From Ancient and Medieval Philosophy: Essential Selections, by James Fieser


Copyright 2016, updated 12/1/2016




Students of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

Xenophon: Socratic Philosopher turned Soldier

Euclides: Socratic Founder of the Megarian School of Dialecticians

Antisthenes: Socratic Founder of the School of Cynicism

Diogenes: Successor in the School of Cynicism

Aristippus: Socratic Founder of the Cyrenaic School

Speusippus: First Successor to Plato in the Academy

Xenocrates: Second Successor to Plato in the Academy

Theophrastus: First Successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic School




Diogenes’ Lineages of the Students and Schools (Lives, 1.1)

[Academic lineage:] Socrates was the master of the sect of the Socratic philosophers, and also of Plato who founded the old Academy. Following Plato were Speusippus and Xenocrates. From them followed Polemo, Crantor, Crates and Arcesilaus who founded the Middle Academy. He was succeeded by Lacydes, founder of the new Academy, followed by Carneades, and Clitomachus.

            [Cynic lineage:] Antisthenes was the pupil of Socrates, and the master of Diogenes the Cynic; and the pupil of Diogenes was Crates the Theban. . . .

            [Peripatetic lineage]: Aristotle was the pupil of Plato, Theophrastus the pupil of Aristotle. . . .

            [Socratic lineage:] The founders of these schools were: of the Old Academy, Plato; of the Middle Academy, Arcesilaus; of the New Academy, Lacydes; of the Cyrenaic, Aristippus of Cyrene; of the Elian, Phaedo of Elis; of the Megarian, Euclides of Megara; of the Cynic, Antisthenes of Athens; of the Eretrian, Menedemus of Eretria; of the Dialectical school, Clitomachus of Carthage.


Augustine’s lineages of Socrates, Aristotle and Plato (City of God, 8.3, 8.12)

Socrates was renowned both in his life and in his death. He left very many disciples of his philosophy, who vied with one another in desire for proficiency in handling those moral questions which concern the chief good (summum bonum), the possession of which can make a man blessed. In his disputations, Socrates’ raises all sorts of questions, makes assertions, and then demolishes them. Consequently, it did not evidently appear what he held to be the chief good, and everyone took from these disputations what pleased him best, and everyone placed the final good in whatever it appeared to himself to consist. Now, that which is called the final good is that at which, when one has arrived, he is blessed. But so diverse were the opinions held by those followers of Socrates concerning this final good, that (a thing scarcely to be credited with respect to the followers of one master) some placed the chief good in pleasure, as Aristippus, others in virtue, as Antisthenes. Indeed, it were tedious to recount the various opinions of various disciples. . . .

            Aristotle, the disciple of Plato. . . . founded the Peripatetic sect, so called because they were in the habit of walking about during their disputations, and he had, through the greatness of his fame, gathered very many disciples into his school, even during the life of his master.

            Plato at his death was succeeded in his school, which was called the Academy, by Speusippus, his sister's son, and Xenocrates, his beloved disciple, who, together with their successors, were called from this name of the school, Academics. Nevertheless the most illustrious recent philosophers, who have chosen to follow Plato, have been unwilling to be called Peripatetics, or Academics, but have preferred the name of Platonists [i.e., Neoplatonists]. Among these were the renowned Plotinus, Iamblichus, and Porphyry, who were Greeks, and the African Apuleius.


Numenius’s Account of the Diversity among the Academics and Socratics (History, 1)

Under Speusippus, Plato’s nephew, and Xenocrates, his successor, and Polemo, who took over the school from Xenocrates, the character of the teachings remained almost the same, because the notorious teaching of the "reserve of judgment"; and the like, did not yet exist. Later, however, much was declared differently, and was twisted, and the (teachers) did not remain with the first tradition. Although they all began with Plato, they all left him, some more quickly, some more slowly, purposely or unconsciously and sometimes even out of ambition. . . .

            But this fate [of students disagreeing with each other] far more overtook those who in different ways, each in his own manner, derived his teachings from Socrates, namely, Aristippus, Antisthenes, the Megarians, the Eretrians, and others. The cause was that Socrates asserted the existence of three Gods, and philosophized about them in expressions suited to each single auditor. His listeners, however, did not understand this, but believed that he uttered all these expressions on chance, in accordance with the opinion which happened to have the upper hand with him at the time.




Life of Xenophon of Athens (430–354 BCE)

Xenophon, the son of Gryllus, a citizen of Athens, was of the borough of Erchia. He was a man of great modesty, and handsome. They say that Socrates met him in a narrow lane, and put his stick across it and prevented him from passing by, asking him where all kinds of necessary things were sold. When he had answered him, he asked him again where men where made good and virtuous. As he did not know, he said, "Follow me, then, and learn." From this time onward, Xenophon became a follower of Socrates. He was the first person who wrote down conversations as they occurred, and published them among men, calling them memorabilia. He was also the first man who wrote a history of philosophers. . . . He flourished about the fourth year of the ninety fourth Olympiad, and he took part in the expedition of Cyrus. . . . He died at Corinth, as Demetrius the Magnesian says, being of a very advanced age. He was a man of great distinction in all points, and very fond of horses and dogs, and a great tactician, as is manifest from his writings. He was a pious man, fond of sacrificing to the Gods, and a great authority as to what was due to them, and a very ardent follower and imitator of Socrates. He also wrote nearly forty books. [Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 2]

            Xenophon the philosopher is unique among all philosophers in that he embellished philosophy not only with words but with deeds as well. For on the one hand he writes of the moral virtues both in discourses and historical commentaries, while he excelled also in actual achievement. In fact, he did even more so, for, by means of the examples that he gave, he produced leaders of armies. For instance great Alexander never would have become great had Xenophon never been. [Eunapius, Lives]


The Socially Unifying Force of Cyrus, the Wise and Virtuous Monarch (Xenophon, Cyropedia, 1)

We have had occasion before now to reflect how often democracies have been overthrown by the desire for some other type of government. Monarchies and oligarchies have been swept away by movements of the people and would-be despots have fallen in their turn. This happens with some at the outset by one stroke, while whose who have maintained their rule for ever so brief a time are looked upon with wonder as marvels of sagacity and success.

            Undoubtedly, the same lesson was to be learned from the family. The household might be great or small, for even the master of few could hardly count on the obedience of his little flock. So, one idea leading to another, we came to shape our reflections thus. Animal drivers may certainly be called the rulers of their cattle and horse-breeders the rulers of their studs. All herdsmen, in short, may reasonably be considered the governors of the animals they guard. If, then, we were to believe the evidence of our senses, was it not obvious that flocks and herds were more ready to obey their keepers than men their rulers? Watch the cattle wending their way wherever their herdsmen guide them, see them grazing in the pastures where they are sent and abstaining from forbidden grounds, the fruit of their own bodies they yield to their master to use as he thinks best. Nor have we ever seen one flock among them all combining against their guardian, either to disobey him or to refuse him the absolute control of their produce. On the contrary, they are more quick to show hostility against other animals than against the owner who derives advantage from them. But with man the rule is converse; men unite against none so readily as against those whom they see attempting to rule over them.

            As long, therefore, as we followed these reflections, we must conclude that man is by nature fitted to govern all creatures, except his fellow-man. But when we came to realize the character of Cyrus the Persian, we were led to a change of mind. Here is a man, we said, who won for himself obedience from thousands of his fellows, from cities and tribes innumerable. We must ask ourselves whether the government of men is after all an impossible or even a difficult task, provided one set about it in the right way. Cyrus, we know, found the most willing obedience in his subjects, though some of them resided at a distance which it would take days and months to travel. Among them were men who had never set eyes on him, and for that matter could never hope to do so, and yet they were willing to obey him. Cyrus did indeed eclipse all other monarchs, before or since, and I include not only those who have inherited their power, but those who have won empire by their own exertions. . . .

