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Encyclopedia > Cynicism
This article is about the current understanding of the word cynicism. For information about the ancient Greek school of philosophy, see Cynic.

Cynicism (Greek: Kυνισμός) was originally the philosophy of a group of ancient Greeks called the Cynics, founded by Antisthenes. Shortcut: WP:-( Vandalism is indisputable bad-faith addition, deletion, or change to content, made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia. ... Shortcut: WP:-( Vandalism is indisputable bad-faith addition, deletion, or change to content, made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia. ... This article is about the ancient Greek school of philosophy. ... The philosopher Socrates about to take poison hemlock as ordered by the court. ... This article is about the ancient Greek school of philosophy. ... Portrait bust of Antisthenes Engraving of Antisthenes. ...

Currently, the word 'cynicism' generally describes the opinions of those who maintain that self-interest is the primary motive of human behaviour, and are disinclined to rely upon sincerity, human virtue, or altruism as motivations. In the modern world, sincerity is the elusive virtue of speaking truly about ones feelings, thoughts, desires. ... Personification of virtue (Greek ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ) is moral excellence of a person. ... For the ethical doctrine, see Altruism (ethics). ...


History of cynicism

Cynicism was the ancient Greek philosophy, primarily concerned with virtue so no whatever, whose followers were known as "The Dog Philosophers."[citation needed] They believed virtue was the only necessity for happiness, and that it was entirely sufficient for attaining happiness. The Cynics followed this philosophy to the extent of neglecting everything not furthering their perfection of virtue and attainment of happiness, thus, the title 'Cynics', derived from the Greek word 'kuon', 'dog' in English, was assigned them because they lived like dogs —neglecting society, personal hygiene, family obligations, pursuing money, et cetera— to lead entirely virtuous, and, thus, happy lives [1].

They did not escape Socrates' ridicule. This page is about the ancient Greek philosopher. ...

After his enlightenment, Diogenes travelled throughout Greece, almost naked and without provisions; enjoying the sun, the warm weather, the beaches, and so gathered about him thousands of pilgrims who listened to his talks, pregnant with sarcastic remarks about society. Even Alexander the Great, en route to Asian campaigns once went to him. Diogenes advised him to renounce conquest, however, Alexander declined, with "resignation", believing his destiny was already written. Diogenes by John William Waterhouse, depicting his lamp, tub and diet of onions. ... Wars of Alexander the Great Chaeronea – Thebes – Granicus – Miletus – Halicarnassus – Issus – Tyre – Gaugamela – Persian Gate – Sogdian Rock – Hydaspes River Alexander the Great (Greek: ,[1][2] Megas Alexandros; July 20 356 BC – June 10 323 BC), also known as Alexander III, was an Ancient Greek king of Macedon (336–323 BC). ...

When Diogenes died, a 'dog' (symbol of cynicism) was carved to his tombstone.[citation needed]

Toward modern cynicism

Nearly 2000 years after Greek philosophers embraced cynicism, 17th and 18th century writers such as Shakespeare, Swift, and Voltaire used irony, sarcasm, and satire to ridicule human conduct and revive cynicism. Nineteenth- and and twentieth-century literary and cinema figures such as Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, H.L. Mencken, and W.C. Fields used both these modes of perception and other, new ones in communicating their low opinions of human nature. By 1930, Bertrand Russell – in the essay On Youthful Cynicism – was describing the extent to which cynicism had penetrated Western mass consciousness, and noting particular areas where there was much about which to be cynical: religion, country (patriotism), progress, beauty, truth. Certainly, the first half of the 20th century, with its two world wars, offered little hope people wishing to embrace an idealism diametrically opposed to cynicism: that people can be trusted, have good intentions, are caring, decent, and honourable. Shakespeare redirects here. ... Genera Many; see text. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910),[1] better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer. ... Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was an American writer and poet, best known for her caustic wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles. ... H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (September 12, 1880 - January 29, 1956) was a twentieth century journalist and social critic, a cynic and a freethinker, known as the Sage of Baltimore and the American Nietzsche. He is often regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the early 20th... W. C. Fields (January 29, 1880 - December 25, 1946) was an American comedian and actor. ... Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, advocate for social reform, and pacifist. ...

Many felt that the second half of this century was characterized by a general rejection of virtue and self-restraint, and toward materialism – particularly in what Pope John Paul II termed "the cynical society of consumerism" in his 1984 Christmas remarks. The same communications media whose advertising bolstered consumerism also occasionally promoted entertaining conspiracy theories, thus adding a new "hidden agenda" dimension to the cynicism of some.[citation needed]

In recent decades, scientific study of human nature – one book's title characterized it as The Battle for Human Nature [Schwartz] – focused new attention on cynicism. In attempting to counter the widespread belief that "jungle ethics" and the associated competition, self-interest, and survival of the fittest are innate to the human animal, researchers looked for a genetic basis for co-operation and altruistic behaviour, and signs that human societal participation ultimately was built upon them. Some argued that a person's cynicism is escaping responsibility, others argue that cynicism follows sophistication in human psychologic development [Kohn]. For other uses, see Human nature (disambiguation). ... Competition is the act of striving against others for the purpose of achieving gain, such as income, pride, amusement, or dominance. ... Co-operation refers to the practice of people or greater entities working in common with commonly agreed-upon goals and possibly methods, instead of working separately in competition. ...

In underscoring cynicism's wide spread in Western society, in 2005 Yale University researchers found that children, as young as eight years old, regularly discounted the statements of others as tarnished with self-interest.[citation needed]

See also

A conspiracy theory attempts to attribute the ultimate cause of an event or chain of events (usually political, social, or historical events), or the concealment of such causes from public knowledge, to a secret, and often deceptive plot by a covert alliance of powerful or influential people or organizations. ... For other uses, see Human nature (disambiguation). ...


  • Kohn, Alfie The Brighter Side of Human Nature New York: Basic Books 1990
  • Schwartz, Barry The Battle for Human Nature New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 1986

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  • Cynicism / Conspiracism from Project Worldview
  • The scandal of the cynics[dead link – history]
  • Is it worse to be cynical or jaded?

  Results from FactBites:
Cynic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1163 words)
Whichever of these explanations is correct, it is noticeable that the Cynics agreed in taking a dog as their common badge or symbol, as early as the tombstone of Diogenes of Sinope.
The leading earlier Cynics were Antisthenes, Diogenes of Sinope, Crates of Thebes, and Zeno; in the later Roman period, the chief names are Demetrius (the friend of Seneca), Oenomaus and Demonax.
The very essence of their philosophy was the negation of the graces of social courtesy; it was impossible to "return to nature" in the midst of a society clothed in the accumulated artificiality of evolved convention without shocking the ingrained sensibilities of its members.
  More results at FactBites »



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