Feb 1, 2013
What's in a name?
(Belmonte, Northeastern Portugal.) The expression ‘cynic’ comes from the Greek and means something like ‘relative to the dog’. Oscar Wilde carved the word’s modern denotation in stone when he made one of his characters define a cynic as ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’. In Classical Greece, however, Cynicism was a school of philosophical thought. Its better known proponent was Diogenes of Sinope, who famously lived inside a tub or a huge pot on the streets of Athens. He held in contempt all social conventions and did everything – from eating to defecating to masturbating – in public. Talk about practicing Philosophy. The general idea, which Diogenes took to an extreme, was to eschew all possessions and live ‘according to Nature.’ The philosopher himself used a bowl to drink water until the day he saw a little boy drinking from his hands. In shame, he immediately threw away the bowl.
You can easily guess what would happen to someone behaving this way in any modern city. Luckily for Diogenes, he lived in Classical Athens – like a dog, but you can't have everything.