            It is obvious that among this jumble of nations, few if any could have spoken the same language as himself, or understood one another. Nevertheless, Cyrus was so able to penetrate that vast extent of country by the sheer terror of his personality that the inhabitants were powerless before him. Not one of them dared lift hand against him. Yet, at the same time, he was able to inspire them all with so deep a desire to please him and win his favor that all they asked was to be guided by his judgment and his alone. Thus he knit to himself a complex of nationalities so vast that it would have tested a man's endurance merely to travel his empire in any one direction, east or west or south or north, from the palace which was its center. For ourselves, considering his title to our admiration proved, we set ourselves to inquire what his parentage might have been and his natural parts, and how he was trained and brought up to attain so high a pitch of excellence in the government of men. All we could learn from others about him or felt we might infer for ourselves we will here try to set forth. . . .


Cyrus advises on Loyalty, Life after Death, and Righteous Conduct (Xenophon, Cyropedia, 8)

[Cyrus speaks to his sons on his deathbed.] You know of yourself, without words from me, that your kingdom is not guarded by this golden scepter [that you will inherit when I die], but by faithful friends. Their loyalty is your true staff, a scepter which will not fail. But never think that loyal hearts grow up by nature as the grass grows in the field: if that were so, the same men would be loyal to all alike, even as all natural objects are the same to all mankind. No, every leader must win his own followers for himself, and the way to win them is not by violence but by loving-kindness. . .

            My sons, I could never be persuaded that the soul only lives as long as she dwells within this mortal body, and falls dead as soon as she vacates it. No, I see for myself that it is the soul which lends life to it, while she inhabits it. I cannot believe that she must lose all sense on her separation from the senseless body, but rather that she will reach her highest wisdom when she is set free, pure and unrestrained at last. When this body crumbles in dissolution, we see the different parts of it return to their associated elements, but we do not see the soul itself, whether she stays or whether she departs. Consider, how these two resemble one another, Death and his twin-brother Sleep, and it is in sleep that the soul of a man shows her nature most divine, and is able to catch a glimpse of what is about to be. For it is then, perhaps, that she is nearest to her freedom. Therefore, if these things are as I believe, and the spirit leaves the body behind and is set free, reverence my soul, sons of mine, and do as I desire. Even if it is not so, if the spirit must stay with the body and perish, yet the everlasting gods endure, who see all things, with whom is all power, who uphold the order of this universe, unmarred, unaging, unerring, unfathomable in beauty and in splendor. Fear them, my sons, and never yield to sin or wickedness, in thought or word or deed.

            After the gods, I would have you reverence the whole human race, as it renews itself for ever. For the gods have not hidden you in the darkness, but your deeds will be evident in the eyes of all mankind. If they are righteous deeds and pure from iniquity, they will display your power. But if you meditate evil against evil, you will forfeit the confidence of every person. For no one can trust you, even though he would desire to, if he sees you wrong him whom above all you are bound to love. Therefore, if my words are strong enough to teach you your duty to one another, it is well. But, if not, let history teach you, and there is no better teacher. For the most part, parents have shown kindness to their children and brothers to their brothers, but it has been otherwise with some. Look, then, and see which conduct has brought success, choose to follow that, and your choice will be wise.




Life of Euclides of Megara (435365 BCE) (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 2)

Euclides was a native of Megara on the Isthmus (or of Gela, according to some writers, whose statement is mentioned by Alexander in his Successions). He devoted himself to the study of the writings of Parmenides, and his successors were called the philosophers of the Megarian school. After that they were called the Contentious school, and still later, the Dialecticians, which name was first given to them by Dionysius the Carthaginian, because they carried on their investigations by question and answer. Hermodorus says that after the death of Socrates, Plato and the other philosophers came to Euclides, because they feared the cruelty of the tyrants.

            Euclides taught that the chief good is unity, but that it is known by several names. At one time people call it good judgment, at another time God, at another time intellect, and so on. But he discarded everything which was contrary to good, denying its existence. The proofs which he used to bring forward to support his arguments were not those which proceed on assumptions, but on conclusions. He also rejected the sort of reasoning which proceeds on comparison, saying that it must be founded either on things which are like, or on things which are unlike. If it is founded on things which are like, then it is better to reason about the things themselves, than about those which resemble them. If it is founded on things which are unlike, then the comparison is quite useless. For this reason, Timon uses the following language concerning him, where he also attacks all the other philosophers of the Socratic school: “I do not care for any of these triflers, nor for anyone else; not for your Phaedo, whoever he may be, not for the quarrelsome Euclides, who bit all the Megarians with love of fierce contention.” He wrote six dialogues: the Lamprias, the Aeschines, the Phoenix, the Crito, the Alcibiades, and the Amatory dialogue. Next in succession to Euclides came Eubulides of Miletus, who handed down a great many arguments in dialectics, such as the Lying one; the Concealed one; the Electra; the Veiled one; the Sorites; the Horned one; the Bald one.


[The lying one: Is the man a liar who says that he tells lies? If he is, then he does not tell lies; and if he does not tell lies, is he a liar?

The concealed one: Do you know this man who is concealed? If you do not, then you do not know your own father; for the concealed man is your father.

The veiled one: similar to the concealed one.

The Electra: Electra sees Orestes; she knows that Orestes is her brother, but does not know that the man she sees is Orestes; therefore she does know, and does not know, her brother at the same time.

The sorites (“heap”): one grain of wheat is not a heap, neither is two, etc., thus then neither is 1,000.

The bald one: pulling one hair out of a man's head will not make him bald, nor two, nor three, and so on till every hair in his head is pulled out.

The horned one: You have what you have not lost. You have not lost horns, therefore you have horns.]


Megarian denial of Potentiality (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 9.3)

There are some who say, as the Megarian school does, that a thing “can” act only when it is acting, and when it is not acting it “cannot” act, e.g. that he who is not building cannot build, but only he who is building, when he is building; and so in all other cases. It is not hard to see the absurdities that attend this view. For it is clear that on this view a man will not be a builder unless he is building (for to be a builder is to be able to build), and so with the other arts.




Life of Antisthenes of Athens (445365 BCE) (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 6)

Antisthenes was an Athenian, the son of Antisthenes. He was said not to be a legitimate Athenian, and when someone criticized him regarding this, he said "The mother of the Gods too is a Phrygian," for he was thought to have had a Thracian mother. Regarding this, when he had carried himself bravely in the battle of Tanagra, this prompted Socrates to say that the son of two Athenians could not have been so brave. Criticizing the Athenians for giving themselves the appearance of greatness for having been born out of the earth itself, Antisthenes that they were not more noble in that regard than snails and locusts.

            Originally he was a pupil of Gorgias the rhetorician, and consequently uses the rhetorical style of language in his Dialogues, especially in his Truth and in his Exhortations. . . . Later, he followed Socrates, and made so much progress in philosophy while with him, that he advised all his own pupils to become his fellow pupils in the school of Socrates. As he lived in the Piraeus [the port town outside Athens], he walked five miles to the city every day, to hear Socrates, from whom he learned the art of enduring, and of being indifferent to external circumstances, and so became the original founder of the Cynic school.

            He argued that labor was a good thing, by giving the examples of the great Hercules, and of Cyrus, one of which he derived from the Greeks and the other from the barbarians.

            He was also the first person who ever gave a definition of discourse, saying, "Discourse is that which shows what anything is or was." He regularly said, "I would rather go mad than feel pleasure" and "One ought to attach one's self to such women as will thank one for it." He said once to a youth from Pontus who was on the point of coming to him to be his pupil, and was asking him what things he wanted, "You want a new book, and a new pen, and a new tablet," meaning a new mind. To a person who asked him from what country he should marry a wife, he said, "If you marry an attractive woman, she will be common; if an ugly woman, she will be a punishment to you." He was told once that Plato spoke poorly of him, and he replied, "It is a great privilege to do well, and to be ill spoken of." When he was being initiated into the mysteries of Orpheus, and the priest said that those who were initiated enjoyed many good things in the shades below, "Why, then," said he "do you not die?" Once when criticized for not being the son of two free citizens, he said, " I am not the son of two people skilled in wrestling, nevertheless, I am a skillful wrestler."

