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Cynics (Ancient Philosophies)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  42 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Far from being pessimistic or nihilistic, as modern uses of the term "cynic" suggest, the ancient Cynics were astonishingly optimistic regarding human nature. They believed that if one simplified one's life—giving up all unnecessary possessions, desires, and ideas—and lived in the moment as much as possible, one could regain one's natural goodness and happiness. It was a l ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by University of California Press (first published August 31st 2008)
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Leo Horovitz
Very good introduction to Cynicism (of the ancient kind, a school of philosophy having very little to do with the modern meaning of the word). We get to see the development of Cynical thought through its historical beginnings (which are a bit controversial, either Antisthenes is the first Cynic, or Diogenes is) through the classical Greek period, the empires of the Hellenistic and roman eras, and finally get a discussion of the influences of Cynical thought on thinkers after the disappearance of ...more
"Beard-growing alone does not make a philosopher"

A long-winded overview of the book:
This book goes into the history and influence of the Cynic "school" of philosophy. The term has its origins in the Greek word for dog, as the philosophers lived in a fashion, out in the open and shamelessly, that was pejoratively linked with the animal, which Greeks thought was sort of filthy, rather than man's best friend. They generally tried to free themselves from the burdens of human customs and lived instea
This is a very good introduction to Capital-C Cynicism the philosophy, which is much different in many ways from cynicism the social behavior, though Cynics did at times act in a way that we might today call specifically cynical.

In the first semester of my college Philosophy 101 course, Cynics (and Skeptics) got short shrift among ancient Greek philosophies, not only compared to Socrates/Plato/Aristotle, but also compared to the Stoics, the Presocratics and to a degree, even the Epicureans.

I read this book on a rainy afternoon at a bookstore and was very satisfied. This book, for its length, offers a comprehensive assessment of the historical and doctrinal beliefs of the Cynics, as well as the biographies of their great thinkers. Though I did not buy it, being on a student budget, I think it would nicely compliment any philosophical cranny on the bookshelf.
Paul Pellicci
I don't know what I expected, but... Cynics are a breed of "philosophers" that were mostly like "dogs". They had sex in public, they deficated where they stood and did everything they could to put "it in the man's face" sort of thing. One of the main Cynics was called "dog". If I knew what it was going to be like I probably whould have read about Stoics.
Michael Lipford
Started out well but delved too far into extremes. I like the idea of renouncing (or at least questioning) traditional customs but this seemed to delve into an area where things just start to become counterproductive in everyday life. An interesting look at this chapter of history but I'm glad to society on some levels has moved past it.
Erin Panjer
A wonderful history of the Cynics and how they influenced those thereafter. The claim that modern day cynics must find a way to return to the cheekiness of the classics sits well with me, as well as the core cynical ideal of living naturally.

This book was incredibly informative, and well organized, a fantastic read.
The "Ancient Philosophies" series by the University of California Press offers excellent introductions to early systems of thought. I highly recommend Desmond's book, which is thorough not only in it's explication of Cynic philosophy, but also in giving the context of Greek and Roman ideas.
I liked the earlier portions of the book on the lives of the ancient Cynics best and I of course wish more of their original writings survived as well as those of their contemporaries.
Bima Putra
It's only talk on the surface, not worthy if you want go deep in cynicism
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Other Books in the Series

Ancient Philosophies (10 books)
  • Stoicism (Ancient Philosophies, #1)
  • The Ancient Commentators on Plato and Aristotle
  • Epicureanism
  • Ancient Scepticism
  • Neoplatonism
  • Presocratics: Natural Philosophers before Socrates
  • Indian Buddhist Philosophy
  • Confucianism
  • Plato (Ancient Philosophies, #8)
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