Cynicism

Only available on StudyMode
  • Topic: Skepticism, Soul, Philosophical skepticism
  • Pages : 13 (4372 words )
  • Download(s) : 28
  • Published : February 8, 2013
Open Document
Text Preview
Cynicism
Cynicism is one of the most striking of all the Hellenistic philosophies. It offered people the possibility of happiness and freedom from suffering in an age of uncertainty. Although there was never an official Cynic doctrine, the fundamental principles of Cynicism can be summarised as follows: 1. The goal of life is happiness which is to live in agreement with Nature. 2. Happiness depends on being self-sufficient, and a master of mental attitude. 3. Self-sufficiency is achieved by living a life of Arete. 4. The road to arete is to free oneself from any influence such as wealth, fame, or power, which has no value in Nature. 5. Suffering is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions and a vicious character. Thus a Cynic has no property and rejects all conventional values of money, fame, power or reputation. A life lived according to nature requires only the bare necessities required for existence, and one can become free by unshackling oneself from any needs which are the result of convention.[11] The Cynics adopted Hercules as their hero, as epitomizing the ideal Cynic. Hercules "was he who brought Cerberus, the hound of Hades, from the underworld, a point of special appeal to the dog-man, Diogenes." According to Lucian, "Cerberus and Cynic are surely related through the dog."

The Cynic way of life required continuous training, not just in exercising one's judgments and mental impressions, but a physical training as well:

[Diogenes] used to say, that there were two kinds of exercise: that, namely, of the mind and that of the body; and that the latter of these created in the mind such quick and agile impressions at the time of its performance, as very much facilitated the practice of virtue; but that one was imperfect without the other, since the health and vigour necessary for the practice of what is good, depend equally on both mind and body.

None of this meant that the Cynic would retreat from society. Cynics would in fact live in the full glare of the public's gaze and would be quite indifferent in the face of any insults which might result from their unconventional behaviour. The Cynics are said to have invented the idea of cosmopolitanism: when he was asked where he came from, Diogenes replied that he was "a citizen of the world.”

The ideal Cynic would evangelise; as the watchdog of humanity, it was their job to hound people about the error of their ways. The example of the Cynic's life (and the use of the Cynic's biting satire) would dig-up and expose the pretensions which lay at the root of everyday conventions.

Although Cynicism concentrated solely on ethics, Cynic philosophy had a big impact on the Hellenistic world, ultimately becoming an important influence for Stoicism. The Stoic Apollodorus writing in the 2nd century BCE stated that "Cynicism is the short path to virtue."

Epicureanism
The philosophy originated by Epicurus flourished for seven centuries. It propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one's lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure. The emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Therefore, according to Epicurus, with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten. Unnecessary and, especially, artificially produced desires were to be suppressed. Since learning, culture, and civilization as well as social and political involvements could give rise to desires that are difficult to satisfy and thus result in disturbing one's peace of mind, they were discouraged. Knowledge was sought only to rid oneself of religious fears and superstitions, the two primary fears to be eliminated being fear of the gods and of death. Viewing marriage and what attends it as a threat to one's peace...
tracking img