            On one occasion he was asked why he had only a few students, and he said, "Because I drove them away with a silver rod." When he was asked why he criticized his pupils with bitter language, he said, "Physicians too use severe remedies for their patients." . . . On one occasion he was being praised by some wicked men and said, "I am sadly afraid that I must have done some wicked thing." One of his favorite sayings was, "That the fellowship of brothers of one mind was stronger than any fortified city." He used to say, "That those things were the best for a man to take on a journey, which would float with him if he were shipwrecked." He was once criticized for being close with wicked men, and said, "Physicians also live with those who are sick; and yet they do not catch fevers." He used to say, "that it was an absurd thing to clean a cornfield of tares, and in war to get rid of bad soldiers, and yet not to rid one's self in a city of the wicked citizens." When he was asked what advantage he had ever derived from philosophy, he replied, "The advantage of being able to converse with myself." . . .

            He used to laugh at Plato as conceited. Accordingly, once when there was an elaborate procession, seeing a horse neighing he said to Plato, "I think you too would be a very frisky horse." He said this all the more, because Plato kept continually praising the horse. At another time, he had gone to see Plato when he was ill, and when he saw there a dish in which Plato had been sick, he said, "I see your bile there but I do not see your conceit." He recommended that the Athenians should pass a vote to make donkeys become horses. When they said that this was irrational, he replied, “Those whom you make generals have never learned to be real generals, but have only been voted such."

            A man said to him one day, "Many people praise you." He replied, "Why, what evil have I done?" When he turned the rip in his cloak outside, Socrates seeing it, said to him, "I see your vanity through the hole in your cloak." . . . It appears that Antisthenes was the cause of Anytus's banishment and of Meletus's death. For having met with some young men of Pontus, who had come to Athens because of the reputation of Socrates, he took them to Anytus, telling them that in moral philosophy he was wiser than Socrates. Those who stood by were indignant at this, and drove Anytus away. Whenever he saw a woman beautifully adorned, he would go to her house, and ask her husband to bring his horse and weapons. If he had such things, he would permit him to indulge in luxury, since he had the means of defending himself. But if he did not, then he would tell him to remove his wife’s ornaments.

            The doctrines he adopted were these. He insisted that virtue was a thing that might be taught. He said that the nobly born and virtuously disposed were the same people, since virtue was of itself sufficient for happiness. The virtuous were in need of nothing, except the strength of Socrates. He also looked upon virtue as a type of work, not needing many arguments, or much instruction. He taught that the wise man was sufficient for himself insofar as everything that belonged to anyone else belonged to him. He considered obscurity of fame a good thing, and equally good with labor. He said that the wise man should regulate his conduct as a citizen, not according to the established laws of the state, but according to the law of virtue. He said that he would marry for the sake of having children, selecting the most beautiful woman for his wife, and that he would love her, for only the wise man knew what things deserved love. . . .

            He used to lecture in the Gymnasium, called Cynosarges, not far from the gates; and some people say that it is from that place that the sect got the name of Cynics. He himself was called Haplocyon [downright dog].

            [Concerning his followers in Cycnicism,] he was the original cause of the apathy of Diogenes, the temperance of Crates, and the patience of Zeno. Thus, he, so to speak, laid the foundations of the city which they afterwards built. Xenophon says that in his conversation and society, he was the most delightful of men, and in every respect the most temperate.

            There are ten volumes of his writings extant. . . . Timon, criticizing him because of their great number, called him a universal chatterer. He died of some disease, and while he was ill Diogenes came to visit him and said "Have you no need of a friend?" Once too Diogenes came to see him with a sword in his hand. When Antisthenes said, "Who can relieve me from this suffering?" Diogenes, pointing to the sword, said, "This can;" But Antisthenes rejoined, "I said from suffering, but not from life." For Antisthenes seemed to tolerate his disease the more calmly because of his love of life.




Life of Diogenes of Sinope (412-323 BCE) (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 6)

Diogenes was a native of Sinope, the son of Tresius, a money-changer. Diocles says that he was forced to flee from his native city, as his father kept the public bank there, and had adulterated the coinage. But Eubulides, in his essay on Diogenes, says that it was Diogenes himself who did this, and that he was banished with his father. Indeed, he himself, in his Perdalus, says of himself that he had adulterated the public money. Others say that he was one of the curators, and was persuaded by the artisans employed, and that he went to Delphi, or else to the oracle at Delos, and there consulted Apollo as to whether he should do what people were trying to persuade him to do. As the god gave him permission to do so, Diogenes, not understanding that the God meant that he might change the political customs of his country if he could, adulterated the coinage. Being detected, he was banished, as some people say, but as other accounts have it, took the alarm and fled away of his own accord. Some again, say that he adulterated the money which he had received from his father, and that his father was thrown into prison and died there; but that Diogenes escaped and went to Delphi, and asked, not whether he might tamper with the coinage, but what he could do to become very celebrated, and that in consequence he received the oracular answer which I have mentioned.

            When he came to Athens he became a student of Antisthenes. But when Antisthenes rejected him, because he accepted no one, Diogenes finally forced his way to him by his persistence. Once, when Antisthenes raised his stick at him, he put his head under it, and said, "Strike, for you will not find any stick hard enough to drive me away as long as you continue to speak." From this time onward Diogenes was one of his pupils. Being an exile, he naturally adopted a simple way of life.

            [Alternate version by Aelianus: “Antisthenes invited many to learn philosophy from him, but none came. Finally, growing angry, he would admit none at all, and therefore attempted to also have Diogenes leave. Diogenes continuing to come frequently, Antisthenes criticized and threatened him, and finally struck him with his staff. Diogenes would not go back, but persisting still in desire to hear him, said, ‘Strike if you will, here is my head, you cannot find a staff hard enough to drive me from you until you have instructed me.’ Antisthenes overcome with his perseverance, admitted him, and made him his close friend.” (Various History, 26)]

            As Theophrastus tells us, in his Megaric Philosopher, Diogenes saw a mouse running around and not seeking for a bed, nor taking care to keep in the dark, nor looking for any of those things which appear enjoyable to such an animal. Diogenes thus found a remedy for his own poverty. He was, according to the account of some people, the first person who doubled up his cloak out of necessity, and who slept in it. He carried a handbag, in which he kept his food. He used whatever place was near for all sorts of purposes, eating, and sleeping, and conversing in it. In reference to these habits he used to say, pointing to the Colonnade of Jupiter, and to the Public Magazine, that the Athenians had built him places to live in. Being afflicted with illness, he supported himself with a staff, and after that he carried it continually, not indeed in the city, but whenever he was walking in the roads, together with his handbag, as Olympiodorus, the chief man of the Athenians tells us; and Polymeter, the orator, and Lysanias, the son of Aeschorion, tell the same story.

            He had written to someone to find and prepare a small house for him, but when this was delayed he took as his house a barrel which he found in the Temple of Cybele, as he himself tells us in his letters.


Anecdotes and Sayings of Diogenes (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 6)

During the summer he would roll in the warm sand, but in winter would embrace statues covered with snow, practicing on every occasion to endure anything. He was violent in expressing his contempt for others. He said that the school of Euclides was nauseating. He called Plato's discussions a waste of time. It was also a saying of his that the Dionysian games were a great spectacle to fools, and that the demagogues were servants. He similarly said that " when in the course of his life he saw helmsmen, physicians, and philosophers, he thought man the wisest of all animals. But when again he saw interpreters of dreams, soothsayers, those who listened to them, and men inflated with glory or riches, then he thought that there was not a more foolish animal than man. Another of his sayings was, that he thought a man should more frequently provide himself with a reason than with a halter.

