Cynicism is a personal position that expresses a demonstrative disdain for accepted norms and traditions that interfere with the solution of pragmatic tasks and those that are of little use in a practical sense.

The origin of the term “cynicism” is associated with the ancient Greek philosophical school of cynicism (from the ancient Greek cyon – dog), which took shape towards the end of the 5th – beginning of the 4th century BC. Representatives of cynicism rejected the importance of money, power, honors and other human values. The moral ideal of the Cynics was a natural way of life, asceticism and individual virtue.

The practical orientation of cynicism, expressed in propaganda shocking and eccentric antics, drew attention to the very act of social challenge. The original philosophical content was not always in sight. By the V century AD Cynicism was already associated with a specific line of behavior, disregard for generally accepted views and social norms. In the XIX century, negativist aspects of the cynical philosophy served as the basis for the formation of the concept of “cynicism” in the meaning of a skeptical attitude to ethical and social values.

However, the sober view of cynicism on the modern world of intellectual chimeras has confirmed its effectiveness. And although our vision is closer to Plato in Augustine’s interpretation than to Diogenes, we expressed it under a simple and well-established headline – “Cynic.” However, social and cultural intentions, like the style of presentation, are quite “cynical”. The characteristic laconicism and aphorism of the “Cynic”, the centrifugal unfolding of the concept in disjointed texts, provoke attempts to simplify or distort the interpretation of individual ideas. That prompted us to state the authentic explanations in the form of a visual survey.

Cynicism definition

The starting point of cynicism is the rationalized scheme of the existence of man, from which, he is invited to act towards pragmatic goals through available common sense. The world is treated as a formalized intellectual-ethical problem with given parameters, conditions and resources. Man’s immanent goal (good) and means (intellect) determine the direction of search for an optimal ethical model of behavior in a given situation. Beginning with the logical and empirical identification of the rational structure of the world, the narrative “Cynic” advances from refuting the artificial phenomena of the mass psyche to the analysis of the metaphysical premises of non-relational ethics. The result of the search is the recognition of the highest pragmatic authenticity of the transcendental moral axioms of the Holy Scripture, to which a certain “instruction”, the hermeneutic key, is attached. At this point, cynicism emerges from the closed circle of the subjective negativism of the Cynics and advances towards the perception of positive “genuine values.” For practical purposes.

So, cynicism is a philosophical paradigm that justifies the priority of metaphysical moral values over the relational meaning systems of human culture.

Ontology of cynicism

Cynicism does not attempt to interpret the nature of the world, confining itself to stating the evidence of its existence. At the same time, the rational nature of the world is emphasized, which is confirmed by its unreproducible organization and logical order: “The human mind just reflects the orderliness of the external world.” This is a prerequisite for the conclusion about the existence of a reasonable appointment of a person and apodictic ethics.


The epistemology of cynicism is agnostic: “A person can not understand the meaning of the world because the world is not created by man and not for him.” But, stating the unknowability of the world in the transcendental sense, cynicism insists on its adequate cognition in a measure sufficient for a pragmatic implementation of ethical norms. At the same time, the value of the timeless noumenal reality, which contrasts the false subjective values of human culture, with value: “People are not able to create real values and meanings because they can not create the reality itself, but only exist in it.” A person can only accept real values or come up with his own “. The dichotomy of objective metaphysical reality and subjective rational constructions is observed throughout the system of cynicism. Relying on the prolegomena of transcendental aesthetics, cynicism asserts that the individual picture of the world is determined by the original moral choice of the subject “Civilization of vice”.


With a logical argument similar to the well-known “Pascal betting”, cynicism concludes that in the context of a reasonable probability of an infinite retribution for evil, common sense does not provide an alternative to observing biblical norms. Morality can have a purely metaphysical nature and loses all meaning outside the context of the inevitability of punishment based on power, not limited by time and space. The value of morality, arbitrarily formulated by people, is denied. The essence of human life manifests itself in freedom, which is limited only by the 10 Old Testament Commandments: “An exhaustive list of prohibitions along with a permissive method of regulation allows us to identify another key value that is read between the lines of the Decalogue.” The eleventh value is freedom Everyone has the right to do all that is not provided for ten prohibitions “Axiology of Freedom.” But, the best model of behavior must take into account the destiny of a person, embodied in his nature.


