What is Cynicism?

Meaning and Definition of Cynicism

Cynicism was a Greek philosophical school created by Antisthenes, a follower of Socrates, around 400 BC, but its most prominent name was Diogenes of Sinope.

These philosophers despised social pacts, defended the detachment of material goods and the nomadic existence they led.

The origin of this expression is somewhat controversial, since some researchers believe that it comes from the Cynosargo Gymnasium, the space in which Antisthenes would have built his School, while others affirm that it derives from the Greek word k??n, kynós, which means ‘dog’, an allusion to the life of these animals, which would be the same as that preached by the cynics.

In fact, the symbol of this group was precisely the image of a dog. In any case, it originates from the Greek Kynismos, passing through the Latin cynismu, and thus reaching our days.

Today, through meaning deviations, this term refers to those who are devoid of shame and any feeling of generosity in relation to the pain of another. But not by chance, since the cynics wanted to free themselves from all worries, including the suffering of others.

Socrates already expressed his repudiation of the excess of material goods on which humanity depended for its survival.

He aimed at true happiness, for which none of this was necessary, since it was connected to states of the soul, not external objects. Later the Cynics began to preach precisely this way of life, in daily practice.

The name of Diogenes, its main defender, became practically synonymous with this School. According to ancient stories, he met Antinas as soon as he arrived in Athens, but he did not want any disciples by his side.

Diogenes, however, gradually convinced him otherwise.

Diogenes radicalized the proposals of Antinas, and exemplified them in his own life, with such severity and persistence that his way of acting has crossed the centuries, impressing scholars of philosophy.

He dared to break the classical vision of the Greeks, replacing it with an image that soon became a model for the first stage of Hellenism and even for the period of the Empire.

She searched for a man who lived according to his essential being, without worrying about any social convention, in harmony with his true way of being – only this person would be able to achieve happiness.

For this philosopher, existence subjected only to theory, a slave to intellectual elaborations, without the exercise of practice, example and action, had no meaning.

Thus, his doctrine went in the opposite direction to culture, to rational knowledge, since he considered that mathematics, physics, astronomy, music and metaphysics – knowledge overvalued in his time – had no use for the inner journey of the human being. men.

He radicalized himself when he stated that people must seek their most primal instincts, that is, their animal side, living aimlessly, without any lack of residence or material comfort.

Thus they would find their greatest goal: the moral virtues. He called this state of detachment Autarcia or Autarky.

The Cynics, once again following the style of Socrates, left no written legacy. What is known about this School has been narrated by other people, generally from a critical angle of cynicism.

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