Cynicism from Diogenes to Dilbert


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About the Book

Cynicism began as a school of philosophy that was largely inspired by Socrates and often decried by popular commentators as a social pathology, a nihilistic rebellion against the foundations of civilization. Modern definitions of the cynic describe an individual who is negative and sarcastic, violently opposed to established authority and social convention, and dedicated to existentialism.

This book attempts to vindicate cynicism, arguing that it is both a progressive approach to social dilemmas and an enlightened understanding of the human condition. Chapter One establishes the foundations of classical Greek cynicism, while later chapters illustrate the varied faces of the cynic phenomenon in the persons of such disparate characters as Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Diogenes, the Dadaists, George Bataille, Samuel Beckett, Auberon Waugh, the creators of South Park, and others. Nietzsche is portrayed as the most important representative of both classical and postmodern cynicism, as well as the pivotal link between the two. The book focuses on significant periods of historical change, such as the Renaissance, and the historical cynics responsible for several seminal social ideas, including cosmopolitanism (citizenship of the world), asceticism (personal growth through self-testing), and parrhesia (finding one’s voice in the presence of tyrannical forces). The author claims that aspects of Greek cynicism are present in contemporary society, offering a positive strategy for living in a hostile world.

About the Author(s)

Ian Cutler is operational manager of mental health and learning disability services in the city of Cardiff, Wales.

Bibliographic Details

Ian Cutler

Foreword by Professor Yiannis Gabriel

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 235
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2005
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2093-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0489-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Foreword by Yiannis Gabriel      1
Preface      5

1. Classical Foundations of Cynicism 9
2. Renaissance Cynicism: The Limits of Cynicism 45
3. Nietzschean Cynicism: The Link Between the Ancient and the Modern Forms 68
4. Postmodern Cynicism 92
5. Return of the Dog Cynics: 20th Century Performance Art 119
6. Contemporary Faces of Cynicism: Action, Laughter and Silence 146
7. Cynical Responses to the 21st Century 176

Afterword: Tribute to a Formidable Cynic of Our Age      193
Notes      201
Bibliography      215
Index      221