The Cyrenaics or Kyrenaics (Ancient Greek : Κυρηναϊκοί; Kyrēnaïkoí) were a sensual hedonist Greek school of philosophy founded in the 4th century BCE, supposedly by Aristippus of Cyrene, although many of the principles of the school are believed to have been formalized by his grandson of the same name, Aristippus the Younger. The school was so called after Cyrene, the birthplace of Aristippus. It was one of the earliest Socratic schools. The Cyrenaics taught that the only intrinsic good is pleasure, which meant not just the absence of pain (as it did for Epicurus), but positively enjoyable sensations. Of these, momentary pleasures, especially physical ones, are stronger than those of anticipation or memory. They did, however, recognize the value of social obligation and that pleasure could be gained from altruistic behaviour. The school died out within a century and was replaced by the philosophy of Epicureanism.
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The history of the Cyrenaic school begins with Aristippus of Cyrene, who was born around 435 BCE. He came to Athens as a young man and became a pupil of Socrates. We have only limited knowledge of his movements after the execution of Socrates in 399 BCE, although he is said to have lived for a time in the court of Dionysius of Syracuse.
It is uncertain precisely which doctrines ascribed to the Cyrenaic school were formulated by Aristippus.Diogenes Laërtius, based on the authority of Sotion and Panaetius, provided a long list of books said to have been written by Aristippus. However, Diogenes also wrote that Sosicrates had stated that Aristippus had written nothing. Among Aristippus' pupils was his daughter, Arete of Cyrene, who passed on his teachings to her own son Aristippus the Younger. It was he, according to Aristocles, who turned the teachings of his grandfather into a comprehensive system. At the least, however, it can be said that the foundations of Cyrenaic philosophy were ideas originated by the elder Aristippus.
After the time of the younger Aristippus, the school broke up into different factions, represented by Anniceris, Hegesias, and Theodorus, who all developed rival interpretations of Cyrenaic doctrines, many of which were responses to the new system of hedonistic philosophy laid down by Epicurus.By the middle of the 3rd century BC, the Cyrenaic school was obsolete; Epicureanism had successfully beaten its Cyrenaic rivals by offering a system which was more sophisticated.
The Cyrenaics were hedonists and held that pleasure was the supreme good in life, especially physical pleasure, which they thought more intense and more desirable than mental pleasures.Pleasure is the only good in life and pain is the only evil. Socrates had held that virtue was the only human good, but he had also accepted a limited role for its utilitarian side, allowing pleasure to be a secondary goal of moral action. Aristippus and his followers seized upon this, and made pleasure the sole final goal of life, denying that virtue had any intrinsic value.
The Cyrenaics were known for their skeptical theory of knowledge. They reduced logic to a basic doctrine concerning the criterion of truth.They thought that we can know with certainty our immediate sense-experiences (for instance, that I am having a sweet sensation now) but can know nothing about the nature of the objects that cause these sensations (for instance, that the honey is sweet). They also denied that we can have knowledge of what the experiences of other people are like.
All knowledge is of one's own immediate sensation. These sensations are motions which are purely subjective, and are painful, indifferent or pleasant, according as they are violent, tranquil or gentle.Further they are entirely individual, and can in no way be described as being of the world objectively. Feeling, therefore, is the only possible criterion of knowledge and of conduct. Our ways of being affected are alone knowable. Thus the sole aim for everyone should be pleasure.
Cyrenaicism deduces a single, universal aim for all people which is pleasure. Furthermore, all feeling is momentary and homogeneous. It follows that past and future pleasure have no real existence for us, and that among present pleasures there is no distinction of kind.Socrates had spoken of the higher pleasures of the intellect; the Cyrenaics denied the validity of this distinction and said that bodily pleasures, being more simple and more intense, were preferable. Momentary pleasure, preferably of a physical kind, is the only good for humans.
However some actions which give immediate pleasure can create more than their equivalent of pain. The wise person should be in control of pleasures rather than be enslaved to them, otherwise pain will result, and this requires judgement to evaluate the different pleasures of life.Regard should be paid to law and custom, because even though these things have no intrinsic value on their own, violating them will lead to unpleasant penalties being imposed by others. Likewise, friendship and justice are useful because of the pleasure they provide. Thus the Cyrenaics believed in the hedonistic value of social obligation and altruistic behavior. Like many of the leading modern utilitarians, they combined with their psychological distrust of popular judgments of right and wrong, and their firm conviction that all such distinctions are based solely on law and convention, the equally unwavering principle that the wise person who would pursue pleasure logically must abstain from that which is usually thought wrong or unjust. This idea, which occupies a prominent position in systems like those of Jeremy Bentham, Volney, and even William Paley, was clearly of prime importance to the Cyrenaics.
The later Cyrenaics, Anniceris, Hegesias, and Theodorus, all developed variations on the standard Cyrenaic doctrine. For Anniceris, pleasure is achieved through individual acts of gratification which are sought for the pleasure that they produce,but Anniceris laid great emphasis on the love of family, country, friendship and gratitude, which provide pleasure even when they demand sacrifice. Hegesias believed that happiness is impossible to achieve, and hence the goal of life becomes the avoidance of pain and sorrow. Conventional values such as wealth, poverty, freedom, and slavery are all indifferent and produce no more pleasure than pain. For Hegesias, Cyrenaic hedonism was simply the least irrational strategy for dealing with the pains of life. For Theodorus, the goal of life is mental pleasure not bodily pleasure, and he placed greater emphasis on the need for moderation and justice. He was also famous for being an atheist. To some extent these philosophers were all trying to meet the challenge laid down by Epicureanism, and the success of Epicurus was in developing a system of philosophy which would prove to be more comprehensive and sophisticated than its rivals'.
