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7th May 2013

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A conversation on Skype this evening had me dig out and pass on an episode of Radio 4’s In Our Time from 2005 on the subject of the ancient Greco-Roman tradition that was Cynicism that I thought would make an interesting post.

‘Diogenes searching for an honest man’ by Jacob Jordaens
Cynicism (image:
“Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cynics, the performance artists of philosophy. Eating live octopus with fresh lupins, performing intimate acts in public places and shouting at passers by from inside a barrel is behaviour not normally associated with philosophy. But the Cynics were different. They were determined to expose the meaninglessness of civilised life by action as well as by word. They slept rough, ate simply and gave their lectures in the market place. Perhaps surprisingly, their ideas and attitudes were immensely popular in the ancient world.”

“Other dogs bite only their enemies, whereas I bite also my friends in order to save them.”
Diogenes of Sinope (

Although not addressed in the programme, does it help shed light upon the endemic trend of cynicism—in the modern sense of the word—that is trolling on social networks and comments on the Internet—that “market place” of today? Listen in before you answer that, you may be surprised! (If you can’t be arsed to sit through 45 minutes, skip to 18:15 to pick up on my gist on that topic.)

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Tags: In Our Time.


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