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The Zen of Disengagement. DIOGENES OF SINOPE

Nothing that we're told is true. - Hymn to Diogenes (excerpt).

Anthony Weir
2015 m. Vasario 11 d., 19:05
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Most philosophy - and all theology - is sophistry.

Apart from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, there have been very few true philosophers since Classical philosophy and Seneca, the unfortunate Stoic from Córdoba, were finally destroyed by the emperor Nero. Of the pre-Christian Greek philosophers, by far the truest and most radical was Diogenes, who is thought to have died in 320 BCE. Like his near-contemporary, Pyrrho, he disdained writing.

He also disdained rhetoric - the hallowed Greek system of reasoned debate and persuasion which has since 'Classical' times inspired councils and cabals, and, of course, modern parliaments. His philosophy was based on moral outrage, and did not allow for sordid compromise between competing 'interests'.

The most celebrated son of Sinope, a Greek colony on the Black Sea coast of Turkey (modern Sinop, whose towers still stand, unlike those of Trebizond to the east - and which has been chosen as a site for a nuclear power-station), Diogenes was the founder and most famous of the Cynics - a Zen-like non-School of anti-Philosophy expounding and embracing an ascetic and transcendental nihilism. He expanded the teachings and world-view of his slightly older contemporary, Antisthenes, a follower of Socrates whom he probably never met and whom he likely would have outraged.

Diogenes took Antisthenes' anti-worldliness to what is now (and was in Roman times) foolishly considered an extreme, turning the latter's disregard for wealth and worldliness into complete rejection. He believed that virtue (the goal of most Greek philosophers but an irrelevance to consumer-societies) could be attained only by fighting hypocrisy, greed, luxury and corruption - i.e. conventional morality. He honed himself into the position of having nothing to lose but life itself - which he despised. Socrates-Plato, on the other hand, had quite a lot to lose - notably reputation. Reputation, so valued by patriarchal societies (which depend on female and other servility of one kind or another), is a very fragile thing to want. But few people realise it. The Cynic (or honest and true) philosopher puts him/herself at the bottom of the local heap from where he or she can look around with a clear (not necessarily jaundiced) eye - knowing that s/he is as dying sperm in the rectum of a horribly impoverished 'reality'.

Public poverty and ignominy were at the centre of the Diogenean message. He is famously said to have gone around Athens with a lantern by day, vainly looking for an honest personality. He would have agreed with Khayyám that society is merely knots of people on puppet-strings of systems of belief. It is likely that he disdained to write any of his ideas down. In any event, all our information comes (like our information on Jesus of Galilee) second-hand at best, many of the anecdotes coming from Roman authors many centuries later, and some, much later again, from Muslims who saw Diogenes as a proto-Sufi.

A major source of information (and legend) about Diogenes is the third century (AD) Roman doxographer Diogenes Laertius (as disorganised as he was gullible), from whom much that follows is taken. Some of his stories about Diogenes are suspiciously similar to stories about the many other figures he describes in his ten-volume Lives of the Ancient Philosophers. The "Cynicism" of ancient Greece and Rome did not have the particular opprobrium of heartlessness that it has today: on the contrary, it was a passionate commitment. The term comes from the Greek word for Dog : the Cynic School was a school for dogs - wiser, more spontaneous, honest and more down-to-earth than the sophists whom Diogenes despised, and amongst whom he counted Plato. He seemed to regard Socrates as disingenuous in his claim that he knew nothing and that no-one knew more than he, but nevertheless pushed the Socratic dialectic to a logical conclusion.

It was the hairy-shouldered (and legally-bigamous) Socrates, of course, who was charged with negativism: 'moral corruption of the youth' of an Athens which was then under a Spartan reign of terror. He was democratically (if not justifiably) condemned to drink the required cup of hemlock. Diogenes the Despiser, far more radical in his views at a less dangerous (and less-democratic) point in history, was far more easily-ignored.

