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 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 15 – To Aper, do well, and to Dinomachus

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XXXV. To Aper, do well (p. 89)
The Pseudo-Crates has two points which are worth highlighting.  First is the position which echos in Stoicism, that we are distressed when we fail to meet our desires or fail to avoid that to which we are averse.  Ps-Crates spells it out, that our desires are untenable, and our we are averse to those things which we necessarily must be exposed to.  This is problematic for us.

The second point, is that if the message of the philosopher speaks to us, being bent over a tome like to read the epic poets is not the way.  We must emulate those whom we admire, not merely study them.

Praxis.

XXXVI. To Dinomachus (p. 89)
Ps-Crates again beats us over the head with instructions in begging.  It seems to me this is a more important part of Cynic practice that I at first (or even at recent) suspected.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 14 – XXXIV. To Metrocles (p. 85)

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XXXIV. To Metrocles (p. 85)
This is one of the first true chreia of Diogenes in the letters.  I’ve read other versions of his being captured by pirates.  In the other, some wealthy man bought Diogenes to be a tutor for his children when Diogenes announced he could rule men.

The parable-like nature of the chreia are interesting, they’re well designed and the lessons they teach are couched in an artful way.

The question Diogenes asks about freedom is one worth pondering, if despite the liberties of bodies, are our minds/souls enslaved by pleasures and vice?


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 13 – To the same (Hipparchia) x 4

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XXX. To the Same (p. 81)
I still have a hard time imagining that Hipparchia is sitting in some room weaving and embroidering for Crates so she seems a dutiful wife.  Isn’t this the same Hipparchia whose coupling in public turned Zeno away from the Cynic path?

XXXI. To the Same (p. 81)
Here, the Pseudo-Crates states the goal of philosophy for the Cynic is wisdom, and that a would-be philosopher should go to great ends to acquire it.  In other places, we see freedom and natural purpose as goals as well.

XXXII. To the Same (p. 83)
I’m well and truly sure that these anecdotes of Hipparchia are not representative of the women and philosopher she was.

XXXIII. To the Same (p. 83)
Here, Crates is congratualting Hipparchia for the birth of their “pup.”  He asks her to send the boy to him to be educated in Cynic Philosophy, and makes a statement about storks and dogs.  The Greek word here is πελαργόν, which is a stork.  I’m not sure what the meaning is here, maybe some cultural reference?

Ps-Crates makes references to animals several times, their ability to live without the nomos of society, for instance.  But I’m not sure what the stork reference here is about.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 12- To the Thessalians, the Athenians, the same, the same, Hipparchia, the same

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XXIV. To the Thessalians (p. 75)
Again, we have a pseudo-Stoic sounding introduction, that horses were created for the sake of men.  I’m not sure Diogenes would agree with this statement.  I think it would be more clear to him that men were created for the sake of themselves, and that is where they ought to focus.

XXV. To the Athenians (p. 75)
Crates shouts across the century directly to my fellow citizens.  A small political side, my country is currently in the midst of a mass delusion, in which they believe they can make certain things ‘free’ which can only be gotten by the labor of others.  Unless there’s a slave caste of doctors, nurses, construction workers, electric workers, facilities managers, educators, etc, then certain things in society which must be paid for will continue to be paid for.

Nevertheless, Crates suggests that they simply vote themselves wealthy, vote themselves the recipients of “free” things, and all manner of voting will solve the problems which yesteryear’s voting brought about!

XXVI. To the Same (p. 77)
The less that we might not own things, but merely lease them or posses them for a time is a useful one.  I’m not sure that I’m willing to extend that Diogenes, or any of the Wise, then, own all things being that they are friends of the gods, the gods own everything, and friends share all things.

That seems as conspicuously useful to the Cynic as plenary indulgences were for the Catholic Church…

XXVII. To the Same (p. 77)
I didn’t mean to anticipate the moral of this letter in the last… but i did.  So just read that one again.

XXVIII. To Hipparchia (p. 79)
I have a hard time imagining Hipparchia sitting at home weaving and embroidering robes for Crates.  This smacks of latter revisionism to appeal to the traditional roles of Roman women, rather than the feisty firebrand that was Hipparchia.

XIX. To the Same (p. 79)
This seems more along the lines of the philosophical admonitions I can imagine Hipparchia and Crates sharing with each other.

 


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 11 – To Metrocles, Metrocles the Cynic, Metrocles, Ganymedes

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XX. To Metrocles (p. 71)
I had read before about Crates’ running, and the young men who then followed him.  I didn’t realize that came from the Epistles.  The philosophers of the Cynic and Stoic schools who were runners, or wrestlers, or boxers as well is an interesting phenomenon, and is very different from our modern stereotype.

XXI. To Metrocles the Cynic (p. 71)
I was asked almost two years ago, I think, whether Stoics were born or made.  Crates seems to have his idea on which it is for Cynics.

XXII. To Metrocles (p. 73)
Short and to the point.  I still think many Cynics must have been hungry fellows if they are only accepting ‘their due’ from the wise and virtuous.

XXIII. To Ganymedes (p. 73)
Again, the Pseudo-Crates makes the uniform of the philosopher akin to weapons.  I chuckled, at the poor devil Ganymedes beset on all sides by lovers!  Yet, all it takes is the uniform… and life … of a Cynic to drive them away!


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.