Skip to main content
Select Source:

Diogenes

Diogenes

Diogenes (ca. 400-ca. 325 B.C.), a Greek philosopher, was the most famous exponent of Cynicism, which called for a closer imitation of nature, the repudiation of most human conventions, and complete independence of mind and spirit.

The son of Hicesias, Diogenes was born in Sinope. He arrived in Athens after he and his father had been exiled from their native city for debasing the coinage in some way. His life in Athens was one of great poverty, but it was there that he adopted Antisthenes's teachings and became the chief exponent of Cynicism.

Although late authors attribute many works to Diogenes, none survives. One persistent tradition is that he wrote tragedies, perhaps to show that the misfortunes celebrated in the works of that genre could have been averted through the way of life which he taught. Because of his great notoriety and because many people in antiquity considered him the founder of Cynicism, a body of legend soon grew up about him and obscured the true accounts of his life. One certainty is that he developed a caustic wit which he used unsparingly on his contemporaries to show them the utter disregard in which he held their conventions and beliefs. The date and place of his death are uncertain, although it is unlikely that he lived later than 325 B.C.

Diogenes was not famous for developing a strong theoretical argument for his way of life. Antisthenes, the pupil of Socrates, was his inspiration, and he put into practice his master's teachings in a way which made a striking impression upon his contemporaries. Indeed, it was Diogenes's application of Antisthenes's principles which gained for him the notoriety he enjoyed. His goals were self-sufficiency, a tough and ascetic way of life, and anaideia, or shamelessness.

The first was the ultimate goal at which the Cynic life aimed. It involved a search for true happiness through the realization that wealth, rank, honors, success, and other such worldly aims were as nothing compared with complete independence of mind. The second and third aims supported the first.

Diogenes held that through a rigorous denial of all but the barest necessities of life one could train the body to be free of the world and its delusions. Through anaideia one could show the rest of humanity the contempt in which their conventions were held.

It was perhaps this last characteristic of Diogenes and his followers which gave the sect its name, since anaideia involved carrying out acts in public which most men usually do in private. Other accounts hold that the name Cynic (doglike) derives from the Gymnasium Kynosarges in Athens, where Antisthenes taught.

Crates, Diogenes's pupil, propagated the master's teachings after his death. In addition to the influence which Diogenes had on numbers of his contemporaries, he also served as a source for the development of Stoicism.

Further Reading

Excellent accounts of the life of Diogenes, as it can be pieced together from various ancient traditions, may be found in D. R. Dudley, A History of Cynicism (1937), and Farrand Sayre, Diogenes of Sinope (1938). Also good, although more for the Cynics as a group than for Diogenes, is Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy (1881; trans. 1931). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Diogenes." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Diogenes." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/diogenes

"Diogenes." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/diogenes

Diogenes

Diogenes (dīŏj´ənēz), c.412–323 BC, Greek Cynic philosopher; pupil of Antisthenes. He was born in Sinope and lived in Athens. He taught that the virtuous life is the simple life, and he dramatically discarded conventional comforts, living in a tub. He is said to have thrown away his last utensil, a cup, when he saw a peasant drink from his hands. When Alexander the Great asked what he might do for him, Diogenes said, "Only step out of my sunlight." His daylight quest with a lantern "for an honest man" was probably the most striking expression of his contempt for his generation.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Diogenes." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Diogenes." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/diogenes

"Diogenes." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/diogenes

Diogenes

Diogenes (c.400–c.325 bc), Greek philosopher. The most famous of the Cynic school, he lived ascetically in Athens (according to legend, he lived in a tub) and was accordingly named Kuōn (‘the dog’), from which the Cynics were then said to have derived their name. According to one story, he used to walk round Athens by day with a light, explaining that he was looking for an honest man. He emphasized self-sufficiency and the need for natural, uninhibited behaviour, regardless of social conventions.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Diogenes." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Diogenes." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/diogenes

"Diogenes." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/diogenes

Diogenes

Diogenes (active 4th century bc) Greek philosopher. Diogenes founded the Cynic school of philosophy. He believed that by reducing personal needs to a minimum, one can have mastery over one's soul.

http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/d/diogsino.htm

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Diogenes." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Diogenes." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/diogenes

"Diogenes." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/diogenes

Diogenes

Diogenes •Andes •Hades, Mercedes •Archimedes • Thucydides • aphides •Eumenides, ParmenidesMaimonides, Simonides •Euripides • cantharides • Hesperides •Hebrides •Aristides, bona fides •Culdees •Alcibiades, Hyades, Pleiades •Cyclades • antipodes • Sporades •Ganges • Apelles •tales, ThalesAchilles, Antilles •Los Angeles • Ramillies • Pericles •isosceles • Praxiteles • Hercules •Empedocles • Sophocles • Damocles •Androcles • Heracles • Themistocles •Hermes • Menes • testudines •Diogenes • Cleisthenes •Demosthenes •Aristophanes, Xenophanes •manganese • Holofernes • editiones principes • herpes •lares, primus inter pares •Antares, Ares, Aries, caries •antifreeze • Ceres • Buenos Aires

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Diogenes." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Diogenes." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/diogenes-0

"Diogenes." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/diogenes-0