As with stoicism, we’ve lost the ancient meaning of the word ‘cynicism’. I think you can probably tell a lot about how much love I have for Diogenes given that I named my phone after him (I name all my devices so I can easily identify them on wifi networks, etc.)

Image of half-full and half-empty cups
The original cynicism was a philosophical movement likely founded by Antisthenes, a student of Socrates, and popularized by Diogenes of Sinope around the fifth century B.C. It was based on a refusal to accept the assumptions and habits that discourage people from questioning conventional dogmas, and thus hold us back from the search for deep wisdom and happiness. Whereas a modern cynic might say, for instance, that the president is an idiot and thus his policies aren’t worth considering, the ancient cynic would examine each policy impartially.

The modern cynic rejects things out of hand (“This is stupid”), while the ancient cynic simply withholds judgment (“This may be right or wrong”).


To pivot from the modern to the ancient, I recommend focusing each day on several original cynical concepts, none of which condemns the world but all of which lead us to question, and in many cases reject, worldly conventions and practices.

  1. Eudaimonia ("satisfaction")
  2. Askesis ("discipline")
  3. Autarkeia ("self-sufficiency")
  4. Kosmopolites ("cosmopolitanism")
Source: We’ve Lost the True Meaning of Cynicism | The Atlantic