Cynics

In James Warren & Frisbee Sheffield (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Ancient Philosophy. London, UK: Routledge. pp. 399-408 (2013)
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Abstract

This overview attempts to explain how we can come to an account of Cynicism and what that account should look like. My account suggests that Cynics are identified by living like Diogenes of Sinope, and that Diogenes' way of life is characterized by distinctive twists on three Socratic commitments. The three Socratic commitments are that success in life depends on excellence of the soul; that this excellence and success are a special achievement, requiring hard work; and that this work requires deprecating mainstream values such as wealth, fame, and ordinary political power. Diogenes' construal of success emphasizes freedom and independence, and his construal of excellence emphasizes endurance and self-mastery. On his account, the work required to achieve these is strikingly unintellectual but difficult, and the deprecation of ordinary values is especially extreme. A few interpretive puzzles about Cynicism are tackled along the way, including whether Cynicism really counts as philosophy and whether Cynics are anti-social.

Author's Profile

Eric Brown
Washington University in St. Louis

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