Dialog with a Cynic

Many people say, I’ve seen many say, that they don’t get their news from Facebook. They say this, of course, as if the complete degradation of TV and print media is something that hasn’t happened, that they haven’t seen that that’s what’s happened. There’s another piece of this argument. Though Facebook can be used as an interface for sharing good journalism, and many people use it that way, there’s this argument that’s passed around that this is “low brow”, that it’s beneath the “class” and prestige of educated and credentialed “intellectuals”, who shouldn’t dirty themselves in social media. An old and shitty argument, reapplied again today as it always is.

It carries no weight for me. But I’m a cynic in the sense described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynicism_(philosophy)

Here’s a long quote form the article. Other Cynics may enjoy:

Origin of the Cynic name

The name Cynic derives from Ancient Greek κυνικός (kynikos), meaning ‘dog-like’, and κύων (kyôn), meaning ‘dog‘ (genitivekynos).[3] One explanation offered in ancient times for why the Cynics were called “dogs” was because the first Cynic, Antisthenes, taught in the Cynosarges gymnasium at Athens.[4] The word cynosarges means the “place of the white dog”. It seems certain, however, that the word dog was also thrown at the first Cynics as an insult for their shameless rejection of conventional manners, and their decision to live on the streets. Diogenes, in particular, was referred to as the “Dog”,[5] a distinction he seems to have revelled in, stating that “other dogs bite their enemies, I bite my friends to save them.”[6] Later Cynics also sought to turn the word to their advantage, as a later commentator explained:

There are four reasons why the Cynics are so named. First because of the indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads. The second reason is that the dog is a shameless animal, and they make a cult of shamelessness, not as being beneath modesty, but as superior to it. The third reason is that the dog is a good guard, and they guard the tenets of their philosophy. The fourth reason is that the dog is a discriminating animal which can distinguish between its friends and enemies. So do they recognize as friends those who are suited to philosophy, and receive them kindly, while those unfitted they drive away, like dogs, by barking at them.[7]


Cynicism is one of the most striking of all the Hellenistic philosophies.[8] It offered people the possibility of happiness and freedom from suffering in an age of uncertainty. Although there was never an official Cynic doctrine, the fundamental principles of Cynicism can be summarized as follows:[9][10][11]

  • The goal of life is eudaimonia and mental clarity or lucidity (ἁτυφια) – freedom from smoke (τύφος) which signified ignorance, mindlessness, folly, and conceit.
  • Eudaimonia is achieved by living in accord with Nature as understood by human reason.
  • Arrogance (τύφος) is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions, unnatural desires, and a vicious character.
  • Eudaimonia, or human flourishing, depends on self-sufficiency (αὐτάρκεια), equanimityaretelove of humanityparrhesia and indifference to the vicissitudes of life (ἁδιαφορία).[11]
  • One progresses towards flourishing and clarity through ascetic practices (ἄσκησις) which help one become free from influences – such as wealth, fame, and power – that have no value in Nature. Examples include Diogenes’ practice of living in a tub and walking barefoot in winter.
  • A Cynic practices shamelessness or impudence (Αναιδεια) and defaces the nomos of society; the laws, customs, and social conventions which people take for granted.

Thus a Cynic has no property and rejects all conventional values of money, fame, power and reputation.[9] A life lived according to nature requires only the bare necessities required for existence, and one can become free by unshackling oneself from any needs which are the result of convention.[12] The Cynics adopted Heracles as their hero, as epitomizing the ideal Cynic.[13] Heracles “was he who brought Cerberus, the hound of Hades, from the underworld, a point of special appeal to the dog-man, Diogenes.”[14] According to Lucian, “Cerberus and Cynic are surely related through the dog.”[15]

The Cynic way of life required continuous training, not just in exercising judgments and mental impressions, but a physical training as well:

[Diogenes] used to say, 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 impressions 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 vigour necessary for the practice of what is good, depend equally on both mind and body.[16]

None of this meant that a Cynic would retreat from society. Cynics were in fact to live in the full glare of the public’s gaze and be quite indifferent in the face of any insults which might result from their unconventional behaviour.[9] The Cynics are said to have invented the idea of cosmopolitanism: when he was asked where he came from, Diogenes replied that he was “a citizen of the world, (kosmopolitês).”[17]