According to cynicism, humankind is not homogeneous in its composition and is divided into three fundamentally different ontological species. “The true man,” has the highest degree of ideality, combining the five elements of humanity: form, intellect, ethics, aesthetics and spirit. The absence of all or some elements of humanity testifies to the belonging of the individual to the other two species. In the historical perspective, the relationship between species varies due to a natural decrease in the number of “genuine people”, which entails the degradation and dominance of fictitious value systems and dehumanized forms of behavior “Theory of degradation” in society. The “theory of accidence” developed by cynicism describes the mechanism of manifestation of the spiritual content of modern individuals in artifacts of material and spiritual culture “Civilization of vice”. Artificial value and semantic systems created within the framework of human culture are considered cynicism as false, which are contrasted with “genuine values.” From this position, cynicism expresses an extreme rejection of modern social attitudes and institutions: science, education, the state, the law of the “Chimera of the State.”


Cynic-philosophical school of Ancient Greece

The founder of the school of cynics (cynics) was the philosopher Antisthenes, born in 444 BC. in the family of an Athenian and Thracian slave. Fascinated by his philosophy, he was first a disciple of Gorgias, then Socrates, and later founded his philosophical school. Conversations with his students he spent in the gymnasium Kinosarg (in translation from Greek – white dog). It was from this word that the name of his followers-the Cynics, later transformed into cynics occurred.

Antisthenes called himself “an ungifted dog.” His followers wore a short cloak, clad in a naked body, a beggar’s bag and staff. At the heart of his philosophy lay the motto: “To live according to nature.” In the context of this, all the wealth of civilization was seen as contradictory to nature. Therefore, in their opinion, happiness is the return to the world of nature. Philosophical ideas of Antisthenes were continued by his pupil, the famous Diogenes of Sinop (400-323 BC).

To characterize this personality, let us cite an example: at the end of his days, he met accidentally with Alexander the Great, who invited him to fulfill any of his wishes, to which the philosopher asked the king not to block the sun from him. Hearing this response, the general exclaimed: “If I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes!”

The philosopher’s views grew more and more bizarre and provocative every year: Diogenes began walking almost naked, sending out natural needs in front of everyone, drinking water from puddles, eating raw meat. Its habitat is a large clay amphora, which went down in history as the “Diogenous barrel”. The sharp mind of Diogenes, combined with extravagant behavior, attracted thousands of people to him. His ideas were especially popular among the “golden” youth of that time. Surrounded by childhood luxury, but not finding satisfaction with spiritual needs, young people from aristocratic families were fond of the ideas of cynics, which, they thought, made them free.

It is well known that it was precisely these reasons that became fundamental in the emergence of the hippy movement, the leading representatives of which were children of the families of Europe and America. Gradually, the teaching of cynics turned into a real cynicism, where even the death of loved ones was perceived as an unimportant event. Leading a vagrancy way of life, cynics lived at the expense of society, without doing anything at all and considering all the others much lower than themselves. However, the followers of this doctrine did not find satisfaction and happiness in unity with nature. The feeling of dissatisfaction, and sometimes of complete depression filled the lives of these people. Apparently, this explains why the modern “hippies”, having spent several years in such a state, returned to the society, taking their parents‘ places in the management of factories, factories, banks. They return to life, which was recently protested, and then their children repeated their life path, trying unsuccessfully to get rid of the gross materialism in life, to find something light, spiritual. They say that Diogenes could spend hours wandering around the city in the afternoon with a lighted lantern and responding to questions from surprised citizens: “I’m looking for a man.” Trying to find a person, Diogenes and his followers did not see God, for the search of which it was not necessary to light a lantern or long philosophize.

The school of cynics soon ceased to exist, but its ideas, as we see, have survived to this day, bringing about the same emptiness, dissatisfaction, disappointment in life.

Cynicism and the end of philosophy

As you know, all the leading philosophical positions were outlined by the IV BC. Since the spread of the Holy Scripture, the search for truth has lost its urgency. Since further cognition could be carried out within the framework of exegesis, in the Middle Ages the activity of philosophical search faded. But in modern times, humanity rejected the found meaning and faced the need for inventing an alternative. This was the philosophy that, instead of truth and virtue, created labyrinths of falsifiability and pluralism. And what about cynicism? Cynicism says. Do not multiply entities. Here is good and evil, in the end, death.

Tags: Greek Philosophy
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