CERP: Day 28 – Diogenes Ep. 32

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XXXII. To Aristippus, greetings (p. 137)
So here, Ps-Diogenes is responding to several criticisms about the lifestyle of his school of philosophy.  The most striking rebuke is that the things which Greeks and Romans praise in Socrates are scorned in Diogenes.  Granted, Diogenes turned them up to eleven, but the point still stands.

I’m not sure what social role the plant chicory had in Rome or Greece at the time.  I know of it as a way to stretch coffee when you’ve run out.  I guess maybe that’s indicative of being a poor person’s food?

The word in the text is σέρεις, but the form I was able to look up is σέρις and is defined by Liddell and Scott as a kind of endive or chicory.  Endives and the chicory I know are two pretty different plans, so I’m not sure which one is referenced here.

Or, it could be a language issue.  For instance, in Serbo-Croation, garlic and onions are basically the same plant, you distinguish between the two by saying “black onion” for onion, and “white onion” for garlic.  Maybe it’s something similar?  I don’t know, it’s instances like this that made me wish I knew more about the language and the cultures.

Tangents aside, the issue here is how one can disdain the philosophers when they praise Socrates, and when they critics live such morally bankrupt lives themselves.  “Unholy men” is a pretty strong phrase, but I’m sure the Ps-Diogenes means it.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 27 – Diogenes Ep. 31.

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XXXI. To Phaenylus, do well (p. 133)
Today’s letter is of the Ps-Diogenes recounting his converting  a renowned fighter to philosophy.  He uses several clear and formal arguments to convince the pankratiast that his achievements mean little, and the greater fight would be with himself.

The prize of the battle against the soul is much more valuable than a laurel, palm, and entourage.

I’ll admit, while interesting I don’t care overly much for these “conversion” stories.  They do provide an interesting window into the Romanization of proselytizing of those philosophers, however.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 26 – Diogenes Ep. 30.

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XXX. To Hicetas, do well (p. 131)
This might be my favorite Epistle to date.  Ps-Diogenes is telling (not the story we know about being assaulted with a staff) his instruction next to the associate of Socrates, whom I think we can safely say is Antisthenes.

In it, Antisthenes installs Ps-Diogenes as a philosopher.  The giving of each item, and the explanation, coupled with the call-and-response style dialogue has a decidedly ritualistic feel.

I can imagine a group of Cynics, “Bring forth the one who would be a true human!”  And ritualistically applying the uniform of a philosopher, with a moral lesson and lecture to mark the occasion.

I think this show the nature of the Epistles well, pretty fast and loose on fact, but a teaching and persuasive method which is hard to argue with.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 25 – Diogenes Ep. 29.

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XXIX. To Dionysius (p. 127)
There are a handful of useful things in this letter.  One, which parallels nicely with the reading from Seneca today, is that the “evil” Ps-Diogenes speaks of, is a malady of the soul, and it’s built by habit, and reinforced by lifestyle and close associates.

The second is that when our souls are in such a sad state, that a mere mild remedy is contraindicated.  No, we need a serious intervention.  So Ps-Diogenes is sending an unnamed task master to work over the poor Dionysius.

Next, Ps-Diogenes points out that the people with whom we’ve surrounded ourselves (IMO out of concern, but with improper premises) aid in the illness.  Whether it’s the wetnurses and grandparents offering another sweet morsel, the fact is that as philosophers what we’ve identified as conducive to our own soul-health is generally the opposite of the common understanding.

Lots of good stuff here, today.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Diogenes Ep. 28.

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XXVIII. untitled: “Diogenes the Dog to the so-called Greeks…” (p. 121)
I think is the longest letter to date which we’ve read.  Diogenes lays into the Greeks (if in name only).  He chastises them for everything from their diet, to their sex, to their drinking, to capital punishment.

This kind of polemic coupled with witty chreia are what I think of when I recall Diogenes.  This seems more firmly in the school than some of the other letters.

I’ve read that the Antisthenes => Diogenes lineage may be a latter Stoic fiction; an attempt to produce a Socratic lineage for Stoicism.  That’s certainly an interesting possibility, and if true, then we see it here even in this letter.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 23 – Diogenes Ep. 23-27

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XXIII. To Lacydes, greetings (p. 117)
Ha!  I enjoyed both of Diogenes’ barbs.  One, that while Alexander may be King of the Macedonians, he is no king of Diogenes.  And two, that it is just as far to travel from A to B, as B to A, and therefore, since Alexander is not a King over Diogenes, since it is Alexander that desires the meeting, he can very well trundle himself to Athens for the meeting.

XXIV. To Alexander, greetings (p. 117)
Okay, so I did a little reading, and Hephaestion was the boyhood friend of Alexander.  Their friendship was maintained through adolescences and adulthood, even after Alexander became King.  It was reckoned like one of the great friendships of the sagas, that they were like “one soul in two bodies.”  The only evidence they may have been lovers is this one letter, which many historians discount.

Maybe, then, this is like Diogenes being beaten by Antisthenes’ club?  A test to see if he’s worthy of the teaching?  That’s speculation on my part.

XXV. To Hippon (p. 117)
The question here is about death and burial.  Diogenes main point is that worrying over virtue in life is enough of an occupation.

XXVI. To Crates (p. 119)
This made me chuckle.  The Cynic uniform is the mantle of Heracles!  Wear them proudly, defiantly.  By the by, hook a brother up with some beans?  Hahahaha!

