Who is Antisthenes?December 13, 2020
B.C. He is a Greek philosopher who lived between 444-365 and founded the Kinik school.
He was a student of the sophistic philosopher Gorgias and then Socrates. After Socrates, he founded his school and took Socrates as a reference to his philosophy. He is the founder of the Kinik school, which is derived from the word Kyon, which means dog, and made important expansions of this trend.
According to Antisthenes, what matters is virtue and is a state of self-sufficiency that can be achieved with wisdom in virtue. Man should be able to exist solely on his own by freeing himself from all kinds of needs. In this sense, freedom is getting rid of needs and overcoming social ties. In this sense, Antisthenes’ philosophical ideas contain criticism and denial of civilizational values.
Antisthenes, who was also significantly influenced by Gorgias, carries the effects of sophism in his philosophy. It is significantly closer to Gorgias’ approach to the issues of unity of being and the inadequacy of our definitions. Knowledge is the word for naming things, and our judgments are nothing more than a put together of these words. Unlike Plato’s approach that takes concepts as real, there is a kind of nominalist thought here.
The purpose of life is happiness (endaimonia) and this can only be achieved through virtue. Virtue is wisdom, that is, by one’s self-sufficiency. In this sense, virtue is the freedom of the soul, or spiritual freedom. Health, beauty, glory, fame, honor, honor, etc. things are delusional and artificial things that should be viewed with suspicion; In cynical thinking, though, their opposites express a value. Needlessness, anonymity, propertylessness, the lack of known social moral codes, in a real sense, ensure human competence and freedom.
In this critique of value, Antisthenes does not have a hedonistic disposition, but rather a harsh reaction to hedonism. Pleasure is the cause of human enslavement. According to Antisthenes, who argues that for the purpose of happiness, virtue in itself is more than enough and nothing else is needed, virtue is the absence of desire, independence from will. The cynical philosophers reject everything that does not directly serve the preservation and maintenance of life, or rather, they are indifferent to them. This attitude has led them to anti-civilization. They remain indifferent to or deny the known morality, social values, religion, family and state. Antisthenes does not want the state to have anything to do with it.
Antisthenes and his school also participate in the pessimistic philosophy that his followers achieved by Aristoppus. Antisthenes engaged in a fierce fight over Aristippos’ assumption of pleasure. According to Antisthenes, man must seek true happiness in his inner desire for independence and freedom. A person who truly achieves true happiness knows how to remain completely indifferent and indifferent to both pleasure and pain. Being indifferent to pleasure and pain gives a person the inner freedom. In the face of Antisthenes, Socrates lived this ideal vividly. However, just as there was a Hegasias in Aristippos school, a Diogenes (Diogenes) was raised from the school of Antisthenes.
Diogenes is one of the most popular figures in the history of philosophy. Almost everyone knows the stories of how he distanced himself from all necessities. For example, we know that one day he met Alexander while sitting in his barrel, and when Alexander asked what he wanted from him, he said: “Don’t shadow, I do n’t ask for help . “ The First Age was very fond of such stories. Even if what these stories tell is not true, the emergence of such stories proves the interest shown in them during this period. However, it is not correct to perceive Diogenes as just a strange person. He is also a thinker with very remarkable thoughts. Diogenes are a very characteristic example, especially for later Kynics.
Neither the Kyrenia nor the Cygnics are considered philosophers in the full sense. However, the same cannot be said for Aristippos and Antisthenes, the founders of these two schools. These two are remarkable thinkers. Indeed, both of them have important views on information theory. Both philosophers argue that true knowledge is the knowledge that makes man his subject. It is necessary to accept to some extent that Sophists are also influential in this view. As a matter of fact, Plato believes that these two thinkers were not exactly Socratic, but a little Sophist.
Antisthenes’ philosophy of knowledge was also shaped in this direction. According to him, it is impossible for us to know the universe itself. However, Antisthenes thinks differently from Aristippos about what our knowledge consists of. According to him, to know means to separate objects until their last parts. So pure knowledge can only be knowledge of things that are simple. In other words, if it is related to objects that cannot be divided anymore, the information is real and solid information. Information consists of many parts. There cannot be a complete knowledge of the objects that we cannot clearly know the proportions between the parts. This is why information consists of an uncertainty, that is, the intermingling of parts of objects.
XVII to this understanding of knowledge. We encounter it in Descartes in the century. Antisthenes thinks that this idea is also valid in the field of application. The person who fits their passions becomes attached to an unspecified and mixed value in the field of morality. So in both theoretical and practical life, only things that are simple and clear can guarantee us knowledge that is real, pure. But we cannot know these simple last elements of the object, we can only observe them. If we can split an object down to its last element, in the end, we can say that this is the last piece, we cannot say anything else. Aristippos regards knowledge as only what is obtained through perceptions. However, according to Antisthenes, in order to reach true knowledge, there is also a need to separate what is given in perception down to the last elements.
Plato couldn’t help criticizing these two schoolmates about knowledge. There is a more important difference between Socrates and Plato. We know that both Aristippos and Antisthenes are literally induvidualists. The essential in both of these is the individual. Neither is interested in superindividual phenomena such as the state, society, or history. Moreover, according to them, man should be as far away from general life as possible from political life. If a person really wants to be happy, he must be able to be alone and free himself from dependence on other people.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Ömer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Department of Sociology First Class “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2., 3., 4. Class “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook