When most people think about ancient Greece, they think about gods and goddesses, epic battles, and grandiose architecture. But there was another side to ancient Greece—a side that focused on simple living, self-reliance, and questioning everything. This side is captured in the philosophy of Diogenes.
Diogenes was a man ahead of his time. Born in the 4th century BCE, he lived a life that was anything but ordinary. His philosophy and lifestyle were a challenge to the norms of his time, and he was a true savage.
He ridiculed people on the streets, disrespected authority, broke with all forms of etiquette, and didn’t care about personal hygiene. On top of that, he defecated, urinated, and even sexually gratified himself in public.Einzelganger
Overview of Diogenes’ Philosophy
Diogenes believed that happiness could be found in simplicity and self-sufficiency. He lived in a barrel and owned very few possessions, and he rejected the materialism and excess that was prevalent in Athens. Instead, he focused on living a life of virtue and seeking wisdom. He used his wit and satire to criticise the societal norms and conventions of his time, and he was known for his unconventional behavior and statements.
He believed that human society infused us with all kinds of unnatural desires that are not only obsolete, but also prevent us from being happy. Therefore, we should strip ourselves of these corrupting man made constructs, so we’re able to live how we’re supposed to live: in agreement with nature.
One of the most famous stories about Diogenes is his search for an “honest man.” He walked the streets of Athens with a lantern in broad daylight, claiming that he was searching for someone who was truly honest. This was a criticism of the corruption and lack of integrity that he saw in society, and it was a reminder to others to strive for honesty in their own lives.
Diogenes’ Views on Wealth
Diogenes felt that the accumulation of wealth was a disease of the soul. He believed that the wealthy were corrupted by their riches and that they lost sight of what was truly important in life.
Like Socrates, Diogenes believed that a good life was a life of self-sufficiency. Because he owned nothing, and wished for nothing more than the satisfaction of his basic needs, it was easy for him to be content. He didn’t need things like material wealth, and status, to be happy, and couldn’t care less about what people thought about him.
You can see this perspective in his story about the jar of honey. A man came to Diogenes and asked him how he could get rich. Diogenes told him to take a jar of honey and go stand in the market square. When people asked him what he was selling, he was to say that he was selling honey. But, when they asked how much it cost, he was to say that it cost a thousand pieces of gold.
The man did as Diogenes said, and when people asked him how much honey cost, he replied, “A thousand pieces of gold.” The people were so astonished by the price that they began to gather around him to buy some honey. The man became rich overnight.
But this story has a moral: The man became so obsessed with his wealth that he lost sight of what was truly important in life. He stopped caring about his friends and family and became focused only on money. Diogenes felt that this was the ultimate tragedy: when a person becomes so focused on wealth that they lose sight of everything else that is important in life.
Diogenes’ Views on Human Interactions
Diogenes was known for his interactions with people. He had strong opinions about how humans should behave and what was important in life.
One of his most famous quotes is: “I am a citizen of the world.” This quote reflects his belief that humans should not be limited by geographical boundaries. We should all be connected and working together for the common good.
He also believed in honesty and simplicity. He thought that we should be truthful with each other and not put on pretenses. And he believed that we should enjoy life simple pleasures, like food and drink.
Practical Tips to Help You Adopt the Diogenean Lifestyle
If you’re interested in living like Diogenes, then there are some practical tips that can help you get started.
First, get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. If it’s taking up space, then it’s probably not necessary—so recycle or donate it. This includes things beyond physical items; review any commitments or obligations in your life and see if they bring value to your life, especially if they don’t make you physically or mentally happy.
Second, commit to spending more time outdoors. For Diogenes, escaping to the outdoors was a way for him to escape the preoccupations of society—so make sure you go for walks, bike rides and hikes regularly. Not only will this help distract from your stressors, but it will give you a greater appreciation of the world around us.
Another way to apply Diogenean philosophy is to recognize the importance of self-awareness. The idea here is to understand who you are and why you think and do certain things so that you can minimize any kind of self-deception or bias that may creep in when making decisions. It’s also important to realize when something just isn’t that important and to be content with what you have, rather than desiring more. Lastly, don’t forget Diogenean principles such as generosity, compassion, and tolerance—values that everyone should strive for!
Finally, practice minimalism in all areas of your life—material possessions and goals included! Try to simplify as much as possible, so that ultimately all your decisions come down to what makes the most sense for your lifestyle (and nothing else!).
In short, Diogenes’ philosophy centered around the idea of simplicity and minimalism. If you want to live like Diogenes, here are a few practical tips to get you started:
- simplify your life by getting rid of unnecessary possessions
- focus on the important things and let go of the rest
- be friendly and social, but don’t get too attached to anyone
- live a life of self-sufficiency
- be content with what you have
- don’t concern yourself with material things
- find joy in the simple things in life