Socrates, Cynics and Flat-Nailed, Featherless Bipeds 

Then there were other graven images of philosophers during those same years that we can classify as legacies of the Cynics. Beards mangy, posture slumped, dressed in one big rough cloth and resting on a walking stick, the Cynics wandered through the Roman world as its image of the freethinker, never at home – not even in a philosophical theory — but “cosmopolitan,” to use a word the Cynics invented: citizens of the world, meaning that they didn’t belong anywhere in particular. Counterculturalism was their instinct even if it was a negative impulse. Diogenes was asked what was most beautiful and answered parrhesia — “candor, freedom of speech” — but the word literally means “saying everything,” and the Cynic had to be ready to say anything at all, improvising philosophy under all circumstances.

In their role as walking counterexamples, the Cynics mattered more as who they were than for the content of anything they said. In this sense Cooper is right to separate them from the ancient traditions of moral theory. In the human drama, they behaved not as the authors of theories but as performers of wisdom. We know them anecdotally because they lived anecdotally, as the subjects of retold tales. They were philosophers in action, notable for existing rather than for their accounts of existence.

Source: Socrates, Cynics and Flat-Nailed, Featherless Bipeds – The New York Times

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