XXVII. To Aniceres, greetings (p. 119)
Generally, the Spartans are well spoken of by the Cynics and Stoics.  Diogenes has a cautionary message here, that their external strength has set them up for moral decay.  There’s a poignant message for the west.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 22 – Diogenes Ep.19-22

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XIX. To Anaxilaus the wise, greetings (p. 113)
Ah, Ps-Diogenes clothes himself, as it were, in the Kingly majesty of the Cynic uniform!  Interesting parallels, here.

XX. To Melesippus, greetings (p. 113)
It’s no shame, then, to be beaten by many.  The shame is in being one who would do such a beating.  Not only is this shameful for the individuals involved, it seems to reflect poorly on the whole city-state.

XXI. To Amynander, greetings (p. 115)
This is surely a defacing of the nomos, then.  The relationship of family is ubiquitous.  Musonius, for the Stoics, lays a large amount at the feet of filial duty.  Ps-Diogenes casts even this aside.  This, then, might be one of the stronger positions I’ve seen taken.

XXII. To Agesilaus, greetings (p. 115)
Hmm.  An interesting piece.  A bit of a Stoic memento mori, yet also an appreciation for it despite the uncertainty.  It seems to me that ever letter that reference the gods has a more Stoic tinge than Cynic.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 21 – Diogenes Ep. 13-18

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XIII. To Apolexis, greetings (p. 107)
A reminder that there is always still more to learn, and the great mounds of things we once knew for true but now know to be false is no shame, as long as we’re moving towards truth.

XIV. To Antipater, greetings (p. 109)
Paraphrase:  Antipater, you’ve missed the point.  Duh.  Hugs and kisses, Ps-Diogenes.

XV. To Antipater, greetings (p. 109)
“[One] should demonstrate that the spoken claims conform to the way of life.”  Practice what you preach!

XVI. To Apolexis, greetings (p. 109)
I think this is the first reference to Diogenes jug/jar/barrel we’ve come across.  Inspired by even the snails.

XVII. To Antalcides, greetings (p. 111)
“For while I was present you exhibited nothing worthy of
esteem…”  Ouch.  Basically, “put up or shut up.”

XVIII. To Apolexis, greetings (p. 111)
“The Megarian youths appealed to me to introduce Menodorus
the philosopher to you, a very ridiculous introduction, for you will know that he is a man from his portraits, and from his life and words whether he is also a philosopher. For, in my opinion, the sage provides his own introduction.”

Interesting.  Apparently Menodorus is also called Menas, and might have once been a pirate.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 20 – To Crates, To Metrocles, do well, To Crates, do well, To the same, do well

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IX. To Crates (p. 103)

Ps-Diogenes relates to us the “initiation” of Crate into the Cynic life.  The thing that sticks out at me, is that he is bidden to come back, as it’s “not safe to linger where there is no one like you.”

This brings to mind Gadara, which is reported to have been a Cynic hub of sorts.  I usually picture Diogenes living alone, taking students irregularly.  But maybe that’s inaccurate.

X. To Metrocles, do well (p. 103)
Ps_Diogenes clearly here is making an argument for begging.  This tells us that like today, the idea of begging was distasteful to Diogenes’ audience.

Ps-Diogenes makes a couple arguments by analogy, showing how kings beg from their subjects; the sick beg from their doctors; and people from the objects of their desire.  Even Heracles begged, he says, as he received strength.

The issue is whether we request something fitting, or not fitting.  Then, if we give back something of greater value.  A Cynic’s begging, then, is a pedagogical tool as well as a necessity of life.  That we would go against the popular conception itself is a worthwhile thing in teaching the meaning of our respective philosophies.

XI. To Crates, do well (p. 105)
This letter contains an outlier.  Of course, Epictetus criticizes Diogenes’ statue-endeavors, even though he holds him generally in very high regard.  If the Cynic is only to be begging from the wise, would he ever meet with the frustrations that this letter suggests he inoculate himself against?

In the previous letter, it says even Heracles begged from these without sense, but we’ve been told up until now that such a thing is inappropriate.
XII. To the same, do well (p. 107)
Ps-Diogenes makes a good point, that philosophers and the untrained alike are moving towards what they believe to be good.  However, we’re focused on vastly differently things.  The fact that we discuss “apparent goods” and “actual goods” show that we recognize just how easy it is to make this mistake.  We ourselves made (still make?) it.

Indeed, then, as Ps-Diogenes notes, when the untrained person is nudged towards the actual good, and see show difficult the road, they’re turned aside.  Because they still see the “apparent good” a the place to end up.

I see lots of this in online Stoic communities.  Epictetus, Marcus, Seneca, and Musonius (so much of Musonius) state unequivocally that philosophers must engage in askesis, and folks trip over themselves to claim that it has no place in modern practice.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 19 – To Hicetas and to Eugnesius

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VII. To Hicetas (p. 99)
We read a praising of the title ‘dog’, and of the cloak, small bag, and staff.  Ps-Diogenes write to his father, asking him to note that he is happy with little.  The argument to the Gods seems more of a Stoic sort than a Cynic one… this seems to be a trend in these Epistles.  Or maybe it’s just a Roman flavor?

VIII. To Eugnesius (p. 101)
I’m pretty sure Ps-Diogenes just dropped the mic, to the tune of NWA’s most famous song.

diogenes_fuck-the-polis


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.