File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 14

Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 21:59:37 -0500
Subject: You ain't nothing but a hound dog

Hugh wrote:

**2 : a faultfinding captious critic; especially : one who believes that
human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest

**Is the above a good cynic or a bad cynic?


I certainly meant cynic in a good sense.  

I noticed that you only listed the second definition which is the modern
one.  What I was also alluding to was the first definition of cynic, a
term which literally means "doglike" and refers to ancient Greek
philosophers such as Diogenes who believed that "virtue was the only
good and self-control to be the only means of achieving virtue."  I
admit it does sound a little like Stoics who weren't fully housetrained.

Here is what my EB says about them. "The originator of the sect was
Diogenes who in the second half the 4th century B.C. set about exposing
current conventions as false coinage.  It was his object to get back to
the "natural" life which he saw as identical with the simple life. 
Ideally this would mean the disappearance not only of luxuries but also
of organized communities, whose laws and customs must be accounted
"conventional."  He himself lived as a vagabond pauper, sleeping in
public buildings and begging his food.  This was not a life that all men
could be desired to lead or that was led by all Cynics:  Diogenes'
object was to give an extreme example of how one could be happy and
independent, although absolutely destitute."

** What non-cynical action do you advocate?

Well, in the sense we are discussing here, simply "natural"
self-interest, uncorrupted by the conventional norms.  The arguments you
consistently make for local political control can certainly be
interpreted as cynical arguments for greater self-reliance and

**I don't think history has any good recipes for solving the crisis.  I
agree with the columnist who says we act as if everything is o.k. but we
don't believe it.

Exactly, because as a cynic you believe history is merely another norm
or convention which is given to us to blindly follow - the phrase "we
act as if everything is o.k. but we don't believe it" seems like a
perfect case of the "enlightened false consciousness" to me. 

**There is a crisis, there is action, hope it achieves its purpose, but
doubtful. Will reading philosophy help?  If so, please explain.

I think the answer is clear.  Reading philosophy is of value because
recognizing its contradictions puts an end to the useless conventions of
idealism.  Reading history is of value because recognizing its
oppression puts an end to the useless conventions of idealism.  The
function of both is negative and its end result is to produce the 
"enlightened false consciousness" which breaks with convention. Thus you
study philosophy and history in order to refute it.

**Yes.  But count the terrorist killings in repeated incidents, decide
if you want to invite more killings. Call it postmodern or historic, or
modern or epic, whatever.

I am calling it cynicism and I think that is exactly what you are
arguing for, even though you may be uncomfortable using this terminology
because of what you see as its negative connotations.  What I am saying
is I don't necessarily see it as negative and cynicism today seems to me
to be a perfectly valid philosophical position, so I encourage you to
acknowledge this is really your stance and go for it.

However, as an Epicurean, I do have certain disagreements, but I will
save these for another post.  For the present, Hugh, I just want to
raise this question with you again.  Would you agree with me that your
philosophy is a variation of cynicism in the best possible sense of this

>From the garden of ataraxia,



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