CERP: Day 31 – Diogenes Ep. 36.


XXXVI. To Timomachus, do well (p. 149)
The tenor and style of this letter are very different from the majority of the preceding ones.  Remembering that the scholars posit at least four authors, that seems very clear here.

Diogenes seems to be having a fairly unsuccessful argument with this fellow on several points.  The first, that all the things he’s concerned about are not evils.  The second, that he’s asking protection from things Heracles cannot slay.  The third, that the very act is superstitious, and a little silly.  At best, it’s a waste of energy to have an inscription on every lintel when it could be on the city gates.  That made me chuckle.

This letter encapsulates the problem both Stoicism, Cynicism, and maybe philosophy in general (other than hedonistic/Cyrenaic) has.  Convincing folks that death, poverty, exposure, illness, and loss are not evils is difficult.  It’s nearly 180 degrees off the popular conception.

Here, even, Diogenes failed.  As, I suspect, the practicing philosopher fails with him or herself over and over to learn this same lesson.  Maybe, we can append ‘justice’ or ‘virtue;’ but we seem unwilling to make the substantive changes asked by philosophy.

We have the example, here Diogenes, pointing at what does not work, what is illogical, what is based on false assumptions.  It suggests corrections, “remove this, why not that, do it this way, here’s the good!”

“Ah… I’d rather not, can I just do this little piece?”

I wonder if that’s any more functional that the inscription of Heracles?


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

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