These quotes from Diogenes the Cynic tell us about one of the most truthful philosophers of all time. That is, someone with a strong will to understand the world and to find out the truth just because he loves the truth.
Many of Diogenes the Cynic’s quotes have not survived because he never wrote them down. However, those that have survived to date come from his followers, especially his namesake, Diogenes Laertius, who was tasked with collecting some of his sayings.
Diogenes of Sinope
This philosopher was born in Sinope and became famous in Athens. What distinguished him was his great detachment from worldly life. He especially loved freedom and, moreover, he was not afraid to tell the truth to powerful people. He was said to live in a barrel and many thought he was a beggar. These are some of his best-known quotes:
1. Quotes About Insult
One of his quotes says, “Insult shames the mocker, not the one who receives it.” It means that the mocker is often the person tormented, not the one who is the target of their insults.
Diogenes was known for using very harsh words to convey the truth. However, his claims related to double standards and a lack of ethics. He did not try to attack the person, but only disputed his morals.
2. Quotes About Flatterers
One of his followers, Hecaton, wrote down one of the quotes that he most often said: “It is better to fall on crows than on flatterers, for in the one case you are devoured when you are dead, in the other while you are dead. you live.”
This philosopher hated flattery. He became famous because Alexander the Great sought him, attracted by his fame. He introduced himself to Diogenes and asked if he needed anything. Though it’s hard to believe, Diogenes asked him to leave because he was blocking the sunlight.
3. Quotes About Total Detachment
It is said that Diogenes once stopped to observe a child collecting and drinking water with his hands. The philosopher had very few possessions, but he did have a cup. When he saw the child, he said, “A child has surpassed me in simplicity” and threw the cup away.
On another occasion, he noticed a child eating his food on a tray. They were lentils, but he used bread as a spoon. Diogenes imitated him, threw away his bowl and started eating like that from then on.
4. Quotes About Silence and Talking
This is one of the quotes from Diogenes the cynic who has no reliable authorship. It says: “Silence is how you learn to listen; listening is how you learn to speak; speaking is how you learn to be silent.”
If the quote is not from Diogenes, it is still consistent with his thinking. It means that communication is a complex process where listening is important. First you must learn to speak, and to know how to speak means to understand while you are silent.
5. Quotes About Charity and Its Interests
History tells us that an Athenian, impressed by the degree of poverty in which Diogenes lived, came to him and asked, “Why do people give to beggars and not to philosophers?”
Diogenes thought for a moment and replied, “Because they think they may someday be crippled or blind, but never expect to turn to philosophy.” This is an ingenious way of saying that charity is inspired by a kind of selfishness that especially nourishes the help inspired by such selfishness. There is only a lack of virtues. No compassion, just fear.
In the time of Diogenes, philosophers were highly regarded. He could have lived as a protégé of the nobles, enjoying luxury and privilege. However, he chose to reach the highest degree of sincerity. After all, this is why he is still remembered.