Ideals of Conduct: An Exposition of Moral Attitudes

By John Dashiell Stoops | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
DISASSOCIATION IN THE CYNICS AND THE STOICS

Antisthenes (- 366? B.C.) was the favorite pupil of Socrates. He brought into strong relief a certain phase of his master's teaching. Certain things present in Socrates were reduced to a system of defense against the world. These characteristics, independence of the world through the self-sufficiency of reason, endurance, apathy, contempt of pleasure, were woven into the philosophy of Cynicism. Nothing can deprive a man of virtue which is the only good. Thought is an impregnable fortress against the world.

In Antisthenes the will definitely disassociates itself from the classical social order. A good man, Antisthenes said, is better than a relative. He expressed contempt for wealth and noble birth. He was a cosmopolite. He taught that the only true government was knowledge and not the laws of the state.

Antisthenes was opposed to even civilization itself. Civilization is artificial. It is built upon wants and desires. What is needed, however, is not control over, but independence of, wants and desires.

Like all the disciples of Socrates he remained aloof from the physical sciences. Like his master he aimed to arrive at truth through dialectic, not through the manipulation of behavior or of physical objects.

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