The quotes from Diogenes the cynic tell us about one of the most honest philosophers of all time. That is, he was someone with a strong will to understand reality and get to the truth, with no additional interest other than the love of truth itself.
In truth, not very many quotes from Diogenes the cynic have come down to us because he never wrote anything down. What remains of him today we owe to his students. Especially his namesake, Diogenes Laercio, who had the task of collecting his teachings.
“Wisdom acts as a brake for the youth, as consolation for the old, as wealth for the poor and as ornament for the rich.”
Diogenes the cynic
The main characteristic of this philosopher, who was born in Sinope and made famous in Athens, was his enormous generosity. He loved freedom above all else and was not afraid of telling the truth to those in power. It is said of him that he lived in a barrel and that many people mistook him for a beggar. Below are some of the most famous quotes from Diogenes the cynic.
1. One of the quotes from Diogenes the cynic about insults
One of the quotations from Diogenes the cynic says: “The insult dishonors the one who utters it, not the one who receives it.” This means that the mistake often lies in the opinion of the offending person and not in the essence or nature of the person who is the target of the offense.
And this despite the fact that Diogenes was known to use very harsh phrases to convey his truths. His charge, however, had more to do with double standards and ethical errors than with any specific person. He was not trying to attack a person, but rather to question their moral position.
2. The flatterers
One of his students, Hekaton, left one of the quotations from Diogenes the cynic, which he apparently uttered very often. It reads: “The company of crows is preferable to that of the flatterers, for some devour the dead and others the living.”
If this philosopher hated anything, it was flatterers. He became known for one episode: Alexander the Great came to see him, attracted by his prestige. He introduced himself to him and asked if he could ask something. Diogenes asked him to turn away as it was blocking the sunlight.
3. Total detachment
It is said that Diogenes once observed a child who picked up the water with his hands and then drank it. The philosopher himself had very few belongings, but among other things a bowl. But when he saw the child, he said, “A child surpassed me in simplicity,” and put the bowl away.
On another occasion he observed another child eating his food from a leaf. It was lentils and it used bread instead of a spoon to bring it to its mouth. Diogenes then decided to eat the same way.
4. About silence and speaking
This is a quote that is mostly attributed to Diogenes, the cynic, but for which there is no complete certainty as to the authorship. It reads as follows: “In silence one learns to listen, by listening one learns to speak, and by speaking one learns to be silent.”
Even if this quote is not from Diogenes, it is in any case consistent with his way of thinking. It’s about communication being a complex process where listening is fundamental. This is what enables us to learn to speak in the first place. And knowing how to speak implies understanding when it is best to keep silent.
5. Charity and its interests
The story goes that one of the residents of Athens, impressed by the degree of poverty in which Diogenes lived, approached him and asked him: “Why do people give money to beggars and not to philosophers?”
Diogenes thought about it for a moment and then replied, “Because they think that one day they might become disabled or blind, but never philosophers.” A brilliant way of saying that charity is inspired by a kind of selfishness that primarily motivates selfishness-fed help. It is not the virtues that enter into this equation, but the defects; there is no empathy, but fear.
During the time that Diogenes lived, philosophers were very much valued. He could have lived protected by the nobles, in the midst of luxury and privilege. However, he chose to part with everything in order to achieve the highest level of true authenticity. For this reason, he is still remembered thousands of years later.