He revelled in his canine sobriquet, and, of course, he had his kennel to live in: the 'tub' (pithos) which was in fact an earthenware barrel or cistern. I have recently seen a Spanish wine-vessel in a Garden Centre in SW France, whose lip is 50 cms in diameter, whose diameter at its widest is about 200 cms, and whose length (it is laid lengthwise on the ground) is 250 cms, tapering to a point. It would make a perfect dwelling for a frugal hermit, and a blanket over the 'entrance' could make it quite snug if temperatures did not get too low.


click for a close-up view

Like his later imitators in Palestine and Syria, he had no house of his own, and this is why the Latin name of the hermit crab is also Diogenes. Being a householder was a necessary requirement for taking part in the Assembly, as it was until recently a requirement for a voter in the latter-day populist- or pseudo-democracies. His unmarried status already put him beyond the Pale. Nor did he have a job, for he despised the whole system of obligation with which kinship, education, employment and trade have burdened the 'beneficiaries' of civilisation.

click for another illustration
Detail from 
'Diogenes' by John William Waterhouse.


One of the less-unrealistic romanticisations of Diogenes in his earthenware dwelling,
by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1860.

He has no connection with the mis-named Diogenes Syndrome.

According to Lucian (1st century CE), when Diogenes was living in Corinth, the whole city galvanised into action as Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander) and his army approached the city. Diogenes got into his 'tub' and energetically rolled it up and down the pavement. When asked why he did so, he said it was "Just to make myself look as active as the rest of you."

Maximus of Tyre wrote that Diogenes went to Delphi to consult the Oracle of Apollo, and, as a result, he stripped himself of all superfluous things, smashed the chains that had hitherto imprisoned his spirit, and devoted himself to a wandering life of freedom, like a powerful bird, unafraid of tyrants, dictatorships and governments, contemptuous of human laws and politics, uninterested in political events, natural and unnatural disasters, free from the stupidity of marriage and the devouring octopus of the family, unwilling to labour in the fields to feed himself, contemptuous of property and its acquisition, and (most heinous of all) refusing to train in or take up arms in a culture of perpetually-warring city-states: the greatest 'draft-dodger' of all. He could well be described as a hermetic situationist.

He is reported as saying that whoever trusts the Cynics will remain single; those who do not trust us will breed. And if humanity should cease to exist, it will be no more calamitous than the extinction of dinosaurs - or blowflies. And, according to one of his many Arab commentators, when asked if he hated people he replied that he hated bad people for their depravity and good people for their silence in the presence of moral turpitude. Evil is advanced by the negligence of the good-intentioned and the harmless.

Diogenes has had more - and much more continuing - influence in Islamic culture than in the Christian and post-Christian hedonistic world-view. Certain Sufi groups, especially the Malamatis, took his anti-hypocritical, anti-worldly dissidence to heart.

Another Arab anecdote recounts that when people asked Diogenes why he wouldn't talk with them, his trenchant reply was: "Because you are too important for my subtlety and I am too subtle for your importance." He would have observed that the senseless modern need to acquire unimaginable amounts of 'information' on the 'information-superhighway' is simply another infantile dependence fomented by The Market whose system and effects he deplored. How can an animal that surrounds itself with layer upon layer of dependency call itself the present pinnacle of evolution ?

For his many commentators Diogenes was a peg on whom they could hang their own Cynic world-view, because Cynicism was not a "school of philosophy", but rather an "erratic succession of individuals" which began with the moralist Antisthenes, who was a close friend of Socrates, and was present at the latter's death. He disclaimed 'pure' (upper-class) philosophy, believing that the plain man could know all there is to know, and that a beggar would get to know it very soon. Antisthenes was probably more consciously philosophical though less clever than Diogenes. Antisthenes emphasized moral self-mastery and is said to have rejected the ideas and institutions of government, property, marriage and religion: all institutions that depend upon dishonesty. (Without dishonesty there can be no politics, while religion is comfort and certitude for the simple-minded.) But while property was regarded as a kind of necessary evil by Antisthenes, Diogenes stood up for theft, claiming "all things are the property of the wise". He also, quite reasonably, approved of cannibalism.


Ribera: Diogenes with his lamp.


The objective of Cynicism was spiritual self-sufficiency, integrity and self-control (autarkeia), and the Cynic virtues were qualities through which true freedom was attained: the very opposite of modern mores. The most important virtue was impassive unattachment, which, obviously, had to be attained through self-training. Whereas the modern world has claimed to be guided by the false mantra of 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity' - ludicrous Platonic ideals trashed or abandoned as soon as they are declared - Diogenes would have countered by scratching the slogan Humility, Frugality and Integrity in the dirt, would have scratched his scrotum and that of the nearest dog, and chuckled heartily. Humility is, of course, the opposite of Puritanism, which derives from ego, anger and vainglory - and has been one of the curses of Christianity and all religions.

Theophrastus, one of Diogenes' followers, reports the latter's epiphany of watching a mouse darting about the marketplace, unfraid of monstrous humans many hundreds of times its size, unfraid of dark places or what the future might hold. Street dogs, too, are independent, simple, adaptive, uncomplaining, exercising a freedom of speech which most humans would not dare, entangled as they are by webs of obligation. They can also guard - and Diogenes was a guardian of truth.

Like most (if not all) philosophers and religious teachers, however, Diogenes also favoured theendurance of the later, but not contrary, Stoic school as a necessary ingredient of autarkeia. The Cynic hero was Hercules, who always finished what he had started, no matter how stupendous the task.

Cynics aimed as far as possible to disregard laws, customs, conventions, and stupid, vicious tyrants such as public opinion, reputation, honour and dishonour. The Greek satirist Lucian represents a Cynic as saying, long before the advent of Reality TV: "Why not perform the deeds of darkness in broad daylight ? Organise your sex-life with a view to public entertainment!"

Plato and the Idealists were obsessed by the idea of The Truth, but Diogenes was concerned by Truth. There is a world of difference between a sentimental, abstract fiction concocted and protected by upper class males, and the simple honesty of looking reality in the eye and in the arsehole.

Diogenes was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea. His father Hicesias was responsible for the minting of coins and when Diogenes took to "defacement of the currency", which probably involved coin-clipping, he was banished from the city. He went to Athens with his slave Manes. Soon after their arrival, Manes fled. When Diogenes was advised to chase his runaway slave he replied, "It would be absurd if Diogenes cannot get on without Manes while Manes is happy without Diogenes".

It must again be emphasised that most anecdotes about Diogenes are fictions, such as the traditional story of his seeking or co-opting of Antisthenes as his mentor. They almost certainly never met. But the story goes that Antisthenes ordered him away and eventually beat him off with his staff. Diogenes is quoted as saying, "Strike, for you will find no wood hard enough to keep me away from you, so long as I think you've something to say." The persistence of Diogenes broke the resistance of Antisthenes, who taught at the Cynosarges: the park of the white (or swift) dog (the Athenian greyhound track ?), thus providing his anti-school with its name. Various temples stood in the Cynosarges, most importantly a temple to Herakles (Hercules) whom the Cynics identified with as a strong but not proud hero in a culture of heroes of overweening pride - the man who cleaned the Augean Stables. They admired ruggedness or endurance, a trait which had unfortunate consequences for the split-off Stoics and fed into the ghoulish pseudo-cannibalistic blood-cult of Christianity.

The Cynosarges was also a place where foreigners, non-citizens, hippies and 'bastards' hung out. Antisthenes was, in Athenian law, illegitimate because his mother was a Thracian slave. Antisthenes was the first to call himself a dog - indeed, The Absolute Dog. So the Cynics got their name because of Antisthenes self-description, the canine associations of the park, and the 'outrageous' behaviour of Diogenes and his anti-Idealism in both the philosophic and the demotic sense.

