Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Dogenes was born around 413 B.C in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea. He was once caught in counterfeiting the currency with his father and was banished from the city. So, he went to Athens, where he sought Antisthenes, the founder of cynicism, as his mentor. He pursued the Cynic ideal of self-sufficiency, a life that was natural and not dependent upon the nonessential luxuries of civilization. Because Diogenes believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory, he made his life a protest against what he thought of as a corrupt society. He is said to have lived in a large tub, rather than in a house, and to have gone about Athens with a lantern in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man–but never finding one. He said Plato’s lectures were a waste of time. Alexander is reported to have said, “Had I not been Alexander, I should have liked to be Diogenes.” As it turned out, both Diogenes and Alexander died on the same day in 323 B.C. Alexander was 33 and Diogenes was 90.


Diogenes is generally referred to as “Diogenes the Cynic”. He is one of the most striking figures in Greek history; and the most noted of the CYNICS. “Cynicism” derives its name from the Greek word for “Dog”. Aristotle refers to Diogenes as “The Dog” and Diogenes seems to have accepted the nickname. Cynicism was not a “school of philosophy”, but rather an “erratic succession of individuals” which can be said to have started with the philosopher Antisthenes. Diogenes left behind him no system of philosophy.