The ideal Cynic would evangelise; as the watchdog of humanity, they thought it their duty to hound people about the error of their ways.[9] The example of the Cynic’s life (and the use of the Cynic’s biting satire) would dig up and expose the pretensions which lay at the root of everyday conventions.[9]

Although Cynicism concentrated solely on ethics, Cynic philosophy had a major impact on the Hellenistic world, ultimately becoming an important influence for Stoicism. The Stoic Apollodorus writing in the 2nd century BC stated that “Cynicism is the short path to virtue.”[18] Pillars of their philosophy were AdiaphoraParrhesia and Anaideia.

Facebook produces conversation, and written conversation tends to be really productive of interesting thought. No surprise. The mind is freer when there’s a pair of minds, and conversation unshackles the mind, from brain (and form) lock, lock that comes every time one writes alone. You have to hack off the chains of convention and pretension every time, at every start. Not so with conversation. This is why dialog is always the best part of novels and plays, and movies. Anything interesting that’s happening is always happening in dialog.

Dialog tends to occur on Facebook! Obviously! As a low-brow blogger myself, what a gold mine.

What follows is conversation between two Cynics. To protect the identity of one of us, I call us Cynic 1 and Cynic 2. I’m Cynic 2.

Cynic 1: Americans are getting stupider or I’ve been away long enough to see them for what they really are. A handful have morality, the rest are just selfish ignoramuses it seems. I probably should take a break from FB.

Cynic 2: Yes. Or the war mongering of the US on the upswing does more than usual to demand a sane response from people, so when it doesn’t come, it’s very revealing. It’s not pretty what’s revealed.

Cynic 1: Had a guy tell me today that if DPKR didn’t want to get invaded, they are better off not putting their citizens in prison camps. IOW, justification for bombing and killing North Korean people is the idea that their government puts them in camps; or killing them is somehow better than imprisoning them. And no self reflection about the nearly 3M American prisoners and no analysis of what happens to countries after we get through with them. Moreover, no questions about the truth we are being told about the camps. The same people who report on these camps are the same ones who keep lying to us about everything else. It’s too stupid to even address in a serious way. Any discussion with them is discussion with the propaganda they’ve swallowed.

Cynic 2: Yes. Today for the second time someone showed me the video of the young Korean girl making a speech about freedom. Americans may be no stupider than people are anywhere. The problem is that Americans live in a country whose leaders are psychotic war mongers. This means that ordinary people, people who don’t think much beyond the 10 feet around them in any direction, are made into fools by their country. The same people exist in other countries maybe, but their leadership is responsible, sane, principled, coherent, rational, legal, peaceful, so ordinary people are not made into fools for going along. I’m thinking of Russia. Of course it’s also true that ordinary Russians have a much more realistic world view, from their experience, and surely Russians have a better education in the seriousness of thinking.

Cynic 1: They also haven’t been subjected to Ayn Rand propaganda, rugged individualism and Calvanistic theology, which teaches one knows one is saved because they prosper and one knows others are not chosen because they don’t. They basically have been taught not to give a shit about anyone outside their narrow social groups. It makes them hard-hearted and mean spirited.

Cynic 2: Yes. But they show that video of the cute little girl giving a speech about North Korea and they are so warm hearted and kind they want to “help” her.

Cynic 1: They are like Pavlov’s dogs. If the MSM shows them a cute kid, they cry crocodile tears. If one of the terrorist groups supported by the US blows up a caravan of buses full of kids and old people, they couldn’t give a shit. It’s like the country is one giant social experiment and its group members don’t have minds of their own. I know they are victims of their culture and media, but I’m finding it harder and harder to tolerate.


“The Greek philosopher Diogenes (404-323 BC) is seated in his abode, the earthenware tub, in the Metroon, Athens, lighting the lamp in daylight with which he was to search for an honest man. His companions were dogs that also served as emblems of his “Cynic” (Greek: “kynikos,” dog-like) philosophy, which emphasized an austere existence. Three years after this painting was first exhibited, Gerome was appointed a professor of painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he would instruct many students, both French and foreign.” (credit)

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