Diogenes observed that if the great musician or athlete were to devote similar effort to training their mind or moral conduct and living life well, the results would be marvellous. He also noted that just as those who are accustomed to a life of pleasure feel disgust when they experience the opposite, those habituated to a lack of pleasure seem to derive great pleasure from despising pleasure. Morally depraved men, he said, obey their lusts as servants obey their masters. He called love the business of the idle and said that lovers derive their pleasure from the shared misfortune of their drug-like dependence.


Diogenes, by Lovis Corinth, 1891.

There is something of the Zen and the Tibetan Master about Diogenes - and the haikai of Santoka in the 1930s and 1940s are highly Diogenean. He was a special kind of urban hermit - a privileged Street Person living ascetically but publicly in the centre of Athens - the opposite of the Christian hermits who followed a religious tradition which derived from India. Diogenes learned early on one of the fundamental principles of 'The Good Life', namely ascetic frugality: less is better than more.

Insofar as Diogenes was known as the Dog throughout Athens, at a feast certain people kept throwing all the bones to him as they would to a dog. He, understanding that dogs in their simple humility and formidable logic are the pinnacle of evolution as we in our complex arrogance are not, played a dog's trick and urinated on them. It is said that Diogenes trampled upon Plato's carpets with the words "I trample upon the pride of Plato!" - who retorted, "Yes, Diogenes, with pride of another sort." Touché ?


'Apart from dogs,
less than a handful of people that I've met
are better companions than my thoughts.'


This philosophical attitude is the essence of what Diogenes had to say, which may be summed up as:Neither seek nor want the approbation of any human being. It is the desire for approval and praise that enslaves us to the outrageous conventions which form 'the fabric of civilisation' and make us completely unnatural and discontent animals. Most people will do almost anything to keep others off their backs. Freedom from the desire for approval is the only route to integrity, autonomy, and what Jung called individuation. Jesus of Galilee (like all other merely-religious teachers) did not get quite so far in his call to integrity ("The Kingdom of Heaven") - not least because his focus was limited to Jews, was founded in the apocalyptic tradition, and rested on a confraternity of mutual psycho-physical support, a network of Essene commensality, rather than Diogenes' aloof self-exclusion. Diogenes had the wisdom to trust opprobrium more than praise: a rare achievement.

click to enlarge
Zanchi: Diogenes with his lamp - and an owl (symbol of Pallas Athene).

Diogenes' emphasis on ignominy was echoed by Jesus' emphasis on humility. (Neither of them, however, cooked and cleaned nor carried water.) But their attitudes to death were opposite. Being asked whether death was an evil thing, Diogenes replied, "How can it be malign, when in its presence we are not aware of it?" Since his time, Christianity has cheapened death through its tinsel 'salvation' - has cheapened it by claiming to cheat it. Death has been rendered a terminal failure; and suicide, far from a supremely dignified and noble act, has become shameful, "a cry for help", an act of despair or desperation, of selfishness.

A religion or a culture or a society which cannot accommodate suicide is a religion, or culture or society of slavery to infantilism.

When someone declared that life is an evil, he said, "Not life itself, but living badly." To one who protested that he was poorly adapted for the study of philosophy, he said, "Why then do you live, if you do not care to live well?" Seeing a youth dressing with elaborate care, he said, "If it's for men, you're a fool; if for women, a knave." Being asked what creature's bite is the most deadly, he said, "Of those that are wild, a sycophant's; of those that are tame, a flatterer's".

Once when he was invited to dinner, he declared that he wouldn't go - because the last time he went, his host had not expressed a proper gratitude. On another occasion, he was taken to a magnificent house and, being warned not to spit, he cleared his throat and fired his phlegm into the servant's face, being unable, he said, to find a meaner receptable. He is also reported as declaring that in the house of a rich man the best place to spit is in his face.

Plato saw him washing vegetables, came up to him and quietly said to him, "Had you paid court to Dionysus you wouldn't now be washing vegetables." Diogenes with equal calmness answered, "If you had washed vegetables, you wouldn't be paying court to Dionysus." One day he called out for men to come, and when a group collected, he poked them with his stick, saying, "It was men I called for, not scoundrels."