            On one occasion, when he noticed Plato at an expensive banquet only eating olives, he said, "You wise man, why, after having sailed to Sicily for the sake of such a feast, do you not now enjoy what you have before you?" Plato replied, "By the Gods, Diogenes, while I was there I only ate olives and similar things." Diogenes replied, "Why then did you even want to sail Syracuse? Did not Attica at that time produce any olives?" But Favorinus, in his Universal History, tells this story of Aristippus. At another time Diogenes was eating dried figs, when Plato met him, and Diogenes said to him, "You may have some of these;" and as Plato took some and ate them, Diogenes said, "I said that you could have some of them, not that you could eat them all." On one occasion Plato had invited some friends who had come to him from Dionysius to a banquet. Diogenes trampled on his carpets, and said, "Thus I trample on the empty pride of Plato." Plato answered, "How much arrogance are you displaying, Diogenes, when you think that you are not arrogant at all." But, as others tell the story, Diogenes said, "Thus I trample on the pride of Plato;" and that Plato replied, "With quite as much pride yourself, Diogenes." Sotion too, in his fourth book, states, that the Cynic made the following speech to Plato: Diogenes once asked him for some wine, and then for some dried figs; so he sent him an entire jar full; and Diogenes said to him, "Will you, if you are asked how many two and two make, answer twenty? In this way, you neither give with any reference to what you are asked for, nor do you answer with reference to the question put to you." He also ridiculed Plato as an interminable talker.

            When he was asked where in Greece he saw virtuous men; "Men," said he, "nowhere; but I see good boys in Sparta." On one occasion, when no one came to listen to him while he was discoursing seriously, he began to whistle. When people then flocked around him, he criticized them for coming with eagerness to folly, but being lazy and indifferent about good things. . . .

            On one occasion Diogenes saw a child drinking out of his hands, and so Diogenes threw away the cup that he kept in his handbag, saying, “That child has beaten me in simplicity.” He also threw away his spoon, after seeing a boy, when he had broken his vessel, take up his lentils with a crust of bread. Diogenes argued that “Everything belongs to the gods; and wise men are the friends of the gods. All things are in common among friends; therefore everything belongs to wise men.”. . . .

            Once, while he was sitting in the sun in the Craneum gynmasium, Alexander was standing by, and said to him, "Ask any favor you choose of me." He replied, "Stop shading me from the sun." On one occasion a man was reading some long passages, and when he came to the end of the book and showed that there was nothing more written, "Cheer up, my friends," exclaimed Diogenes, "Land is in sight." A man once proved to him syllogistically that he had horns, so he put his hand to his forehead and said, "I do not see them." In a similar manner he replied to one who had been asserting that there was no such thing as motion, by getting up and walking away. When a man was talking about the heavenly bodies and meteors, Diogenes asked said, "Tell me how many days it has been since you came down from heaven?" . . .

            When Plato called him a dog, he said, "Undoubtedly, for I continually come back to those who sold me." Plato defined man as a “two-footed, featherless animal" and was greatly praised for the definition. So Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into his school, and said, "This is Plato's man." Because of this, an addition was made to the definition: "with broad flat nails."

            A man once asked him what was the proper time for supper, and he answered, "If you are a rich man, whenever you please; and if you are a poor man, whenever you can." When he was at Megara he saw some sheep carefully covered over with skins, and the children running around naked. So he said, "It is better at Megara to be a man's ram than his son." A man once accidentally struck him with a board, and then said, "watch out." Diogenes responded, "Why, are you going to hit me again?" He used to say that the demagogues were the servants of the people, and garlands given them the blossoms of glory. Having lighted a lamp in the day time, he said, "I am looking for a man." On one occasion he stood under a fountain, and as the bystanders were pitying him, Plato, who was present, said to them, "If you wish really to show your pity for him, just walk away" implying that he was only acting this way out of a desire for notoriety.

            Once when a man had struck him with his fist, he said, "O Hercules, what a strange thing that I left home without putting on a helmet!” . . . He was greatly beloved by the Athenians; accordingly, when a youth had broken his barrel, they beat youth and gave Diogenes another one. . . . Once at a banquet, some of the guests threw him bones, as if he had been a dog; so he, as he went away, put up his leg against them as if he had been a dog in reality. . . . A man once reproached him with his banishment, and his answer was, "You fool, that is what made me a philosopher." On another occasion, someone said to him, "The people of Sinope condemned you to banishment," he replied, " I condemned them to remain where they were." . . . When asked what wine he liked to drink, he said, "That which belongs to someone else." A man said to him one day, "Many people laugh at you." He replied But I am not laughed down." When a man said to him, that it was a bad thing to live; "Not to live," said he, "but to live badly." . . .

            When Plato was discoursing about his “Forms,” and using the nouns tableness “ and “cupness.” Diogenes interrupted, “Plato, I see a table and a cup, but I see no tableness or cupness.” Plato answered, “That is natural enough, since you have eyes by which a cup and a table are contemplated; but you do not have intellect by which tableness and cupness are seen.” Once someone asked Plato "What sort of a man do you think Diogenes to be?” and he said “a Socrates gone mad.”

            Once Alexander the Great came and stood by him, and said, "I am Alexander, the great king." He replied " I am Diogenes the dog." When he was asked which actions of his caused him to be called a dog, he said, "I fawn upon those who give me anything, I bark at those who give me nothing, and I bite the rogues." . . .

            He was in the habit of doing everything in public, whether in respect of Aphrodite [the goddess of love] or Demeter [the goddess of fertility]. He used to put his conclusions in this way to people: "If there is nothing absurd in dining, then it is not absurd to dine in the market-place. But it is not absurd to dine, therefore it is not absurd to dine in the market-place." As he was continually doing manual work in public, he said one day, "I wish that by rubbing my stomach I could get rid of hunger." Other sayings also are attributed to him, which it would take a long time to enumerate, there is such a multiplicity of them. . . .


Diogenes’ Teaching (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 6)

Diogenes said that there were two kinds of exercise: that, namely, of the mind and that of the body; and that the latter of these created in the mind such quick and agile phantasies at the time of its performance, as very much facilitated the practice of virtue; but that one was imperfect without the other, since the health and vigor necessary for the practice of what is good, depend equally on both mind and body. He used to allege as proofs of this, and of the ease which practice imparts to acts of virtue, that people could see that in the case of mere common working trades, and other employments of that kind, the artisans arrived at no inconsiderable accuracy by constant practice; and that any one may see how much one flute player, or one wrestler, is superior to another, by his own continued practice. If these men transferred the same training to their minds they would not labor in a profitless or imperfect manner. He also said that there was nothing whatever in life which could be brought to perfection without practice, and that that alone was able to overcome every obstacle. Therefore, as we ought to repudiate all useless toils, and to apply ourselves to useful labors and to live happily, we are only unhappy in consequence of most exceeding folly. For the very contempt of pleasure, if we only harden ourselves to it, is very pleasant. So, just as they who are accustomed to live luxuriously are brought very unwillingly to adopt the contrary system, so too they who have been originally hardened to pleasure feel a sort of pleasure in the contempt of pleasure.

            This was the language which he held and displayed in practice, really altering men's habits, and deferring in all things rather to the principles of nature than to those of [civil] law. He said that he was adopting the same fashion of life as Hercules had, preferring nothing in the world to liberty. He said that everything belonged to the wise, and advanced arguments such as I mentioned just above. For instance: everything belongs to the Gods; and the Gods are friends to the wise; and all the property of friends is held in common; therefore everything belong to the wise. He also argued about the law, that without it there is no possibility of a constitution being maintained. For, without a city there can be nothing orderly, but a city is an orderly thing; and without a city there can be no law; therefore law is order. He played in the same manner with the topics of noble birth, reputation, and all things of that kind, saying that they were all essentially veils for wickedness and that that was the only proper constitution which consisted in order. Another of his doctrines was that all women ought to be possessed in common. He said that marriage was a nullity, and that the proper way would be for every man to live with her whom he could persuade to agree with him. On the same principle he said, that all people's sons ought to belong to everyone in common; and there was nothing intolerable in the idea of taking anything out of a temple, or eating any animal whatever, and that there was no impiety in tasting even human flesh; as is plain from the habits of foreign nations; and he said that this principle might be correctly extended to every case and every people. For he said that in reality everything was a combination of all things. For that in bread there was meat, and in vegetables there was bread, and so there were some particles of all other bodies in everything, communicating by invisible passages and evaporating. Music and geometry, and astronomy, and all things of that kind, he neglected, as useless and unnecessary. But he was a man very happy in meeting arguments, as is plain from what we have already said.


