School of Cynics (Kelbiler, Kyniks)July 1, 2021
This philosophy movement, known as the School of Cynics or the School of Kelbis or Cynics, is the Socratic Greek school of philosophy that finds the only purpose of life in virtue as not needing anything and being self-sufficient, in short, pure freedom.
Immediately after Socrates’ death, his students were separated into some schools. One of these schools was the Kyrene School founded by Aristoppos in the city of Kyrene in North Africa. Next to this school, there is the school of Antisthenes in Athens, who is also a Socratic. This school is called Kynikler (Kelbiler) School.
Since the school of Antisthenes was founded in the Greek region of Kinosarges, it was named after the School of the Cynics. According to another opinion, the name Kynik derives from the word kyon, meaning dog. In this context, it is thought that the Cynics took this name because they despised the values of civilization and their way of life was outside of all rules.
There are two main topics of interest to Socrates: Socrates’ students first wanted to know what happiness is and where it can be found. In the eyes of all, their teacher, Socrates, is a model of a wise and happy person. But what is the characteristic of this happiness that Socrates achieved by the way of life he lived? This is the first major problem of the Socrates.
One of the Socratic schools, the Cynic School adopted an approach based on virtue. Antisthenes thought that the way to “good” and “happy” life, “right action” is to become independent in the face of pleasure. The only thing that can provide this independence is virtue. Here again virtue is knowledge of a certain nature. This knowledge or virtue can be gained, learned. For this understanding, virtue or knowledge is the most important thing.
So much so that, according to Antisthenes, only knowledge that serves ethical purposes is important. It is the knowledge of this nature that the philosopher must investigate. Information other than this or that does not serve this purpose is unnecessary and even harmful (Akarsu, 1982: 39). The representative of the Cynics, who sees only virtue as good and pleasure as something to be avoided, carries the standard of right life to an extreme and applies it with his own lifestyle, is Diogenes of Sinop.
Diogenes, who is said to have lived in a vat, is an example of applying the ideas of the Cynic School to the extreme. According to him, knowledge is valuable only because it helps people to be virtuous. Apart from that, theoretical knowledge is of no importance. It is sufficient to meet basic needs such as food and shelter for a happy and good life. Things other than this and the binding rules of society are the things that prevent virtuous living (Gökberk, 1990: 53-54).
The late Cynics symbolize a kind of Rousseauism. They, like Rousseau, favor a return to nature. They talk about the goodness of being with nature. They draw attention to the bad effects of culture and civilization on people. We know that Rousseau was too thin a child of civilization. Rousseau was a thinker who opposed the extremely refined culture and civilization of 18th century France. We see objections to this extreme civilization not only in Rousseau, but also in thinkers from various periods of our cultural history.
If this kind of opposition is called Rousseauism, we find the first signs of this movement in the Cynics. We witness the ideal of naturalness and simplicity put forward by them throughout the First Age, starting with Antisthenes. The kyniks are essentially traveling preachers. They have very simple lives. They walk around in matted clothes. We call them preachers because, rather than being philosophers, they constantly work on religious themes in their speech. We see these preachers reappearing later, especially during the Roman Empire, when Rome was more civilized than it was.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım