Diogenes of Sinope: The Cynic Philosopher Who Valued Truth


‘Alexander and Diogenes’ by Gaspare Dizian (1689–1767). (Image: Public Domain)

Tell the truth at all times, even under the worst circumstances. This is one of the philosophies of Diogenes of Sinope, a Greek philosopher.

Truth and cynicism do not always go hand in hand. Because of this, Diogenes remained an interesting philosopher with a unique look on life.

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If you’re into cynicism or are at least curious about it, this article will help you understand more.

Find out the lessons of the cynic philosopher who valued truth at all costs.

What is cynicism, as put forth by Diogenes of Sinope?

Cynicism is often viewed with a negative mindset, which can also be attributed to many people confusing cynicism with skepticism. The truth is that cynicism is far from suspicion and still follows what its philosophers believe to be a noble cause.

Cynicism believes that the purpose of life is to live in virtue and agreement with nature. While this might seem like a logical belief, the cynics are sometimes known as extremists.

Cynics reject all conventional desires for fame, wealth, and power and believe that true life should be simple and free from possessions.

Diogenes in Search of an Honest Man by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1829). (Image: Public Domain)

Who is Diogenes of Sinope?

Diogenes of Sinope was a Greek Cynic philosopher that lived from 404 to 323 BCE. The philosopher was famous for holding a lantern to Athenians’ faces, claiming he was looking for an honest man.

Sometimes passionately, Diogenes rejected the concept of manners and advocated being truthful in any circumstance.

Plato even described Diogenes as “Socrates went mad,” as he was exiled from his native city for defacing its currency.

Diogenes then made his home in Athens, where he lived in the rain from a barrel and survived on gifts from admirers. He would also beg or forage for food.

Diogenes was against polite societal conventions, and his “search for an honest man” was his way of exposing its hypocrisy. By holding the lantern in broad daylight, he forced people to recognize their departure from living truthfully.

One of his most popular followers was Crates of Thebes, who studied with the Cynic philosopher. To this day, Diogenes is well known for his aspiration to live in truth no matter the circumstances.

Quotes from Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes of Sinope was well known for different lessons with the theme of truthfulness, the wanting of nothing, and the belonging of oneself to the world.

“It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little.”

The Greek philosopher was a strong advocate of living as simply as possible. He tried to steer away from worldly possessions and wanting for artificial success.

“I am a citizen of the world.”

Diogenes would always claim that he was a world citizen and that the natural world was his true home.

“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”

Although his philosophies can be radical, Diogenes remained a strong advocate of educating the youth. Like other philosophers, he still believed that knowledge is power and that investing in one’s understanding of life is essential.

“The insult dishonors the one who infers it, not the one who receives it.”

Diogenes was known to reject the concept of manners, but despite this, he stated honor and insult.

A statue of Diogenes at his birthplace in Sinop, Turkey. (Image: via Wikipedis)

What can you learn from Diogenes of Sinope?

The most important thing to know by Diogenes of Sinope is that you should always be truthful. Since it’s hard to be honest always, one must at least aspire to be as truthful as possible.

One aspect of being human is not being perfect; truthfulness cannot be expected permanently. However, you can be as truthful as possible to others, no matter the situation.

Being truthful is a virtue admired by a lot of people. This is because if you are genuine, wise people will notice you.

“It takes a wise man to discover a wise man.”

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