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Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


A ncient greek philosophy, ethics [from Greek kunikos , dog-like, in turn from kuon , dog] A Greek school founded by Socrates' disciple Antisthenes , and represented by Diogenes of Sinope . The school got its name because it was opposed to the existing civil life and against any cultural constraints ( norm ), requiring instead that we conform to nature ( physis ), and live like dogs, that is, live shamelessly from the point of view of civil life. They not only advocated an ascetic lifestyle, but actually practiced it. Nevertheless, the Cynics were not moral nihilists. They believed that virtue is sufficient for a happy life, which lies in the freedom to do what reason requires, self-mastery of desires and feelings, and indifference to external disturbances such as wealth, social status, pleasure, and pain. They held that virtue is independent of fate and fortune and that a virtuous life is intrinsically better than a nonvirtuous life. This position seeks to isolate human nature from social and historical contexts. Animal behavior is taken as a criterion of naturalness. It deeply influenced the Hellenistic ideal of sagacity and, in particular, Stoic ethics. “One omnipresent figure since the mid-fourth century had been that of the itinerant Cynic, whose main tenets would be the absolute self-sufficiency of virtue and the total inconsequentiality of all social norms, physical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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