Diogenes of Sinope  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Diogenes (disambiguation), Diogenes of Sinope in "Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers"

Diogenes of Sinope was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes the Cynic, he was born in Sinope (modern-day Sinop, Turkey), an Ionian colony on the Black Sea, in 412 or 404 BC and died at Corinth in 323 BC. Many stories attributed to him are found in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers

Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure. His father minted coins for a living, and when Diogenes took to "defacement of the currency," he was banished from Sinope. After being exiled, he moved to Athens to debunk cultural conventions. Diogenes modelled himself on the example of Hercules. He believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple lifestyle and behaviour to criticise the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt society. He declared himself a cosmopolitan. There are many tales about him dogging Antisthenes' footsteps and becoming his faithful hound. Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and slept like a homeless person in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts such as carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He embarrassed Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates and sabotaged his lectures. Diogenes was also responsible for publicly mocking Alexander the Great.

After being captured by pirates and sold into slavery, Diogenes eventually settled in Corinth. There he passed his philosophy of Cynicism to Crates, who taught it to Zeno of Citium, who fashioned it into the school of Stoicism, one of the most enduring schools of Greek philosophy. None of Diogenes’ many writings has survived, but details of his life come in the form of anecdotes (chreia), especially from Diogenes Laërtius, in his book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. All we have is a number of anecdotes concerning his life and sayings attributed to him in a number of scattered classical sources.

Contents

Diogenes Syndrome

Diogenes' name has been applied to a behavioural disorder characterised by involuntary self-neglect and hoarding. The disorder afflicts the elderly and has no relation to Diogenes' deliberate Herculean rejection of material comfort.

Depictions

Art

Both in ancient and in modern times, Diogenes' personality has appealed strongly to sculptors and to painters. Ancient busts exist in the museums of the Vatican, the Louvre, and the Capitol. The interview between Diogenes and Alexander is represented in an ancient marble bas-relief found in the Villa Albani.

Among artists who have painted the famous encounter of Diogenes with Alexander there are works by de Crayer, de Vos, Assereto, Langetti, Sevin, Sebastiano Ricci, Gandolfi, Wink, Abildgaard, Monsiau, Martin, and Daumier. The famous story of Diogenes searching for an "honest man" has been depicted by Jordaens, van Everdingen, van der Werff, Pannini, and Corinth. Others who have painted him with his famous lantern include de Ribera, Castiglione, Petrini, Gérôme, Bastien-Lepage, and Waterhouse. The scene in which Diogenes discards his cup has been painted by Poussin, Rosa, and Martin; and the story of Diogenes begging from a statue has been depicted by Restout. In Raphael's fresco The School of Athens, a lone reclining figure in the foreground represents Diogenes.

Diogenes has also been the subject of sculptures, with famous bas-relief images by Puget and Pajou.

Literature

Diogenes is referred to in Anton Chekhov's story Ward No. 6; William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; François Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel; Goethe's poem Genialisch Treiben; as well as in the first sentence of Søren Kierkegaard's novelistic treatise Repetition. In Cervantes' short story The Man of Glass (El licenciado Vidriera), part of the Novelas Ejemplares collection, the (anti-)hero unaccountably begins to channel Diogenes in a string of tart chreiai once he becomes convinced that he is made of glass. Diogenes gives his own life and opinions in Christoph Martin Wieland's novel Socrates Mainomenos (1770; English translation Socrates Out of His Senses, 1771). Diogenes is the primary model for the philosopher Didactylos in Terry Pratchett's Small Gods. He is mimicked by a beggar-spy in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion and paid tribute to with a costume in a party by the main character in its sequel, Kushiel's Justice. The character Lucy Snowe in Charlotte Bronte's novel Villette is given the nickname Diogenes. Diogenes also features in Part Four of Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. He is a figure in Seamus Heaney's The Haw Lantern. In Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, one of Jesus' apostles is a devotee of Diogenes, complete with his own pack of dogs which he refers to as his own disciples. His story opens the first chapter of Dolly Freed's 1978 book Possum Living.

The dog that Paul Dombey befriends in Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son is called Diogenes. Alexander's meeting with Diogenes is portrayed in Valerio Manfredi's Alexander: The Ends of the Earth.

The philosopher's name was adopted by the fictional Diogenes Club, an organization that Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft Holmes belongs to in the story The Greek Interpreter by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is called such as its members are educated, yet untalkative and have a dislike of socialising, much like the philosopher himself. The group is the focus of a number of Holmes pastiches by Kim Newman.

Contemporary theory

Diogenes is discussed in a 1983 book by German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk (English language publication in 1987). In his Critique of Cynical Reason, Diogenes is used as an example of Sloterdijk’s idea of the “kynical” — in which personal degradation is used for purposes of community comment or censure. Calling the practice of this tactic “kynismos,” Sloterdijk explains that the kynical actor actually embodies the message he/she is trying to convey. The goal here is typically a false regression that mocks authority — especially authority that the kynical actor considers corrupt, suspect or unworthy.

There is another discussion of Diogenes and the Cynics in Michel Foucault's book Fearless Speech. Here Foucault discusses Diogenes' antics in relation to the speaking of truth (parrhesia) in the ancient world. Foucault expands this reading in his last course at the Collège de France, The Courage of Truth. In this course Foucault tries to establish an alternative conception of militancy and revolution through a reading of Diogenes and Cynicism.




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