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Greek Philosopher: Antisthenes


444 to 371 BC

Greek philosopher, founder of the school of philosophy called Cynicism. He was born in Athens and became a disciple of Socrates.

Antisthenes taught in the gymnasium known as the Cynosarges outside Athens; his followers were called Cynics, probably after the Cynosarges.

Antisthenes regarded happiness as attainable only through virtue. He denounced art and literature, condemned luxury and comfort, and extolled hard work. Antisthenes' most famous pupil was the Greek Cynic philosopher Diogenes.



Doctrine of a school of Greek philosophers founded during the second half of the 4th century BC.

Although Diogenes is generally regarded as the founder, there has been some debate as to whether it may not been Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates.

According to Aristotle, Diogenes was a well-known figure, nicknamed "Kyon", the Greek word for dog. The word Cynic may be derived from Kyon, or from Kynosrages, a gymnasium where Antisthenes taught.

The Cynics contended that civilization, with its attendant ills, was an artificial condition, as opposed to a natural one, and must be shunned. Hence, they advocated a return to natural life, which they equated with a simple life. That is, man could be completely happy although lacking luxuries of any kind, if he were truly self-sufficient, having all that he needed within himself.

It follows that the Cynics were exceedingly ascetic, regarding abstemiousness as the means to human liberation. They did not propose gratification of natural appetites so much as non-gratification of artificial ones.

Diogenes' pupil. Crate of Thems, had some influence on Zeno, the Cyprian philosopher and founder of Stoicism.

The general attitude of the Cynics, as distinguished from that of the Stoics, is that the former viewed the external, material world with contempt; the Stoics with indifference.

Although not an important philosophical school, the Cynics attracted attention by their eccentricities and insolence, and their name is given to those distrustful of human nature and motives.

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ex-epicurean on January 01, 2012:

This is the life I have permanently looked for: wise and proud. Seriously it's open to being taken as an opinion if that's what Antisthenes thinks. But it's so true, the daintiness of beauty is so simple: chocolate, wine, and car-driving, alcohol, etc are not happy of themselves, they lead to obesity, poisoning and polluting the environment, and the pleasures of reading are oftentimes reading useless books and believing phoney nonsense and useless logic that doesn't solve problems, and valuables are a waste of money, for stealing is promoted and you lose love and life quite easily by possessing it or having it stolen. It has to be true, furthermore that leads to a subconscious desire in Antisthenes to think matter is evil, for a life of luxury and comfort is often the pursuit of greed and no exercise, and one is truly happy when superior values are found not in valuables, money, and luxuries, but in nature, simplicity and virtue, and only virtue leads to a good, happy, honest, true, and useful life to save money, be environmentalistic and save resources, as these thoughts are so simple to know yet plentiful once learned.

ex-epicurean on January 01, 2012:

This isn't a name just for fun, but I rarely change philosophies for the secondary reason that they must be changed to fit more closely to a good way of life. No it ain't anti-intellectual per se, but cynicism has an aesthetic beauty of which waste of vocals and electricity (listening to music) is only fine in small amounts, but I must be clear with my relatives of my beliefs, by saying that these pleasures: chocolate, reading, car-driving are not right, and explain that true virtue is that of Antisthenes. I'm the former epicurean and I want to be a cynic.

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