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Antisthenes of Athens | Diogenes Laertius, Book 6 §103-105

103. Such are the lives of the several Cynics. But we will go on to append the doctrines which they held in common – if, that is, we decide that Cynicism is really a philosophy, and not, as some maintain, just a way of life. They are content then, like Ariston of Chios, to do away with the subjects of Logic and Physics and to devote their whole attention to Ethics. And what some assert of Socrates, Diocles records of Diogenes, representing him as saying: “We must inquire into

  Whate'er of good or ill within our halls is wrought."

They also dispense with the ordinary subjects of instruction. At least Antisthenes used to say that those who had attained discretion had better not study literature, lest they should be perverted by alien influences.

104. So they get rid of geometry and music and all such studies. Anyhow, when somebody showed Diogenes a clock, he pronounced it a serviceable instrument to save one from being late for dinner. Again, to a man who gave a musical recital before him he said:

  By men's minds states are ordered well, and households,
  Not by the lyre's twanged strings or flute's trilled notes.

They hold further that “Life according to Virtue” is the End to be sought, as Antisthenes says in his Heracles: exactly like the Stoics. For indeed there is a certain close relationship between the two schools. Hence it has been said that Cynicism is a short cut to virtue; and after the same pattern did Zeno of Citium live his life.

105. They also hold that we should live frugally, eating food for nourishment only and wearing a single garment. Wealth and fame and high birth they despise. Some at all events are vegetarians and drink cold water only and are content with any kind of shelter or tubs, like Diogenes, who used to say that it was the privilege of the gods to need nothing and of god-like men to want but little.

They hold, further, that virtue can be taught, as Antisthenes maintains in his Heracles, and when once acquired cannot be lost; and that the wise man is worthy to be loved, impeccable, and a friend to his like; and that we should entrust nothing to fortune. Whatever is intermediate between Virtue and Vice they, in agreement with Ariston of Chios, account indifferent.

So much, then, for the Cynics. We must now pass on to the Stoics, whose founder was Zeno, a disciple of Crates.

Source: Lives of the Eminent Philosophers (1925) by Diogenes Laërtius, translated by Robert Drew Hicks. A Loeb Classical Library edition; volume 1 published 1925; volume 2 published 1925. WikiSource.

antisthenes_of_athens/diogenes_laertius_book_6_103-105.txt · Last modified: 2014/03/02 14:23 by frank