Classical Cynicism: A Critical Study

Classical Cynicism: A Critical Study

Classical Cynicism: A Critical Study

Classical Cynicism: A Critical Study

Synopsis

More than a "school" of philosophy with a defined set of beliefs and convictions, classical Cynicism represents an unconventional "sect" of philosophers and a way of life. This is a complete account of classical Cynicism from its beginnings in the Socratic circle to its extinction in late Roman times. In this thoroughly documented study, Navia explores various issues related to the sources of information about the Cynics, the development of Cynicism, and the principal representatives of classical Cynicism. Exploring the relationship between classical Cynicism and cynicism as understood in its ordinary modern sense, the author argues that despite their common designation, they represent significantly different philosophical attitudes. This book explicates the main ideas associated with classical Cynicism and argues that, its shortcomings notwithstanding, classical Cynicism furnishes us with a wealthy source of philosophical enlightenment.

Excerpt

The Cynic movement constitutes one of the most challenging intellectual phenomena in the history of the Western world. For eight hundred years the Cynics roamed the streets and roads of classical Greece and Rome, preaching what appears to have been a gospel of social and political protest, and acting in ways which seem to have been specifically designed to unsettle the customs and conventions of their contemporaries. From the first decade of the fourth century B.C., soon after the execution of Socrates, until the last moments of the Roman Empire, at a time when the last vestiges of the classical era were being erased by the Barbarians and overwhelmed by Christianity, the Cynics were a familiar presence in the classical world, and their message of revolt could be heard from the courts of emperors and rulers to the market places and taverns crowded with ordinary people.

The aim of this book is to present a historical review of the Cynic movement in all its aspects, with critical documentation related to ancient sources and modern scholarship. Emphasis is placed, of course, on the three major Cynic philosophers, namely, Antisthenes, Diogenes of Sinope, and Crates of Thebes, for it is in them that we find the basis of everything that can be viewed as valuable in classical Cynicism. The many Cynics who emerged after these three philosophers merely carried on certain traditions, exemplified certain modes of living, and upheld certain convictions, all of which can be traced back in one way or another to the early stages of the Cynic movement, and these stages are well represented in Antisthenes, Diogenes, and Crates.

As will be made clear in this critical study, classical Cynicism was not a monolithic ideological movement with set or well-defined philosophical tenets and dogmas, and was never what we might call a 'school' of philosophy. It constituted, more than anything else, an amorphous movement of intellectual and social rebelliousness against a great number of beliefs and practices. In the . . .

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