Archetype of the Cynics, a Greek philosophical sect that stressed stoic self-sufficiency and the rejection of luxury. He is credited by some with originating the Cynic way of life, but he himself acknowledges an indebtedness to Antisthenes, by whose numerous writings he was probably influenced. It was by personal example rather than any coherent system of thought that Diogenes conveyed the Cynic philosophy. His followers positioned themselves as watchdogs of morality.
Although of Dorian lineage, he wrote in the Ionic dialect, like all the physiologi (physical philosophers). There seems no doubt that he lived some time at Athens, where it is said that he became so unpopular (probably owing to his supposed atheistic opinions) that his life was in danger.
Diogenes is the subject of numerous apocryphal stories, one of which depicts his behaviour upon being sold into slavery. He declared that his trade was that of governing men and was appointed tutor to his master's sons. Tradition ascribes to him the famous search for an honest man conducted in broad daylight with a lighted lantern. Almost certainly forced into exile from Sinope with his father, he had probably already adopted his life of asceticism (Greek askesis, "training") when he reached Athens. Referred to by Aristotle as a familiar figure there, Diogenes began practicing extreme anti-conventionalism. He made it his mission to "deface the currency," perhaps meaning "to put false coin out of circulation." That is, he sought to expose the falsity of most conventional standards and beliefs and to call men back to a simple, natural life.
For Diogenes the simple life meant not only disregard of luxury but also disregard of laws and customs of organized, and therefore "conventional," communities. The family was viewed as an unnatural institution to be replaced by a natural state in which men and women would be promiscuous and children would be the common concern of all. Though Diogenes himself lived in poverty, slept in public buildings, and begged his food, he did not insist that all men should live in the same way but merely intended to show that happiness and independence were possible even under reduced circumstances.
The program for life advocated by Diogenes began with self-sufficiency, or the ability to possess within oneself all that one needs for happiness. A second principle, "shamelessness," signified the necessary disregard for those conventions holding that actions harmless in themselves may not be performed in every situation. To these Diogenes added "outspokenness," an uncompromising zeal for exposing vice and conceit and stirring men to reform. Finally, moral excellence is to be obtained by methodical training, or asceticism.
The views of Diogenes are transferred in The Clouds (264 if.) of Aristophanes to Socrates. Like Anaximenes, he believed air to be the one source of all being, and all other substances to be derived from it by condensation and rarefaction. His chief advance upon the doctrines of Anaximenes is that he asserted air, the primal force, to be possessed of intelligence—"the air which stirred within him not only prompted, but instructed. The air as the origin of all things is necessarily an eternal, imperishable substance, but as soul it is also necessarily endowed with consciousness."
In fact, he belonged to the old Ionian school, whose doctrines he modified by the theories of his contemporary Anaxagoras, although he avoided his dualism. His most important work was De natura, of which considerable fragments are extant (chiefly in Simplicius); it is possible that he wrote also Against the Sophists and On the Nature of Man, to which the well-known fragment about the veins would belong; possibly these discussions were subdivisions of his great work.
''This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica and http://www.kat.gr/kat/history/Greek/Ph/Diogenes.htm