An interesting story is the one where the young Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) met Diogenes, then a very old man. The powerful young conqueror, being solicitous of the old philosopher, asked what, if anything he could do for him. Diogenes replied, “I have nothing to ask but that you would remove to the other side, that you may not, by intercepting the sunshine, take from me what you cannot give”. As Alexander took his leave, he said “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”
Featured Philosopher: Diogenes of Sinope, born c. 412 BC in Sinope (according to other sources 399 BC), died in 323 BC at Corinth. Details of his life come in the form of anecdotes (“chreia”) from Diogenes Laërtius, in his book The Lives of Eminent Philosophers.
A young man contemplating marriage sought advice from Diogenes.
“Should I marry?”
“Marriage is too soon for a young man”
“Would you have me wait then until I am old.”
“Oh no, Marriage is far too late for an old man.”
“What am I to do then? I love the girl.”
“Love is a luxury no one can afford. It is for those who have nothing better to do.”
“What should we be doing then?”
“To seek freedom. But it is not possible to be free if you have a wife and children.”
“But having a wife and family is so agreeable.”
“Then you see the problem, young man. Freedom would not be so difficult to attain were prison not so sweet.”
“You mean to be free is to be alone?”
“We come into the world alone and we die alone. Why, in life, should we be any less alone?”
“To live, then, is terrible.”
“No, not to live, but to live in chains.”
A friend is one soul abiding in two bodies.
As a matter of self-preservation, a man needs good friends or ardent enemies, for the former instruct him and the latter take him to task.
Blushing is the color of virtue.
Discourse on virtue and they pass by in droves. Whistle and dance the shimmy, and you’ve got an audience.
Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.
He has the most who is most content with the least.
I am called a dog because I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals.
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.
I do not know whether there are gods, but there ought to be.
I have nothing to ask but that you would remove to the other side, that you may not, by intercepting the sunshine, take from me what you cannot give.
I know nothing, except the fact of my ignorance.
I threw my cup away when I saw a child drinking from his hands at the trough.
It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little.
It takes a wise man to discover a wise man.
It was a favorite expression of Theophrastus that time was the most valuable thing that a man could spend.
Man is the most intelligent of the animals – and the most silly.
Most men are within a finger’s breadth of being mad.
Stand a little less between me and the sun.
The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.
The great thieves lead away the little thief.
The mob is the mother of tyrants.
The sun too penetrates into privies, but is not polluted by them.
The sun, too, shines into cesspools and is not polluted.
The vine bears three kinds of grapes: the first of pleasure, the second of intoxication, the third of disgust.
Those who have virtue always in their mouths, and neglect it in practice, are like a harp, which emits a sound pleasing to others, while itself is insensible of the music.
We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.
What I like to drink most is wine that belongs to others.
When I look upon seamen, men of science and philosophers, man is the wisest of all beings; when I look upon priests and prophets nothing is as contemptible as man.
Wise kings generally have wise counselors; and he must be a wise man himself who is capable of distinguishing one.