Diogenes’ Enslavement (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 6)

Hermippus, in his Sale of Diogenes, says that he was taken prisoner and put up to be sold. When asked what his skill was, he answered, "I govern men," so he instructed the auctioneer to announce “if anyone wants to purchase a master, there is one here for him." When he was ordered not to sit down, he said, "It makes no difference, for fish are sold, be where they may." . . . When Xeniades bought him, he said to him that he would obey Diogenes even though he was his slave, for physicians and helmsmen take instructions from people even though they might be slaves. . . .

            Diogenes withstood being sold into slavery with a most generous spirit. For, he was sailing to Aegina and was taken prisoner by some pirates, under the command of Scirpalus. He was then carried off to Crete and sold. When the auctioneer asked him what skill he had, he said, "I govern men" and immediately pointing out a Corinthian who was very properly dressed (the same Xeniades whom we have mentioned before), he said, "Sell me to that man, for he wants a master." Accordingly, Xeniades bought him and carried him away to Corinth. He made Diogenes tutor of his sons, and committed to him the entire management of his house. Diogenes behaved in every affair in such a manner, that Xeniades, when looking over his property, said, "A great genius has come into my house." Cleomenes, in his book which is called the Schoolmaster, says that Diogenes’ friends wished to ransom him, but that Diogenes told him that they were all fools. For, he said, “Lions did not become the slaves of those who kept them, but, on the contrary, those who maintained lions were at the mercy of the lions. Fear is the mark of the slave but wild beasts make men afraid of them.”


Diogenes’ Death (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 6)

It is said that he died when he was nearly ninety years of age, but there are different accounts given of his death. Some say that he ate an ox's foot raw, and was in consequence seized with a bilious attack, from which he died. Others, of whom Cercidas, a Megalopolitan or Cretan, is one, say that he died of holding his breath for several days . . . Others say that he, while intending to distribute a polypus to his dogs, was bitten by them through the tendon of his foot, and so died. . . . On this there was a quarrel, as they say, between his friends, as to who should bury him and they even came to blows; but when the elders and chief men of the city came there, they say that he was buried by them at the gate which leads to the Isthmus, and they placed over him a pillar, and on that a dog in Parian marble. And at a later period his fellow citizens honored him with brazen statues. . . . Some, however, say that when he was dying, he ordered his friends to throw his corpse away without burying it, so that every animal might tear it, or else to throw it into a ditch, and sprinkle a little dust over it.


In Defense of Diogenes’ Asceticism (Dio Chrysostom, Diogenes)

When Diogenes of Sinope fled from his native country into Greece, he lived sometimes lived at Corinth, and other times at Athens. As he said jokingly, he did this in imitation of the Persian king [Cyrus], who during winter resided in the most temperate latitudes of Asia at Babylon, Susa, or among the Bactrians., while spending his summer at Ecbatana in Media, where the atmosphere is always cool . . . . It was his practice to convict the mistaken views of those people who regarded with admiration the riches and reputed happiness of the Persian emperor. He did this by showing that part of the emperor’s enjoyments were frivolous, and part within the reach of the poorest man alive. With respect to himself, he was by no means negligent of his bodily comforts and condition, as some ignorant people supposed, believing that because he was exposed to the open air, cold, and thirst, that he had no concern about his health and life. However, with all these hardships he enjoyed better health and lived more comfortably, than those, who were constantly cramming themselves with food, continually stayed indoors, and could not endure the smallest exposure to cold and heat. . . . Diogenes regularly endured hunger and thirst to precede his meal, and considered them to be the most suitable and strong sauce. Hence he feasted with greater pleasure on simple flour than others on the costliest bread. He found a sweeter taste in running water than others in the luscious wines from Thasos. He thus laughed at those who passed by a spring when they were thirsty, inquiring where they could buy some wine from Lesbos or Chios at any price. He said that such men were more senseless than animals who never passed by a fountain or pure rivulet when they were thirsty, nor, when hungry, abstained from the most tender leaves and herbs suitable for satisfying their appetite. As for his dwelling, he found the most elegant and wholesome houses in every city available to him, namely, the temples and the schools for gymnastic exercises. One garment was sufficient for him both in summer and in winter, as he had adapted himself to endure all the changes of the weather. He never covered his feet as he did not believe that they were any more delicate than one’s eyes and face. For, though the most tender by nature, these parts endure the cold without any difficulty because they are constantly exposed, since it is impossible for people to walk around with bandages about their eyes as they do with their feet.


In Defense of the Cynic’s Shabby Appearance (Lucian, The Cynic)

Lycinus: Give an account of yourself, my man. You wear a beard and let your hair grow, you do not wear shirts, you show your skin, and your feet are bare. You choose a wandering, outcast, animalistic life. Unlike other people, you make your own body the object of your severities. You go from place to place sleeping on the hard ground where chance finds you, with the result that your old cloak, which was neither light, soft nor colorful to begin with, is covered with filth. What is this all about?

            Cynic: My cloak meets my needs. It was easy to acquire, and it gives me no trouble. It is the perfect cloak for me. Tell me, do you not call extravagance a vice?

            Lycinus: Yes, definitely.

Cynic: Is economy a virtue?

            Lycinus: Yes, again.

            Cynic: Then, if you find me living economically, and others extravagantly, why blame me instead of them?

            Lycinus: I do not call your life more economical than that of other people. Rather, I call it more destitute: destitution and want, that is what it is. You are no better than the poor who beg for their daily bread. . . .

            Cynic: The old cloak, the shaggy hair, the whole get-up that you ridicule, has this effect. It enables me to live a quiet life, doing as I will and keeping the company I want. No ignorant uneducated person will have anything to say to one dressed like me. Those with delicate lives turn the other way as soon as I am in sight. However, the refined, the reasonable, the earnest, seek me out. They are the people who seek me, because they are the men I wish to see. I do not rush to enter the doors of those whom the world counts happy. Their gold crowns and their purple I call ostentation, and I laugh at them with scorn.

            These externals that you pour contempt upon, you may learn that they are appropriate enough not merely for good men, but for gods. If you will look at statues of the gods, do they resemble you or me? Do not restrict your attention to Greece, but take a tour around the foreign temples too, and see whether the Gods treat their hair and beards like me, or let the painters and sculptors shave them. Most of them, you will find, have no more shirt than I have, either. I hope you will not again attempt to describe as shabby an appearance that is accepted as godlike.


In Defense of Diogenes’ Unconventional Behavior and Acts of Public Indecency (Emperor Julian, Oration 6)

[The Cynics] held the maxim “Know Thyself” to be the first principle of their philosophy. You may believe this, if you will, not only from the works that they composed on this very subject, but even more from what they made the end and aim of their philosophic teaching. For this end of theirs was life in harmony with nature, and this it is impossible for any man to attain who does not know who and of what nature he is. For a man who does not know himself will certainly not know what it is appropriate for him to do. This is just as he who does not know the nature of iron will not know whether it is suitable to cut with or not, and how iron must be treated so that it may be put to its proper use. . . .

            [Concerning Diogenes eating raw meat], tell me why if we eat cooked meats we do not also eat them in their natural state? You can give me no other answer than that this has become a custom and a habit with us. For surely we cannot say that before meat is cooked it is disgusting and that by being cooked it becomes purer than it was by nature. What then was it right for him to do who had been appointed by God like a general in command to do away with the common currency and to judge all questions by the criterion of reason and truth? Ought he to have shut his eyes and been so far restrained by this general opinion as to believe that flesh by being cooked becomes pure and fit for food, but that when it has not been acted upon by fire it is somehow abominable and loathsome? . . .

            Now the end and aim of the Cynic philosophy, as indeed of every philosophy, is happiness, but happiness that consists in living according to nature and not according to the opinions of the multitude. For plants too are considered to do well, and indeed all animals also, when without hindrance each attains the end designed for it by nature. Nay, even among the gods this is the definition of happiness, that their state should be according to their nature, and that they should be independent. So too in the case of human beings we must not be busy about happiness as if it were hidden away outside ourselves. . . .

            Diogenes may have sometimes visited [i.e., publicly had intercourse with] a courtesan, although this might have happened only once, and maybe not even once. But let any aspiring Cynic first satisfy us that he is, like Diogenes, a man of solid worth, and then if he sees fit to do that sort of thing openly and in the sight of all men, we will not criticize him with it or accuse him. First, however we must see him display the ability to learn and the quick intellect of Diogenes, and in all other areas he must show the same independence, self-sufficiency, justice, moderation, piety, gratitude, and the same extreme carefulness not to act at random or without a purpose or irrationally. For these too are characteristic of the philosophy of Diogenes. Then let him trample on vanity, let him ridicule those who conceal in darkness the necessary functions of our nature, such as the secretion of what is superfluous [i.e., semen]. All the while in the center of the marketplace and of our cities [such people] carry on practices that are most brutal and by no means related to our nature. For instance, there is robbery of money, false accusations, unjust indictments, and the pursuit of other rascally business of the same sort. On the other hand, when Diogenes made unseemly noises or obeyed the call of nature or did anything else of that sort in the marketplace, as they say he did, he did so because he was trying to trample on the conceit of the men I have just mentioned, and to teach them that their practices were far more despicable and insupportable than his own. For what he did was in accordance with the nature of all of us, but theirs accorded with no man's real nature, one may say, but were all due to moral depravity.


In Criticism of Diogenes’ Acts of Public Indecency (Augustine, City of God, 14.20)

[The privacy of marital copulation is something that] those canine or cynic philosophers have overlooked. They have, in violation of the modest instincts of men, boastfully proclaimed their unclean and shameless opinion, worthy indeed of dogs. That is, they hold that, since the matrimonial act is legitimate, no one should be ashamed to perform it openly, in the street or in any public place. But Instinctive shame has overpowered this wild fancy. It is related that Diogenes once dared to put his opinion in practice, under the impression that his sect would be all the more famous if his egregious shamelessness were deeply graven in the memory of mankind. Yet this example was not afterwards followed. Shame had more influence with them, to make them blush before men, than error to make them affect a resemblance to dogs. Possibly, even in the case of Diogenes, and those who imitated him, there was only an appearance and pretense of copulation, and not the reality. Even at this day there are still cynic philosophers to be seen. For these are cynics who are not content with wearing the pallium [i.e., a cloak worn by Greek philosophy teachers], also carry a club. Yet no one of them dares to do this that we speak of. If they did, they would be spat upon, not to say stoned, by the mob.




Life of Aristippus of Cyrene (435–356) (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 2)

Aristippus was by birth a Cyrenean, but he came to Athens, as Aeschines says, having been attracted to it by the fame of Socrates.

            He professed himself a Sophist, (as Phanias of Eresus the Peripatetic informs us), and was the first of the followers of Socrates who obtained money from his students, and who sent money to Socrates his master. Once Aristippus sent twenty drachmas, but Socrates had it sent back again saying that his daemon would not allow him to accept them. In fact, Socrates was indignant at having it offered to him. Xenophon hated Aristippus, on which account he wrote his book against pleasure as an attack upon Aristippus, and assigned the main argument to Socrates. Theodorus also, in his Treatise on Sects, has attacked him harshly, and so has Plato in his book On the Soul, as we have mentioned in another place.

            But he was a man very quick at adapting himself to every kind of place, time, and person, and he easily supported every change of fortune. For which reason he was in greater favor with Dionysius [the tyrant of Syracuse] than any of the others, as he always made the best of existing circumstances. For he enjoyed what was before him pleasantly, and he did not labor to obtain himself the enjoyment of what was not present. For this reason, Diogenes called him the king's dog. Timon sneered at him for being too luxurious, speaking somewhat in this fashion: “Like the effeminate mind of Aristippus, who, as he said, by touch could judge of falsehood.” . . . There are three books extant written by this Cyrenaic philosopher. . . He defined the chief good as a gentle motion tending to sensation.


Teachings of Aristippus and the Cyrenaics (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 2)

The men then who continued in the school of Aristippus, and were called Cyrenaics, adopted the following opinions. They said that there were two emotions of the mind, pleasure and pain. The one, namely pleasure, was a moderate emotion, while the other, namely pain, was a rough one. They argued that no one pleasure was different from or more pleasant than another, and that pleasure was desired by all animals while pain avoided. As Paraetius also tells us in his book on Sects, they also said that bodily pleasure constituted the chief good, but the chief good was not merely a state of pleasure that consists of the absence of all pain, as a sort of undisturbedness (which is what Epicurus maintains). Rather, the Cyrenaics think that there is a distinction between the chief good and a life of happiness. The chief good, they say, is a particular pleasure, whereas happiness is a state consisting of a number of particular pleasures, which include past and future ones.

            They held that particular pleasure is desirable for its own sake, whereas happiness is desirable not for its own sake but for the sake of the particular pleasure. The proof that pleasure is the chief good is that we are from our childhood attracted to it without any deliberate choice of our own, and, when we have obtained it, we do not seek anything further. Also, there is nothing that we avoid so much as we do its opposite, namely, pain. They hold that pleasure is a good, even if it arises from the most ridiculous causes, as Hippobotus tells us in his Treatise on Sects. For even if an action is very absurd, still the pleasure which arises out of it is desirable and is a good.

            Moreover, the mere removal of pain (as it is described by Epicurus), is not itself pleasure according to the Cyrenaics. The absence of pleasure is not pain since both pleasure and pain consist in motion, and neither the absence of pleasure nor the absence of pain are motions. In fact, absence of pain is a condition like that of a person asleep. They also say that it is possible that some people may not desire pleasure because of some mental defect. Further, all the pleasures and pains of the mind, do not all originate from pleasures and pains of the body, for pleasure often arises from the mere fact of the prosperity of one's country, as though it were our own prosperity. But they deny that pleasure is caused by either the recollection or the anticipation of good fortune (though Epicurus asserted that it was), for the [pleasurable] motion of the mind is eventually put to an end by time. They also say that pleasure is not caused by simple seeing or hearing. For, we listen with pleasure to those who give a dramatic representation of lamentations, yet we are pained when we see men lamenting in reality. They called the absence of pleasure and of pain intermediate states. They held that bodily pleasures were superior to mental ones, and bodily sufferings worse than mental ones, since it was on this principle that offenders were punished with bodily pain. They thought that to suffer pain was hard, but that to be pleased was more agreeable with our nature. For this reason they took more care of the body than of the mind.

            Although pleasure is desirable for its own sake, they nevertheless admit that some causes of it are often troublesome, and as such are opposite to pleasure. Thus, they think that an accumulation of all the pleasures that produce happiness, is the most difficult thing conceivable. They admit that every wise man does not live pleasantly, and that every bad man does not live unpleasantly, but that it is only a general rule admitting of some exceptions. Thus, they think it is sufficient if a person enjoys each pleasure one at a time as it happens to him. They say that good judgment is a good, but is not desirable for its own sake, but for the sake of those [pleasurable] things which result from it. Similarly, a friend is desirable for the sake of the use which we can make of him, just as we value parts of our bodies as long as we have them. They say that some of the virtues may exist even in the foolish, and they consider that bodily exercise contributes to the attainment of virtue. The wise man, they say, will feel neither envy, nor love, nor superstition, for that these things originate in a fallacious opinion. At the same time, though, they admit that the wise man is liable to grief and fear since these are natural emotions. They say that wealth produces pleasure, but that it is not desirable for its own sake. They held that sensations in themselves can be known, but that we cannot know the causes that produce sensations. They ignored all investigation of the subjects of natural philosophy, because of the evident impossibility of understanding them. However, they applied themselves to the study of logic, because of its usefulness.


Perception is about the Effect on the Senses, not the External Object Itself

The philosophers of the Cyrenaic School are far from contemptible. They affirm that there is nothing which can be perceived externally. They perceive only those things that they feel by their inmost touch, such as pain, or pleasure. They do not know what color anything is of, or what sound it utters; but only feel that they themselves are affected in a certain manner. [Cicero, Academics]

            The Cyreanics hold that things become sweet or bitter, light or dark, when each thing has in itself the natural unobstructed operation of one of these impressions. But if honey is said to be sweet, an olive-branch bitter, hail cold, wine hot, and the nocturnal air dark, there are many animals, things, and men that testify the contrary. For some have an aversion for honey, others feed on the branches of the olive-tree. Some are scorched by hail, others cooled with wine; and there are some whose sight is dim in the sun but who see well by night. For this reason, opinion remains safe and free from error when it restricts itself to these sensations. But when it goes further and attempts to make judgments and assertions about external things, it often deceives itself, and opposes others, who from the same objects receive contrary sensations and different imporessions. . . . The Cyrenaics must say that they are imprinted with the figure of a horse or of a wall, but refuse to speak of the horse or the wall. . . . The Cyrenaics do not say that the thing without is hot, but that the effect made on the sense is such. [Plutarch, Against Colotes]


Being a Ruler is Counterproductive to Personal Enjoyment (Xenophon, Memorabilia)

Aristippus replied, I do not dream for a moment of placing myself in the class of those who wish to rule. In fact, considering how serious a business it is to provide for one's own private needs, I look upon it as the mark of a fool not to be content with that, but to further burden oneself with the duty of providing the rest of the community with whatever they may be pleased to want. It seems to me to be the height of foolishness when, at the cost of much personal enjoyment, a man would put himself at the head of a state, and then, if he fails to carry through every tiny component of that state's desire, be held to criminal account. Good heavens! States claim to treat their rulers precisely as I treat my domestic slaves. I expect my attendants to furnish me with an abundance of necessities, but not to touch one of those items themselves. Similarly, these states regard it as the duty of a ruler to provide them with every good thing imaginable, yet at the same time to keep his own hands off them. So, for my part, if anybody desires to have an abundance of turmoil himself, plus be a nuisance to the rest of the world, I will educate him in the manner suggested, and he will take his place among those who are fit to rule. But for myself, I prefer to join with those who wish to spend their days as easily and pleasantly as possible.




Life of Speusippus of Athens (408-339 BCE) (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 4)

Plato was succeeded by Speusippus, the son of Eurymedon, and a citizen of Athens, of the Myrrhinusian burgh. He was the son of Plato's sister Potone, and he presided over Plato’s school for eight years, beginning to do so in the hundred and eighth olympiad. He set up images of the Graces in the temple of the Muses, which had been built in Plato’s Academy. He always held to the doctrines which had been adopted by Plato, though he was not of the same disposition as he. For he was a passionate man, and a slave to pleasure. Accordingly, they say that he once in a rage threw a puppy into a well, and that for the sake of amusement, he went all the way to Macedonia to the marriage of Cassander. The female pupils of Plato, Lasthenea of Mantinea, and Axiothea of Phlius, are said to have become disciples of Speusippus also. Dionysius, writing to him in an irritable manner, says "One may judge your philosophy by your female disciple from Arcadia; moreover, Plato used to take his pupils without charging any fee from them, but you collect payment from your students, whether they are willing or unwilling."

            He was the first man in his school who investigated what was common to the several sciences, and he attempted to show their connection with each other as far as possible (as Diodorus relates in the first book of his Commentaries). He was the first who published those things which Isocrates called secrets (as Caeneus tells us), and the first who found out how to make light baskets from bundles of twigs.

            He became afflicted with paralysis, and sent for Xenocrates to come to him and become his successor in his school. . . . He left behind him a great number of commentaries, and many dialogues.




Life of Xenocrates of Chalcedon (396-314 BCE) (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 4)

Xenocrates was the son of Agathenor, and a native of Chalcedon. From his early youth he was a pupil of Plato, and also accompanied him in his voyages to Sicily. He was by nature of a lazy disposition, so that they say that Plato said once, when comparing him to Aristotle, "The one requires the spur, and the other the bridle." And on another occasion, he said, "What a horse and what a donkey am I dressing opposite to one another!"

            In other respects, Xenocrates was always of a solemn and grave character, so that Plato was continually saying to him, "Xenocrates, sacrifice to the Graces." He spent most of his time in the Academy, and whenever he was about to go into the city, they say all the turbulent and quarrelsome rabble in the city used to make way for him to pass by. Once, Phryne the courtesan wished to try him and pretending that she was pursued by some people, she fled and took refuge in his house. He admitted her indeed, because of what was due to humanity. As there was only one bed in the room, he, at her request, allowed her to share it with him. But eventually, in spite of all her appeals, she got up and went away, without having been able to succeed in her purpose. She told those who asked her, that she had left a statue and not a man. But some say that the real story is, that his pupils put Lais into his bed, and that he was so continent, that he submitted to some severe operations of excision and cautery.

            He was a very trustworthy man, so that, though it was not lawful for men to give evidence except on oath, the Athenians made an exception in his favor alone. He was also a man of the most contented disposition. Accordingly, they say that when Alexander sent him a large sum of money, he took three thousand Attic drachmas, and sent back the rest, saying, that Alexander wanted most, as he had the greatest number of mouths to feed. When some was sent him by Antipater, he would not accept any of it, as Myornianus tells us in his Similitudes. Once, when he gained a golden crown, in a contest as to who could drink most, which was offered in the yearly festival of the Choes by Dionysius, he went out and placed the crown at the feet of the statue of Mercury, which was at the gate, where he was also accustomed to deposit his garlands of flowers. . . .

            On one occasion, when a sparrow was pursued by a hawk, and flew into him, he caressed it, and let it go again, saying that we ought not to betray any pleading. Being ridiculed by Bion, he said that he would not answer him, for that tragedy, when ridiculed by comedy, did not condescend to make a reply. To one who had never learned music, or geometry, or astronomy, but who wished to become his disciple, he said, "Go away, for you have not yet the handles of philosophy." But some say that he said, "Go away, for I do not card wool here." When Dionysius [tyrant of Syracuse] said to Plato that someone would cut off his head, Xenocrates, being present, showed his own, and said, "Not before they have cut off mine."

            They say too that once, when Antipater had come to Athens and saluted him, he would not make him any reply before he had finished quietly the discourse which he was delivering. Being exceedingly devoid of every kind of pride, he often used to meditate with himself several times a day; and always allotted one hour of each day, it is said, to silence.

            He left behind him a great number of writings, and books of recommendation, and verses. . . . Though he was such a great man, the Athenians once sold him, because he was unable to pay the tax to which the resident aliens in Athens were liable. Demetrius Phalereus purchased him, and so assisted both parties, Xenocrates by giving him his freedom, and the Athenians in respect of the tax upon resident aliens. This circumstance is mentioned by Myronianus of Amastra, in the first book of his chapters of Historical Coincidences. Xenocrates succeeded Speusippus, and presided over the school for twenty-five years, beginning at the archonship of Lysimachides, in the second year of the hundred and tenth olympiad. He died as a consequence of stumbling by night against a dish, being more than eighty-two years of age.




