast certain people kept throwing all the bones to him as they would have done to a dog. Thereupon he played a dog's trick and drenched them."
~ Life of Diogenes [of Sinope] Diogenes Laertes, Lives of Eminent Philosophers Book VI, Chapter 2. Trans. R.D. Hicks (1925)

Diogenes was a student of the philosopher Antisthenes, himself a student of Socrates. Principles of their Cynic philosophy (Cynicism) were:
  • Self-sufficiency (ataraxia)
  • Living by personal example
  • Exposing the falsehood of conventional thinking
  • Exposing vice and conceit
  • Living according to nature.

Pronunciation: dI-'ä-j&-"nEz • (noun)

Also Known As: Diogenes of Sinope

Examples: "Having been invited to dinner, Diogenes declined, saying that the last time he had gone his host had not shown proper gratitude." Diogenes Laertius II. p.29


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