Sunday, 30 September 2012

Diogenes of Sinope (Greek: Διογένης ὁ Σινωπεύς, Diogenēs ho Sinōpeus)

According to Lucian, when Diogenes of Sinope was living in Corinth, the whole city galvanised into action as Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander) and his army approached the city. Diogenes got into his 'tub' and energetically rolled it up and down the pavement. When asked why he did so, he said it was "Just to make myself look as active as the rest of you."

Maximus of Tyre wrote that Diogenes went to Delphi to consult the Oracle of Apollo, and, as a result, he stripped himself of all superfluous things, smashed the chains that had hitherto imprisoned his spirit, and devoted himself to a wandering life of freedom, like a powerful bird, unafraid of tyrants, dictatorships and governments, contemptuous of human laws and politics, uninterested in political events, natural and unnatural disasters, free from the stupidity of marriage and the devouring octopus of the family, unwilling to labour in the fields to feed himself, contemptuous of property and its acquisition, and (most heinous of all) refusing to train in or take up arms in a culture of perpetually-warring city-states: the greatest 'draft-dodger' of all. He could well be described as a hermetic situationist.

He is reported as saying that whoever trusts the Cynics will remain single; those who do not trust us will breed. And if humanity should cease to exist, it will be no more calamitous than the extinction of dinosaurs - or blowflies. And, according to one of his many Arab commentators, when asked if he hated people he replied that he hated bad people for their depravity and good people for their silence in the presence of moral turpitude. Evil is advanced by the negligence of the good-intentioned and the harmless.

Diogenes has had more - and much more continuing - influence in Islamic culture than in the Christian and post-Christian hedonistic world-view. Certain Sufi groups, especially the Malamatis, took his anti-hypocritical, anti-worldly dissidence to heart.

Another Arab anecdote recounts that when people asked Diogenes why he wouldn't talk with them, his trenchant reply was: "Because you are too important for my subtlety and I am too subtle for your importance." He would have observed that the senseless modern need to acquire unimaginable amounts of 'information' on the 'information-superhighway' is simply another infantile dependence fomented by The Market whose system and effects he deplored. How can an animal that surrounds itself with layer upon layer of dependency call itself the present pinnacle of evolution ?


The objective of Cynicism was spiritual self-sufficiency, integrity and self-control (autarkeia), and the Cynic virtues were qualities through which true freedom was attained: the very opposite of modern mores. The most important virtue was impassive unattachment, which, obviously, had to be attained through self-training. Whereas the modern world has claimed to be guided by the false mantra of 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity' - ludicrous Platonic ideals trashed or abandoned as soon as they are declared - Diogenes would have countered by scratching the slogan Humility, Frugality and Integrity in the dirt, would have scratched his scrotum and that of the nearest dog, and chuckled heartily. Humility is, of course, the opposite of Puritanism, which derives from ego, anger and vainglory - and has been one of the curses of Christianity and all religions.

Full Article, Source: Voice in the wilderness