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Diogenes as a Huckster July 16, 2014

Posted by anagasto in philosophy.
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Plato invited some of his friends for lunch. Diogenes came and wiped his feet on Plato’s welcome rug saying: “This is how I wipe my feet on Plato’s awful pride.”

And Plato answered : “That is the way you flaunt and push your hopeless arrogance.”

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diogene

There was that wooden barrel that Diogenes used as a home, and in the barrel you could see a lantern and some onions. That was all Diogenes needed to live. It was his philosophy that any great lifestyle entails trouble and hypocrisy, and he made poverty his show.

The drawing is from an Assimil language course.

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Diogenes has always been considered the model of a cynic. However, as you can see, in its origin the term meant somebody whose moral laws drew attention because of their rigidity and excessive simplicity.

The drawing, in public domain, is by W. Busch, a German cartoonist of about 100 years ago.
Busch often wrote rhymed captions that even now are still around as proverbs: “Diogenes the Wise krept into his barrel and said: Yeah, that follows from that.”

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389px-Waterhouse-Diogenes

Little by little all along 2500 years the term has changed its meaning and by now a cynic would mostly be defined as somebody who does not believe that moral values are anything but fig leaves.

The painting is by John W. Waterhouse.

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There he sits in his barrel, and there is his lantern that he said he would need to find an honest man in Greece.

The painting is by Jean-Leon Gerome from the Jean_Leon_Gerome website.

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gary-olsen-boy on way to school

One day Diogenes was taking a bath in the fountains of the main square and people gathered to watch and pity him.

Just then Plato walked by and said to them: “If you really do pity him, why don’t you just leave him alone?”

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They say that Diogenes was poor because he had to run away from home when his father, a banker, had been caught counterfeiting coins. And some say Diogenes himself had been caught in this business. He was so poor (they say) that he had only his coat for a blanket and a barrel for a home.

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movie-alex-thinking

When Alexander went to Greece, people stood in line to see him, but Diogenes was not among them. Alexander was curious to meet him, and so he went down to the suburb where he found the old cynic sitting in the street doing nothing.

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So, when Alexander the Great asked him what he could do for him, Diogenes answered : “Get out of my sunlight.”

This was meant to show how little he made of honors and wealth and, indeed, of etiquette. It is a very famous quote, and it is often used to show how little Diogenes  needed to feel happy.

But if the story were true, it would mainly show that he was  rude.

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movie-alex-on-his-horse

Alexander seems to have said that if he were not Alexander, he would want to be Diogenes.

Though these stories are considered “classics”, they are not necessarily true or deep, but have been around for a very long time, partly based on a detailed old Roman account available in English online and written by yet another Diogenes who is  long and chatty to read. Surprisingly enough there was also some poetry :

“The streams of sacred rivers now
Run backwards to their source.” —

This  could mean that the world is all upside down, but to find out I would have to see where it came from.-
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Define “huckster”:
>> One who sells wares or provisions in the street; a peddler or hawker.
>> One who uses aggressive, showy, and sometimes devious methods to promote or sell a product.
>> > Informal One who writes advertising copy, especially for radio or television.

See http://www.thefreedictionary.com/huckster
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