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.

CERP: Day 30 – Diogenes Ep. 35.


XXXV. To Sopolis, do well (p. 145)
Well.  This is an interesting one.  Ps-Diogenes begins with a critique of a teacher, and then also of a coach.  That moves quite directly into one of his stories of “manual labor,” as it were.

Diogenes’ main point at the beginning is that one should be consistent, and not teach what one doesn’t know.  Then, turns around and flouts the cultural nomos, by a fairly forthright discussion of sexual mores.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 29 – Diogenes Ep. 33 and 34.


XXXIII. To Phanomachus, do well (p. 141)
This is a longer, and somewhat different version of the chreia in which we hear “If I were not Alexander, I would want to be Diogenes,” and Diogenes replies that he too would want to be Diogenes.  This is interesting, I don’t recall ever hearing about Diogenes gluing pages of a book together before.

I suppose that this is an allegorical denial of academic, superficial, or (for lack of a better word) “uppity” knowledge.  So, Diogenes sits in his τρίβων, sitting in the sun, living his wisdom and with both his actions and his life he show the academic knowledge to be worthless.

XXXIV. To Olympias, do well (p. 143)
Diogenes here is arguing for the Cynic mode of life.  Interestingly, he does not credit Antithenes and Socrates for his practice, but to Hera, Heracles, Odysseus:  the gods and heroes of Greece.

It is very interesting to me, that the praxis of Cynicism require the most argument.  The practice is a natural extension of the doctrine.  You can’t assent to the second while denying the first.  They are one and the same.

Yet, today (apparently) as then, the arguments are need to convince folks to do the thing.  But just like the gluing of the book, the lived philosophy should be the argument, not the intellectual logic of the thing.

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 28 – Diogenes Ep. 32


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.