CYNIC.—One of the schools of Philosophy, formed after the days of Socrates,
noted for the prominence given to that part in the teaching of Socrates which
urged self-denial and independence of external advantages.
After the death of Socrates, some of his disciples, under Antisthenes, were
accustomed to meet in the Cynosargos, one of the gymnasia of Athens,—and hence
they were called Cynics (Diog. Laert., lib. VI. cap. XIII.).
Antisthenes was the founder of the school. He treated, as Plato did, of the
distinction between opinion and knowledge,—παρὰ
δόξης καὶ ἐπιστήμης (Diog.
Laert., lib. VI. cap. XVII.), and insisted that virtue is the true requisite for
a happy life. "To the Cynic nothing is good but virtue, nothing bad but vice,
and what is neither the one nor the other is for man indifferent" (Zeller,
Philosophy of the Greeks, Reichel's transl., Soc. and the Socrat. Schools, p.
Diogenes is the name most familiar as representative of the school, being
pre-eminently "The Cynic," by his teaching, character, and habits giving
definiteness to the name, though somewhat exaggerating its characteristics. He
is well described by Zeller as "that witty and eccentric individual, whose
imperturbable originality, ready wit, and strength of character,
admirable even in its excesses, no less than his fresh and vigorous mind, have
been held up to view as forming the peculiar type of character of the ancient
world" (ib., p. 245). The weakness of the school lay in its ascetic tendency,
carried even to the extent of contemptuous disregard of the ordinary notions and
susceptibilities of men. This school is the historic percursor of the Stoics.