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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Antisthenes stands nearest his master


the common character of the

immediate Socratic schools. The fundamental thought, that men should have one universal and essentially true aim, they all received from Socrates; but since their master left no complete and systematic doctrine, but only his many-sided life to determine the nature of this aim, every thing would depend upon the subjective apprehension of the personal character of Socrates, and of this we should at the outset naturally expect to find among his different disciples a different estimate. Socrates had numerous scholars, but no school. Among these, three views of his character have found a place in history. That of _Antisthenes_, or the Cynical, that of _Aristippus_, or the Cyrenian, and that of _Euclid_, or the Megarian--three modes of apprehending him, each of which contains a true element of the Socratic character, but all of which separate that which in the master was a harmonious unity, and affirm of the isolated elements that which could be truly predicated only of the whole. They are therefore, one-sided, and give of Socrates a false picture. This, however, was not wholly their fault; but in that Aristippus was forced to go back to the theory of knowledge of Protagoras, and Euclid to the metaphysics of the Eleatics, they rather testify to the subjective character and to the want of method and system of the Socratic philosophy, and exhibit in their defects and one-sidedness, in part, only the original weakness which belongs to the doctrine of their master.

justify;">2. ANTISTHENES AND THE CYNICS.--As a strictly literal adherent of the doctrine of Socrates, and zealously though grossly, and often with caricature imitating his method, Antisthenes stands nearest his master. In early life a disciple of Gorgias, and himself a teacher of the Sophistic philosophy, he subsequently became an inseparable attendant of Socrates, after whose death he founded a school in the Cynosarges, whence his scholars and adherents took the name of Cynics, though according to others this name was derived from their mode of life. The doctrine of Antisthenes is only an abstract expression for the Socratic ideal of virtue. Like Socrates he considered virtue the final cause of men, regarding it also as knowledge or science, and thus as an object of instruction; but the ideal of virtue as he had beheld it in the person of Socrates was realized in his estimation only in the absence of every need (in his appearance he imitated a beggar with staff and scrip) and hence in the disregarding of all former intellectual interests; virtue with him aims only to avoid evil, and therefore has no need of dialectical demonstrations, but only of Socratic vigor; the wise man, according to him, is self-sufficient, independent of every thing, indifferent in respect of marriage, family, and the public life of society, as also in respect of wealth, honor, and enjoyment. In this ideal of Antisthenes, which is more negative than positive, we miss entirely the genial humanity and the universal susceptibility of his master, and still more a cultivation of those fruitful dialectic elements which the Socratic philosophizing contained. With a more decided contempt for all knowledge, and a still greater scorn of all the customs of society, the later Cynicism became frequently a repulsive and shameful caricature of the Socratic spirit. This was especially the case with Diogenes of Sinope, the only one of his disciples whom Antisthenes suffered to remain with him. In their high estimation of virtue and philosophy these Cynics, who have been suitably styled the Capuchins of the Grecian world, preserved a trace of the original Socratic philosophy, but they sought virtue "in the shortest way," in a life according to nature as they themselves expressed it, that is, in shutting out the outer world, in attaining a complete independence, and absence of every need, and in renouncing art and science as well as every determinate aim. To the wise man said they nothing should go amiss; he should be mighty over every need and desire, free from the restraints of civil law and of custom, and of equal privileges with the gods. An easy life, said Diogenes, is assigned by the gods to that man who limits himself to his necessities, and this true philosophy may be attained by every one, through perseverance and the power of self-denial. Philosophy and philosophical interest is there none in this school of beggars. All that is related of Diogenes are anecdotes and sarcasms.


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