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Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared

Antisthenes (445 – 365 BC) was an ardent disciple of Socrates, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue, and seen as the grandfather of the Cynics.  Unlearn what is untrue.

Antisthenes

Antisthenes, a pre-Cynic Greek philosopher


The sources of Antisthenes quotes: AncientHistory, BrainyQuotes, WinWisdom, FinestQuotes, GaIam

Antisthenes quotes

 What learning is most necessary? Learning how to get rid of false knowledge needing to be unlearned.

The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue.

That learning is most requisite which unlearns evil.

Wisdom is a most sure stronghold which never crumbles away nor is betrayed. Walls of defense must be constructed by our own impregnable reasoning.

We must not contradict, but instruct him that contradicts us; for a madman is not cured by another running mad also.

The investigation of the meaning of words is the beginning of education.

There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself – an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.

The advantages of philosophy? That I am able to hold converse with myself.

Esteem an honest man above a kinsman.

Virtue can be taught; nobility belongs to the virtuous; virtue alone assures happiness; virtue is an affair of deeds and needs not words or learning.

What must one do to become good and noble? You must learn from those who know the faults you have that are to be avoided.

As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.

The investigation of the meaning of words is the beginning of education.

Ill repute is a good thing and much the same as pain.

When men are slandered, they should endure it more courageously then if they were pelted with stones.

It is a royal privilege to do good and be ill spoken of.

States are doomed when they are unable to distinguish good men from bad.

On being praised by some wicked men, I was sadly afraid that I must have done something wicked that pleased them.

I’d rather be insane than feel some pleasures.

When many men praise you, ask yourself, ‘Why, what wrong have I done?’

It is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured when dead and in the other case while alive.

Wealth and poverty do not lie in a person’s estate, but in their souls.

There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself – an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.

Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.

Observe your enemies closely, for they are the first reveal your faults.

There is no work so mean, but it would amply serve me to furnish me with sustenance.

What sort of woman should one marry? If she’s beautiful, you’ll not have her to yourself; if she’s ugly, you’ll pay for it dearly.


COMMENTS

I was bewildered when I first read Antisthenes’ statement, It is a royal privilege to do good and be ill spoken of. This sounds perfectly absurd on first reading; who would consider being slandered a positive thing? However, when I pieced together Antisthenes’ reasoning from other quotes it became clear. When one has perfected one’s character it becomes increasingly difficult to find flaws that need fixing. There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself – an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly. Only the most devoted friend will mention your flaws, and then only in the most private of situations. An enemy, in an effort to destroy your ability to influence your public, will publish negative spins on everything you do, and if the worst thing you have done is quite positive you can rest assured that you are doing a good job.

Antisthenes discussed the negative aspect of that same thought when he wrote, On being praised by some wicked men, I was sadly afraid that I must have done something wicked that pleased them. When you are being praised by your enemies, and among your enemies must be included all people of bad character and evil intentions, you are being swept into their camp and identified with their evil way of thinking. This idea is emphasized when he writes, It is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured when dead and in the other case while alive.

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