Far from being pessimistic or nihilistic, as modern uses of the term "cynic" suggest, the ancient Cynics were astonishingly optimistic regarding human nature.
They believed that if one simplified one's life--giving up all unnecessary possessions, desires, and ideas--and lived in the moment as much as possible, one could regain one's natural goodness and happiness.
It was a life exemplified most famously by the eccentric Diogenes, nicknamed "the Dog," and his followers, called dog-philosophers, kunikoi, or Cynics. Rebellious, self-willed, and ornery but also witty and imaginative, these dog-philosophers are some of the most colorful personalities from antiquity.
This engaging introduction to Cynicism considers both the fragmentary ancient evidence on the Cynics and the historical interpretations that have shaped the philosophy over the course of eight centuries--from Diogenes himself to Nietzsche and beyond. Approaching Cynicism from a variety of thematic perspectives as well--their critique of convention, praise of natural simplicity, advocacy of self-sufficiency, defiance of Fortune, and freedom--William Desmond offers a fascinating survey of a school of thought that has had a tremendous influence throughout history and is of continuing interest today.