July 14, 2010

Sophie's World

Hellenism: About the Cynics

The story goes that one day Socrates stood gazing at a stall that sold all kinds of wares. Finally he said, 'What a lot of things I don't need!'
This statement could be the motto for the Cynics school of philosophy, founded by Antisthenes in Athens around 400 B.C.
Antisthenes had been a pupil of Socrates, and had become particularly interested in his frugality.
The Cynics emphasized that true happiness is not found in external advantages such as material luxury, political power, or good health. True happiness lies in not being dependent on such random and fleeting things. And because happiness does not consist in benefits of this kind, it is within everyone's reach. Moreover, having once attained it can never be lost.
The best known of the Cynics was Diogenes, a pupil of Antisthenes, who reputedly lived in a barrel and owned nothing but a clock, a stick, and a bread bag. (So it wasn't easy to steal his happiness from him!) One day while he was sitting beside his barrel enjoying the sun, he was visited by Alexander the Great. The emperor stood before him and asked if there was anything he could do for him. Was there anything he desired? 'Yes,' Diogenes replied. ' Stand to one side. You're blocking the sun.' Thus Diogenes showed that he was no less happy and rich than the great man before him. He had everything he desired.
The Cynics believed that people did not need to be concerned about their own health. Even suffering and death should not disturb them. Nor should they let themselves be tormented by concern for other people's woes.
Nowadays the term 'cynical' and 'cynicism' have come to mean a sneering disbelief in human sincerity, and they imply insensitivity to other people's suffering.

Sophie's World
           Jostein Gaarder


Pooja said...

Happiness lies within urself, in no achievements or luxuries!

ANWESA said...

I personally detest cynics.

Nevertheless I liked reading the post. As always.

Bikramjit said...

cynics dont always know everything sonme will say it for the sake of it..

its upto the individual how they take it :)

but nice post neverthless ...

Anubhav said...

Ah - Greek philosophy !! :)

But why cynics in particular ??

Anyway nice post - brought back memories of some unusual last minute study sessions (the cynics weren't my favorite philosophers) :P

Tulika said...

@ Pooja:
Yeah, true.

@ Anwesa di:

@ Bikramjit:
Thanks for sharing your views.

@ Anubhav:

Well it has just started with cynics. This may lead to stoics, epicureans or even neoplatonism and mysticism which this book throws light on. (More thn half a dozen philosophers too.)

I do not like or dislike any school. I'm reading them in agreement because I guess I'm follower of none.

But yeah Cynics in particular do interest me. This school is positively snobbish in my view- higher degree of complacency. And also the idea of being absolute. Something that our vedas also say 'Aham Bramhasmi.'

ABHISHEK SiM said...


Avi said...

Never thought the etymology of a word normally used in a negative sense, could reveal such a profound school of thought. Enlightening indeed, including the juxtaposition you offered with 'Aham Bramhasmi' !

Suresh Kumar said...

Kya baat hain... but question is can one live like it really possible.

And this line is hard to swallow ***The Cynics believed that people did not need to be concerned about their own health.*** It doesn't seem to be correct to me...

And thanks for letting us know the true meaning of cynics

prajyot said...

Hey sorry for not commenting these days..

Howz u?

Destiny's child... said...

This was knowledge!
I wonder how then cynicism came to take this meaning!

Tulika said...

@ SiM:

@ Avi:
Thanks for reading and also reading that extra bit. The post is not mine but yes, what I inferred from it, you appreciated it and I do thank you for that.

@ Suresh:

Don't take "health" in its literal sense here. It goes a li'l deeper per se.

When I had read this, the idea wasn't alien to me as I could relate it to what "Krishna said to Arjuna"- GITA.

The essence is quite the same.
Largely if not fully.

@ Prajyot:
I'm fine.
Nevermind, about commenting. I did be glad if you read. :)

@ Destiny's child... :
That's etymology precisely. Things develop and take new meanings.

Thousif Raza said...

that is some really insightful fact tuku.... read it long back couldn't comment ;)

nice work :)

take care and keep writing.........