The highest thing that can be attained on earth

«There is no doubt that (…) my brother tried a little bit to imitate Diogenes in the tub [“pythos”]; he wanted to find out with how little could a philosopher do.»

– Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche

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«Open still remaineth a free life for great souls. Verily, he who possesseth little is so much the less possessed: blessed be moderate poverty!
There, where the state ceaseth — there only commenceth the man who is not superfluous: there commenceth the song of the necessary ones, the single and irreplaceable melody.
There, where the state ceaseth — pray look thither, my brethren!
Do ye not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the Superman?
Thus spake Zarathustra.»

– Nietzsche, Thus spoke Zarathustra

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«There is altogether no prouder and at the same time more exquisite kind of book than my books — they attain here and there the highest thing that can be attained on earth, cynicism.»

– Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, ‘Why I Write Such Good Books’.

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«If, in any sense, it is some happiness or the pursuit of happiness which binds the living being to life and urges him to live, then perhaps no philosopher is closer to the truth than the Cynic: for the happiness of the animal, that thorough Cynic, is the living proof of the truth of Cynicism.»

– Nietzsche, “On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life”.

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The old Cynic Antisthenes, who was dying from some disease, asked:

“Who will release me from these pains [“ponoi”]?”

Diogenes replied “This”, showing him a dagger.

Antisthenes responded:

“I said from suffering, not from life.”

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Nietzsche evoked the anecdote:

«A very profound statement, one cannot get the better of the love of life by means of a dagger. Yet that is the real suffering. It is obvious that the Cynic clings to life more than the other philosophers: ‘the shortest way to happiness’ is nothing but the love of life in itself and complete needlessness with reference to all other goods.»

– Nietzsche, “Lectures on Greek literature” [“Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur”], chapter “Ways of Dying” [“Todesarten”]. Cited in Niehues-Pröbsting, “The Modern Reception of Cynicism”, 1996, 356-7.

Niehues-Pröbsting explains: «In contrast to other European languages, the form Cynismus, which up to this point had been uniform, was given up in German during the 19th century and replaced by the distinction between Kynismus — which exclusively designates the philosophy of Antisthenes and Diogenes and their classical successors — and Zynismus as a name for an attitude that does not recognize anything as sacred and insults values, feelings, and decorum provocatively, with biting sarcasm, or even just through deliberate indifference” (Niehues-Pröbsting, 1996, 331, note 3). Nietzsche uses only “Cynismus”.

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«Aristotle thinks that the wise man is he who is busy with important, divine things. Here is the hidden error in the direction of thinking. Only the study of small, human, illogical, things, leads to wisdom.»

– Nietzsche (8:23[5], 1878).

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“When someone boasted that in the Pythian games he had vanquished men, Diogenes replied, ‘I am the champion in the category men, you in the category slaves’”

– Diogenes Laertius about the Cynic Diogenes of Sinope, VI, 33.

“One day he saw a woman kneeling before the gods in an ungraceful attitude, and wishing to free her of superstition . . . he came forward and said: ‘Are you not afraid, my good woman, that a god may be standing behind you? — for all things are full of his presence — and you may be put to shame!’”

And when someone called him a dog he proceeded to urinate on that person’s foot.

– Diogenes Laertius about the Cynic Diogenes of Sinope, VI, 37.

“One day when Plato had invited friends to his home, Diogenes trampled upon his carpets and said ‘I trample upon Plato’s vainglory’ [typhos].”

Plato’s replied:“‘Yes, with another kind of vainglory’”.

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