Detail from Raphael's School of Athens.

Dio Chrysostom (Goldenmouth) described Diogenes as terminating a discourse by squatting down and evacuating his bowels in the presence of his hearers. It is also said that he had no qualms aboutmasturbating or performing other sexual acts in public. Being asked why people give to beggars, but not to philosophers, he said, "Because they think they may one day be lame or blind, but never expect that they will turn to philosophy."

Once, when Anaximenes was discussing some point publicly, Diogenes held up a piece of salt fish, and diverted the attention of his hearers. Seeing Anaximenes' indignation,Diogenes said: "See, a pennyworth of salt fish has put an end to the lecture of Anaximenes."

Talk about living with integrity, and people will shun you like a leper. 
Put on a street performance, and you've got an eager audience.

Being himself a beggar by choice, in a society where beggars were not swept up into hostels, Reception Centres, or concentration camps, he put his hand out to someone mean, who said, "I'll give you money - if you can persuade me why I should." 
"If I could have convinced you of anything," rejoined Diogenes, "I would have persuaded you to hang yourself." To another mean man he said: "I asked you for the means to keep body and soul together, not to separate them for ever."

He would have concurred with Nietszche (perhaps his only modern pupil) that civilisation is a grotesque 'festival of cruelty'. Nevertheless, he was not an atheist, and no Greek thinker was a pessimist. Indeed, the only modern pessimist philosopher is Schopenhauer, a man who extended the principles and insights of Diogenes - but was not a Street Person.

'Love is the obsession of the under-amused
and self-love the obsession of the rich.'

According to Dio Chrysostom, Diogenes drily observed that Œdipus could have solved his little problem simply by legalising incest in Thebes. It is perhaps attributions like this which have created the modern meaning of cynicism. But if other creatures - and indeed contemporaneous Persians - had no terrible incest-taboo, why had the Greeks ?

On a voyage to Ægina, an island 50 kms from Athens, he was allegedly captured by pirates, conveyed to Crete and exposed for sale as a slave. When he was asked what he could do he replied, "Govern men." And he told the crier to give notice in case anybody wanted to purchase a master for himself. To Xeniades who bought him he said, "You must obey me, although I am a slave; for, if a physician or a navigator were in slavery, he would be obeyed." Xeniades took him to Corinth and had him run his household.

Diogenes in a Landscape, by Nicolas Poussin (17th century).
Here he notices a young man drinking from a pond or stream with his hands,
and consequently throws away as redundant his only possession: a metal cup.


When someone extolled the good fortune and splendour another had experienced at the court of Alexander the Great, Diogenes said: "That's not good, but bad fortune - for he breakfasts and dines only when Alexander thinks fit."

The story goes that Alexander came to him when he was living in his famous tub (wine-jar) and asked: "I am Alexander the great king. Are you not afraid of me?"
"And I," came the reply, "am Diogenes the Cynic. And are you a good thing or a bad?"
"A good thing", answered Alexander. Whereupon Diogenes asked: "Who, then, is afraid of the good?"

On a different (equally apocryphal) occasion Diogenes was sunning himself when Alexander stood over him and said, "Ask of me any boon you like." To which he replied, "Don't deprive me of what you cannot give me" - i.e. sunlight. Alexander smartly stepped aside. 
Alexander is reported to have said, "Had I not been Alexander, I should have liked to be Diogenes." As it turned out, both Diogenes and Alexander died in 323 B.C., Alexander being 33 and Diogenes (allegedly) 90.


'Between the propertied and the poor in spirit there is little space.'


Diogenes is credited with the development of the chreia (moral epigram), with a scandalous attack on convention and the Athenian notion of freedom (confined to aristocratic males) entitled Republic (not to be confused with Plato's which, for good and ill, survives), and with tragedies illustrative of the human predicament. The followers of Diogenes - Crates, Menedemus, and Menippus - imitated all his eccentricities and so exaggerated the anti-social elements in the Cynic system that the school finally fell into disrepute in Greece, but flourished elsewhere, notably in Syria and Galilee. Nevertheless, there were in the Cynic philosophy elements, especially the ethical element, which later became subsumed in the more socially-acceptable Stoic School. This element, combined with the broader Stoic idea of the usefulness of intellectual culture and the more enlightened Stoic concept of the scope of logical dialogue and discussion, reappeared in the philosophy of Zeno and Cleanthes, and was the - somewhat pallid - central ethical doctrine of the last system of Greek philosophy - which fed into Christianity, whose founder had more in common with Diogenes than with Zeno or Socrates.


click for a more realistic painting by Bastien-Lepage

Giorgio de Chirico: 'The Philosopher'


The Cynics were a very strong influence in the Hellenistic culture of the Eastern Mediterranean just before the arrival of Jesus, and the original teachings that survive in the "Q-Gospel" suggest that Jesus - who regarded the staff and knapsack as too much property - was one of many successors of Diogenes who were teaching and practising in Hellenised Syria, and in Galilee which had only recently come under Jewish control. (Ironically, the staff and knapsack later became emblems of the pilgrimage to Compostela.) But Jesus also followed the Jewish apocalyptic tradition which emphasised the battle between good and evil, 'righteous' and 'unrighteous'.

The connection from Diogenes continues, from about the 10th century, into Sufi thought. Sufis have often referred to themselves as Dogs, like Diogenes, partly in reaction against the general irredeemable cruelty of Muslims towards canines, and partly in admiration of the humility, instructability, good faith and steadfastness of dogs.


In every human prance and prowl the shadows of our shame.


Diogenes - who today would hardly be allowed to express himself outside India (and there only if he were Hindu) - evidently realised that we choose to be governed by the manipulators of fictions: money, religion and the nation-state. Political entities are fictions that most people choose to believe - but it is now evident that they are not really viable. They are either too big (empires and "federations" which are empires by another name) or too artificial, like the states of Africa. In all cases there is the tendency to fragment into small aggressive ethnic and/or linguistic purities. Only very powerful lies and inducements can hold them together.

Diogenes (urban like Omar Khayyám, whereas Jesus and Muhammad were rural) also understood that civilisation (town-based culture which is 98% smash-and-grab and 2% art) itself actually makes life much more difficult and bitter for almost everyone. But its own propaganda of property (and religions which support it) is highly successful in incorporating us into a belief in our own god-given superiority instead of a recognition of our pathetic dependence on artefacts and comfort. As humans move farther and farther away from the structure of the gathering band (hunting is comparatively recent in our history), towards the destructive discreteness of the family, their emotions become more disjunct from their way of life. With money and the oppressive corruption that it brings, comes most of the misery of the world. Controlled capitalism in western quasi-democracies (where both financial transactions and government are accountable to at least some of the people to some extent) is the least odious of monetary economic systems - but it is nonetheless odious in its greed.

Diogenes allegedly expressed his view of Plato's Idealism by throwing into Plato's Lyceum a plucked (presumably dead) cockerel - representing the Ideal Man according to Plato's definition of him 'a featherless biped', as a result of which of which "...with broad nails" was added to Plato's definition.Unfortunately, thanks to neo-Platonic Christianity, that deified cock has ruled us with its ridiculous, impossible, world-exhausting and (as Diogenes appreciated) banal perfectionism ever since. The cock has become a battery hen and we live in a Disney Valhalla in the Museum of Sleep which we call progress. Here is Plato's man! (Of course, progress is just a secularised version of the Judæo-ChristianDivine Will.)

Da Carpi: Diogenes (woodcut after Parmigianino)
showing Plato's 
featherless biped on the right.


