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Fig 4.2 – Diogenes the Cynic

Text: Pages, 119-121

Cynic in Greek means “dog-like.” Cynics viewed themselves as “faithful hounds” to “dog” the conscience of political leaders, rebels against political corruption.

Diogenes symbolizes the archetypal cynic and societal rebel that appears throughout history, most recently in the streets of San Francisco as a hippie during the American cultural revolution of the 1960s. Diogenes believed that he was a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world, and not a citizen of some corrupt government. He rejected the need for family, the Athenian sexual mores, formal education, and patriotism. Being in harmony with nature was experienced directly in the streets of Athens; a lifestyle that meant sleeping in a large ceramic jar in the open-air public marketplace. His disdain for Athenian traditions was symbolized by his frequent behavior of carrying a lamp during the day looking for an honest man.

Alexander the Great while visiting Corinth was thrilled to meet the famous Cynic philosopher, asked if there was any favor he might do for him, Diogenes replied that he could move out of his sunlight. Alexander, still wanting to impress Diogenes, exclaimed that if he was not Alexander, he would want to be Diogenes. Cynical about political power and authority, Diogenes replied that if he wasn’t Diogenes, he would still want to be Diogenes.

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