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Diogenes the Cynic on Anarchism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 315
Anarchism/Diogenes of Sinope/Diogenes the Cynic/Keyt/Miller: [Diogenes] claimed to be without a polis (apolis) (D.L. VI.38), said that 'the only correct constitution is that in the cosmos' (D.L. VI. 72),
and declared himself to be a citizen of the cosmos (kosmopolités) (D.L. VI.63). The second of these
sayings entails that no constitution in a polis is correct (and hence just) whereas the first and third
may be taken, consonant with this, to disavow citizenship in any polis. In the same spirit the famous anecdote of Diogenes' encounter with Alexander the Great illustrates among other things his scorn for political power. Coming upon Diogenes sunning himself, Alexander asks what he can do for him and draws the reply, 'Stand out of my light' (D.L. VI.38; see also V 1.32, 60, and 68). Diogenes had similar anarchistic ideas about slavery and marriage. 'To those who advised him to pursue his runaway slave, he said, "It would be absurd if Manes can live without Diogenes, but Diogenes cannot without Manes"' (D.L. VI.55). Diogenes implies in this saying that slavery should be a voluntary relation resting on the need of the slave for a master. 'He also said that wives should be held in common, recognizing no marriage except the joining together of him who persuades with her who is persuaded' (D.L. VI. 72). In this saying Diogenes advocates free cohabitation and disavows marriage based on coercion.
Literature: (Navia, 1995(1), is an annotated bibliography of over 700 items on the Cynics. Two books on Cynicism that appeared subsequent to the bibliography are Branham and Goulet-Cazé, 1996(2), an extensive collection of essays, and Navia, 1996(3), an important new study.)
Questions: Controversy over Diogenes' political ideas concerns the nature of his anarchism and cosmopolitanism. Is Diogenes a nihilistic or an idealistic anarchist? Is he 'the saboteur of his civilization, the nihilist of Hellenism, the parasite of his culture' or the apostle of a higher law and a higher authority (Navia, 1996(3): 102—3)? In a similar vein, is his cosmopolitanism positive or negative? When he refers to himself as a kosmopolités, a citizen of the cosmos, is he denying all bonds of citizenship or affirming a universal bond?
Successor: The latter is the Stoic interpretation. Claiming to be a follower of Diogenes, the first Stoic, Zeno of Citium (335-263 BC), wrote in his Republic that 'we should regard all men as our fellow-citizens and local residents, and there should be one way of life and order, like that of a herd grazing together and nurtured by a common law' (Plutarch, LA 329a). >Governance/Zeno of Citium.

LA: Plutarch: Luck of Alexander


1. Navia, Luis E. (1996) Classical Cynicism: A Critical study. Wes CT: Greenwood.
2 Branham, Robert Bracht and Marie-Odile Goulet-Cazc, eds (1996) The Cynics: The cynic Movement in Antiquity and Its Legacy for Europe. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
3. Navia, Luis E. (1996) Classical Cynicism: A Critical Study. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Keyt, David and Miller, Fred D. jr. 2004. „Ancient Greek Political Thought“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Diogenes the Cynic
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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