There is, however, an anti-hypocritical, judgemental line connecting Diogenes of Sinope with Jesus of Nazareth (and his Jewish prophetic tradition), Abu al-'Ala al-Ma'arri of Syria, Sufi saints, and Omar Khayyám of Nishapúr (who was educated at Balkh) - a line which, very significantly, does not connect with Muhammad or with the moulders of Christianity, Peter and Paul, who were marketing a revealed Messiah. Khayyám (a tent-maker very different from St Paul) was roughly contemporary with heretical movements in the West which sprung up (like the Crusades) following the first Millennium, and which died out, were suppressed, or - as in the last of them, led by St Francis and St Clare - were quickly institutionalised, defused and absorbed into monstrously hypocritical orthodoxy which then proceeded with its genocide against the Cathars. Others included the Waldensians, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, and the Beghards who gave us the word beggar. These too were optimists, but with perceptions rendered rather more fuzzy than Diogenes' by layers of Christian mythology and hagiography.

The Cynic fool in mediæval and modern times is attested by Shakespeare (especially in King Lear) and by Velázquez’ famous portraits of Don Sebastián de Morro and two other dwarves (Lezcano and de Acedo) at the court of Philip IV of Spain. Apparentlythey were intended to be seen together with his portraits of the Cynic philosopher Menippus and of Æsop the moralist, both of whom were employed by royalty.

There is something of a parallel between the historical Diogenes and the Christian parable of Lazarusthe beggar whose sores were licked by dogs as he starved under the rich man's table - even though Diogenes was not taken up into Abraham's bosom, but died unrecorded, almost unnoticed like a true philosopher, a true follower of Dao. Parables are a teaching-method and Diogenes, as Luis E. Navia points out, was something of a missionary of truth despite his contempt of the bourgeoisie who supported him and the masses to whom he was largely indifferent. (I can report that as contempt for people grows with age, the happier one becomes.) Instead of parables, Diogenes went in for Performance Philosophy, and was, as Navia says, "a walking riot" who in most European countries today would be in an institution of some sort. One report says that he would not take on a disciple unless the latter would do something ridiculous in public, such as spend a day walking round and round with a large fish on his shoulder - or, like the celebrated Gérard de Nerval, taking a lobster for a walk in the park. In other words, he would not be friends with anyone who was not open to his philosophy. He had, indeed, no need of friends at all.

A little later than Diogenes, Pyrrho - who, also ascetic, was certainly influenced by Buddhism - founded the Skeptic School of philosophy, which ultimately led via Montaigne (and the false skeptic Descartes) to David Hume, and onward to the quasi-skeptical basis of 'modern science' based on our belief in observation. Pyrrho, however, concluded that human senses transmit neither truth nor falsehood, and thus we cannot draw verifiable conclusions about anything. Pyrrho's philosophy might be summed up in the hermetic declaration "By acatalepsia to ataraxia !" (by suspension of judgement to freedom from worry) - the opposite of and antidote to "Per ardua ad astra". Diogenes, however, certainly did not believe in Pyrrho's anti-doctrine of acatalepsia.

As with Diogenes, none of Pyrrho's writings survive, and all reports of his teaching are hearsay from a much later date.

Diogenes' best-known 'official' follower was Krates, a rich man who divested himself of mere and vulgar wealth in order to live a life of integrity. The famous follower of Krates was Zeno the Compromiser, who transformed the Zen of Integrity into Stoicism, which became, in turn, the dreary Roman Philosophy of Duty, whose chief exponents were Seneca the failed teacher of Nero, and the prim Roman monarch, Marcus Aurelius. Thus the teaching of the philosopher of utter integrity led to the Ayatollahs of the Work Ethic who have taken over - and are fanatically destroying - the world, and all worlds of the mind. And thus Christianity shifted from the dangerously Diogenean to the prissily Stoic-collaborationist.

And thus all teaching is ultimately false, as Diogenes himself pointed out.


There have been wiser men than Diogenes
- but they were too wise to be noticed.


See a more likely guide/dog 
A Roman representation of Diogenes with staff, lamp - and pert little dog,
rather than a 
Molossian mastiff from the mountains of Albania,
which would seem more appropriate.

http://www.beyond-the-pale.co.uk/diogenes.htm

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