Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Want the shortest path to the good life? Try cynicism

Date:
October 22, 2012
Source:
University of Cincinnati
Summary:
A classics professor sheds new light on the philosophy of the ancient Cynics. They actually held values they viewed as a shortcut to happiness.

Are cynics and happiness mutually exclusive? For modern cynics, perhaps. But for the ancient Cynics, not necessarily.

Research by the University of Cincinnati's Susan Prince shows that despite the historical perception of the ancient Cynics as harsh, street-corner prophets relentlessly condemning all passersby and decrying society's lack of virtue, these Greek philosophers, indirectly descended from Socratic teaching, weren't all doom and gloom. They actually might have espoused a shortcut to happiness.

"We don't have good scholarship on the Cynics. They're seen as misanthropes and as sloppy and dirty people who want to cut down the elite," says Prince, UC assistant professor of classics, adding, "But there's a positive strand that needs to be recovered, and I'm really going to punch that hard with my research."

Prince was invited to present her new research paper, "Antisthenes and the Short Route to Happiness," during the 13th annual Unisa Classics Colloquium hosted by the University of South Africa's Department of Classics and World Languages from Oct. 25-27 in Pretoria. More than a dozen presentations from international scholars will address the conference theme of "Ancient Routes to Happiness."

Much of Prince's work focuses on the individual believed to be the primary influence on the Cynic movement, Antisthenes.

Antisthenes was a pupil of Socrates and occasional rival of Plato. In fact, while history occasionally paints Plato as a philosopher of unequaled wisdom, UC's Prince says that through study of his texts, it's more plausible that he developed his ideas through tight intellectual debates with his contemporaries, and Antisthenes was among them.

Ancient Cynics' Recipe for Happiness: Avoid an Emphasis On Material Goods

Plato and Antisthenes shared many beliefs in common with all philosophers -- rejection of wealth and luxury, and embracing the pursuit of wisdom and virtue. But Antisthenes' methods set him apart from Plato. Whereas Plato founded his Academy for philosophical teaching and lengthy study, Antisthenes advocated a short but rigorous path toward virtue and happiness.

Antisthenes' way was short in that he endorsed an abbreviated curriculum when compared to those of other schools of philosophy, which contended that the quick route was a road to nowhere. Antisthenes' teachings skipped over the technical aspects of logic in order to concentrate on ethical literature, such as reading Homer.

And Antisthenes' way was rigorous in that it required a drastic attitude change. To follow the path of the Cynic was to abandon many societal conventions and to live in accord with nature -- no more fancy clothes, no more exquisite feasts and even no more roof over your head.

Ancient Cynics' Lack of Emphasis On Material Goods Led to More Leisure Time

Through this shortcut, Prince says Cynics were able to gain leisure time which could be put toward living the good life or what Antisthenes called "seeing the things worth seeing and hearing the things worth hearing." And that's how an ancient Cynic could exist in ethical bliss until the end of his days.

"You get to your happiness quickly and then you practice your happiness for the rest of your life," Prince says.

In a modern context, there's some irony in the notion of a cynic devoted to the pursuit of happiness, and Prince hopes her research can clear the air on Antisthenes, et al. In addition to her paper for the Unisa conference, she has a 600-page manuscript on Antisthenes scheduled to be published through the University of Michigan Press in 2013 or 2014. She wants to show that the negative connotation associated with "cynic" might be historically inaccurate and to provide a little redemption for centuries of misjudgment.

"I'm resisting the modern sense of 'cynic,'" Prince says. "That just hits the mission on the head: To recover the ancient Cynics and show that you can't just project straight backward. There's a whole history there that has led us to our modern sense of the term 'cynic,' and that comes from the negative tradition."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cincinnati. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Cincinnati. "Want the shortest path to the good life? Try cynicism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022113558.htm>.
University of Cincinnati. (2012, October 22). Want the shortest path to the good life? Try cynicism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022113558.htm
University of Cincinnati. "Want the shortest path to the good life? Try cynicism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022113558.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) U-576, a long-lost German U-boat the U.S. sank in 1942, has been found just 30 miles off North Carolina's coast and near the wreckage of another ship. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins