Episode 2 – Diogenes and Cynicism




Diogenes the Cynic: He Has the Most Who Is Most Content with the Least


Around the fourth century BC Alexander the Great, who was perhaps the most powerful and influential man of the time decided to approach a philosopher that he greatly admired, Diogenes of Sinope.

He approached Diogenes as he was basking in the sun and was so thrilled to meet him that he asked if there could be anything he might do for him.

Being of immense power and status, Alexander could have fulfilled the philosopher’s most wild dreams, however the philosopher replied “Yes, stand out of my sunlight…”

Diogenes of Sinope (arguably one of the most radical and remarkable characters in the whole philosophical cannon!) is certainly the most memorable and popular philosopher from the school of thought known as Cynicism. The Cynics believed that society was regressive epitomized in these quotes by Diogenes:

“Humans have complicated every simple gift of the gods”

“He has the most who is most content with the least”

He set for himself the task of reclaiming humanity from this blind conformity by a literal and metaphorical debasement of the currency; an act designed to defy social convention. He illustrated this by living through example. He begged on the streets of Athens, slept rough in a large ceramic wine jar, walked backwards through the street and perhaps more shockingly defecated, urinated and masturbated in public.

Despite Cynicism’s misanthropic views, it did go on to become one of the most influential and inspirational philosophies of the ancient world with some claims being made that even Jesus Christ himself was aware of and perhaps partially inspired by it.

At the end of their encounter, Alexander declared “If I where not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes”.

To which Diogenes replied “if I where not Diogenes, I would also wish to be Diogenes”.


Further Reading