Thursday, 6 March 2014
History - Diogenes
He was a controversial figure. His father was a banker who minted coins for a living, and for a while Diogenes worked with him. There was a banker's scandal and Diogenes was banished from Sinope, the city where he lived.
He moved to Athens where he proclaimed many of his theories:
He believed that virtue is better shown in action rather than in theory.
He criticised the social values and institutions and the corruption in society.
He believed in living the simple life without too many possessions and clutter. (He did not even have a TV because it was yet to be invented).
Diogenes made a virtue of poverty and begged for a living. He slept in a large ceramic jar (or tub) in the marketplace; and was notorious for his philosophical stunts - like carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man.
When he arrived in Athens Diogenes had a slave called Manes who ran away from him. Diogenes declared: "If Manes can live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without Manes?" explaining that it was wrong for a master to have a servant doing things for him.
As I mentioned earlier, he lived in poverty in a tub in the market place with no possesions but a small bowl from which he drank. One day he saw a boy drinking from the hollow of his hands; so Diogenes destroyed the bowl and was much grieved that for years he had a useless possession.
In those days it was forbiden to eat in the marketplace. Remember it was the days before fast-food outlets and milkshakes - even chocolate ones, because chocolate too, like TV, had not yet been invented.
Notwithstanding the lack of a good hamburger, Diogenes would still eat in the markeplace. When he was told off he replied: "It's when I'm in the marketplace that I am hungry; not somewhere else!" A logic which today would have earned him a punch on the nose.
In those days in Athens there were other clever men like Plato, (I believe he could spin twenty plates on long sticks which he would shake every now and then to keep them spinning) and Socrates who much enjoyed the show and made 10% from ticket sales.
During one of his performances Plato described man as a "featherless biped" and the audience applauded in delight at this joke. Easily pleased I suppose!
So Diogenes plucked a chicken and declared to Plato "Behold! I've brought you a man." It is not recorded how Plato reacted; but no doubt the distraction made him loose concentration and he smashed many plates spinning on sticks.