Life of Theophrastus of Eresos (371–287 BCE) (Diogenes Laertius, Lives, 5)

Theophrastus was a native of Eresus, the son of Melantas, a fuller (as we are told by Athenodorus in the eighth book of his Philosophical Conversations). He was originally a pupil of Leucippus, his fellow citizen, in his own country. Subsequently, after having attended the lectures of Plato, he went over to Aristotle. When Aristotle moved to Chalcis, Theophrastus succeeded him as head of his school. . . . He was also a very benevolent man, and very affable. Accordingly, Cassander took him as a friend; and Ptolemy sent to invite him to his court. He was thought so very highly of at Athens, that when Agonides attempted to impeach him on a charge of impiety, he was very nearly fined for his resoluteness. His school attracted a crowd of disciples to the number of two thousand. . . . He went away for a short time, both he and all the rest of the philosophers, in consequence of Sophocles, the son of Amphiclides, having brought forward and carried a law that no one of the philosophers should preside over a school unless the council and the people had passed a resolution to permit their doing so. If they did, death was to be the penalty. But they returned again the next year, when Philion had impeached Sophocles for illegal conduct. The Athenians revoked his law, fined Sophocles five talents, and voted that the philosophers should be permitted to return so that Theophrastus might return and preside over his school as before. . . . Aristotle is reported to have said, since Theophrastus was a man of extraordinary acuteness, who could understand and explain everything. [Aristotle also said that] Theophrastus required a bridle, and [his fellow student] Callisthenes a spur, since Callisthenes was rather slow in his natural character. It is said, too, that he had a garden of his own after the death of Aristotle, by the assistance of Demetrius Phalerius, who was an intimate friend of his. . . . He died when he was of a great age, having lived eighty-five years, when he had only rested from his labors a short time. . . . The Athenians accompanied him to the grave on foot, with the whole population of the city, as it is related, honoring the man greatly. He also left behind him a very great number of works, of which I have thought it proper to give a list on account of their being full of every sort of excellence. . . .


Two Theories of Perception: Similarity vs. Contrast (Theophrastus, On Sense Perception)

The various opinions concerning sense perception, when regarded broadly, fall into two groups. Some investigators ascribe it to similarity, while by others it is ascribed to contrast. Parmenides, Empedocles, and Plato attribute it to similarity; Anaxagoras and Heraclitus attribute it to contrast.

            The one party is persuaded by the thought that other things are, for the most part, best interpreted in view of what is like them. that it is a natural ability of all creatures to know their relations. Further, they say that sense perception takes place by means of an effluence, and like is conveyed towards like.

            The rival party assumes that perception results from an alteration. The like is unaffected by the like, whereas opposites are affected by each other. So they give their verdict for this [idea of opposition]. To their way of thinking, further evidence is given by what occurs in connection with touch. For, a degree of heat or cold arouses no sensation when it is the same as that of our flesh. Such then are the teachings handed down to us with regard to the general character of sense perception. . . .


The Superstitious Person (Theophrastus, Characters)

Superstition would seem to be simply cowardice in regard to the supernatural. The Superstitious man is one who will wash his hands at a fountain, sprinkle himself from a temple-font, put a bit of laurel-leaf into his mouth, and so go about the day. If a weasel runs across his path, he will not continue his walk until someone else has crossed the road, or until he has thrown three stones across it. When he sees a serpent in his house, if it is the red snake, he will invoke Sabazius. If the sacred snake, he will immediately place a shrine on the spot. He will pour oil from his flask on the smooth stones at the cross-roads as he goes by, and will fall on his knees and worship them before he departs. If a mouse gnaws through a meal-bag, he will go to the instructor of sacred law and ask what should be done. If the answer is “give it to a cobbler to stitch up,” he will ignore the advice, and go his way, and atone the omen with a sacrifice. He is inclined, also, to frequently purify his house, alleging that Hecate has been brought into it by spells. If an owl is startled by him in his walk, he will shout “Glory be to Athene!” before he proceeds.

            He will not step on a tombstone, or come near a dead body, or a woman defiled by childbirth, saying that it is beneficial for him not to be polluted. Also on the fourth and seventh days of each month he will order his servants to put spices in wine, and go out and buy myrtle-wreaths, frankincense, and smilax. On coming in, will spend the day in crowning the Hermaphrodites. When he has seen a vision, he will go to the interpreters of dreams, the seers, the augurs, to ask them to what god or goddess he ought to pray. Every month he will repair to the priests of the Orphic Mysteries, to partake in their rites, accompanied by his wife, or (if she is too busy) by his children and their nurse. He would seem, too, to be of those who are scrupulous in sprinkling themselves with sea-water; and, if ever he observes anyone feasting on the garlic at the cross-roads, he will go away, pour water over his head, and, summoning the priestesses, bid them carry a squill or a puppy around him for purification. And, if he sees a maniac or an epileptic man, he will shudder and spit into his bosom.


The Filthy Person (Theophrastus, Characters)

This fellow neglects his person till he becomes a nuisance to all around him. Leprous, covered with ulcers, and having his fingernails uncut, he frequents society. He attempts to excuse the offensiveness of his disorders, by saying, that these infirmities are inherent, and that his father and grandfather before him were afflicted in the same way. He applies no remedies to the sores and wounds which cover his legs and fingers, but allows them to fester, until they become incurable. He is hairy as a bear, and his teeth are black and decayed, so that he is entirely an unapproachable and most disgusting personage. His manners are like his appearance. He wipes his nose with his sleeve, talks as he eats, lets fall his food from his mouth, and belches while he drinks. He uses rancid oil at the bath, and walks around wearing a cloak that is covered with spots of grease.


Questions for Review

1. According to Xenophon, what is so great about Cyrus?

2. What are some of the logical paradoxes that came from the Megarian school?

3. What are some of the doctrines that Antisthenes held?

4. What are some anecdotes about Diogenes that reflect his cynicism?

5. What are some of Diogenes teachings?

6. What does Dio Chrysostom say in defense of Diogenes’ asceticism?

7. What does Lucian say in defense of Diogenes’ appearance?

8. What does Julian say in defense of Diogenes’ public indecency?

9. What does Augustine say in criticism of Diogenes’ public indecency?

10. What are some of the teachings of Aristippus and the Cyrenaics?

11. What argument did Aristippus and the Cyrenaics give for why perception is about the effect on the senses, not the external object itself?

12. According to Theophrastus, what are the two general theories of perception?

13. According to Theophrastus, are some features of superstitious people?


Questions for Analysis

            1. In “Philosophers for Sale,” Lucian presents the following dialogue regarding Aristippus: “Hermes: He is uncommonly pleasant in society, a first-rate close companion, and can sing and dance with the flute girls. He is a perfect treasure, in short, to any master of jovial tastes and not too strict in his life. . . . Customer: Well, you had better go and look out for some other purchaser among these wealthy people here. I am not the person to invest in so pleasant a character. Hermes: I do believe, Zeus, that he will remain on our hands. He's completely unsellable.” What is Lucian’s implied critique of Aristippus, and how might Aristippus respond?

            2. In “Philosophers for Sale,” Lucian satirically describes Diogenes’ views as follows: “You must seek out the most frequented places, and when you are there, make a point of being solitary and unsociable; you must let neither friend nor stranger approach you, for that sort of thing is the rain of your dominion. Then you must boldly do in public what most people would be ashamed to do in private; your love affairs, again, must be of the most ridiculous character; and in the end you may die, if you like, by choking yourself with a raw octopus or a squid. This is the life of happiness to which I will introduce you.” How might Diogenes respond to this characterization?

            3. Concerning Diogenes’s acts of public indecency, Emperor Julian defends it while Augustine criticizes it. Discuss their reasoning and which is right.

            4. Arthur Schopenhauer makes the following assessment of cynicism and humility “Accordingly the fundamental thought of cynicism is that life in its simplest and nakedest form, with the hardships that belong to it by nature, is the most endurable, and is therefore to be chosen ; for every assistance, convenience, gratification, and pleasure by means of which men seek to make life more agreeable only brings with it new and greater ills than originally belonged to it. . . . . The fundamental difference between the spirit of cynicism and that of [religious] asceticism comes out very clearly in the humility which is essential to the ascetic, but is so foreign to the Cynic that, on the contrary, he is distinguished beyond everything else for pride and scorn” (The World as Will, 1859, 16) Discuss Schopenhauer’s point and why lack of humility is essential to the cynic approach to life.

            5. Bertrand Russell makes the following comment about Diogenes’ cynicism: “Diogenes personally was a man full of vigour, but his doctrine, like all those of the Hellenistic age, was one to appeal to weary men, in whom disappointment had destroyed natural zest. And it was certainly not a doctrine calculated to promote art or science or statesmanship, or any useful activity except one of protest against powerful evil. ((History of Western Philosophy, 1945, 1.26). Discuss whether there is there a more productive aspect to Diogenes’ cynicism that Russell may have overlooked.