The philosophy of the Cyrenaics around the time of Hegesias of Cyrene evolved in a way that has similarities with Skepticism, Epicurianism and also Buddhism.In fact, there are striking similarities with the tenets of Buddhism, in particular the Four Noble Truths and the concept of Dukkha or "suffering". Coincidentally, the rulers of Cyrene around the time Hegesias flourished, the Ptolemaic king of Egypt Ptolemy II Philadelphus and from 276 BC the independent king Magas of Cyrene, are both claimed to have been recipients of Buddhist missionaries from the Indian king Ashoka according to the latter's Edicts. It is therefore sometimes thought that Hegesias may have been directly influenced by Buddhist teachings through contacts with the alleged missionaries sent to his rulers in the 3rd century BC.
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism, a highly influential school of philosophy. He was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. Influenced by Democritus, Aristippus, Pyrrho, and possibly the Cynics, he turned against the Platonism of his day and established his own school, known as "the Garden", in Athens. Epicurus and his followers were known for eating simple meals and discussing a wide range of philosophical subjects. He openly allowed women to join the school as a matter of policy. Epicurus is said to have originally written over 300 works on various subjects, but the vast majority of these writings have been lost. Only three letters written by him—the Letters to Menoeceus, Pythocles, and Herodotus—and two collections of quotes—the Principle Doctrines and the Vatican Sayings—have survived intact, along with a few fragments of his other writings. Most knowledge of his teachings comes from later authors, particularly the biographer Diogenes Laërtius, the Epicurean Roman poet Lucretius and the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus, and with hostile but largely accurate accounts by the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and the statesman and Academic Skeptic Cicero.
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues pleasure and suffering are the only components of well-being. Ethical hedonism is the view that combines hedonism with welfarist ethics, which claim that what we should do depends exclusively on what affects the well-being individuals have. Ethical hedonists would defend either increasing pleasure and reducing suffering for all beings capable of experiencing them, or just reducing suffering in the case of negative consequentialism. According to negative utilitarianism, only the minimization of suffering would matter. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by Aristippus of Cyrene, a student of Socrates. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom very little is known—Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable "pleasure" in the form of a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) and absence of bodily pain (aponia) through knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. The combination of these two states constitutes happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, the concept that the absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from "hedonism" as colloquially understood.
Diogenes Laërtius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is definitively known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is a principal source for the history of ancient Greek philosophy. His reputation is controversial among scholars because he often repeats information from his sources without critically evaluating it. He also frequently focuses on trivial or insignificant details of his subjects' lives while ignoring important details of their philosophical teachings and he sometimes fails to distinguish between earlier and later teachings of specific philosophical schools. However, unlike many other ancient secondary sources, Diogenes Laërtius generally reports philosophical teachings without attempting to reinterpret or expand on them, which means his accounts are often closer to the primary sources. Due to the loss of so many of the primary sources on which Diogenes relied, his work has become the foremost surviving source on the history of Greek philosophy.
Ataraxia is a Greek term first used in Ancient Greek philosophy by Pyrrho and subsequently Epicurus and the Stoics for a lucid state of robust equanimity characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry. In non-philosophical usage, the term was used to describe the ideal mental state for soldiers entering battle.
Aristippus of Cyrene was the founder of the Cyrenaic school of Philosophy. He was a pupil of Socrates, but adopted a very different philosophical outlook, teaching that the goal of life was to seek pleasure by circumstances to oneself and by maintaining proper control over both adversity and prosperity. His outlook came to be called "ethical hedonism." Among his pupils was his daughter Arete.
Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is a biography of the Greek philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, written in Greek, perhaps in the first half of the third century AD.
Zeno of Sidon was an Epicurean philosopher from the Phoenician city of Sidon. His writings have not survived, but there are some epitomes of his lectures preserved among the writings of his pupil Philodemus.
Anniceris was a Cyrenaic philosopher. He argued that pleasure is achieved through individual acts of gratification which are sought for the pleasure that they produce, but he also laid great emphasis on the love of family, country, friendship and gratitude, which provide pleasure even when they demand sacrifice.
Hegesias of Cyrene was a Cyrenaic philosopher, the Cyrenaics forming one of the earliest Socratic schools of philosophy. He argued that happiness is impossible to achieve, and that the goal of life was the avoidance of pain and sorrow. Conventional values such as wealth, poverty, freedom, and slavery are all indifferent and produce no more pleasure than pain. Cicero claims that Hegesias wrote a book called ἀποκαρτερῶν, which persuaded so many people that death is more desirable than life that Hegesias was banned from teaching in Alexandria. It has been thought by some that Hegesias was influenced by Buddhist teachings.
"Aponia" means the absence of pain, and was regarded by the Epicureans to be the height of bodily pleasure.
Arete of Cyrene was a Cyrenaic philosopher who lived in Cyrene, Libya. She was the daughter of Aristippus of Cyrene.
The Tetrapharmakos (τετραφάρμακος) "four-part remedy" is a summary of the first four of the Κύριαι Δόξαι in Epicureanism, a recipe for leading the happiest possible life. They are recommendations to avoid anxiety or existential dread.
Antipater of Cyrene was one of the disciples of the philosopher Aristippus, the founder of the Cyrenaic school of philosophy. He had a pupil called Epitimedes of Cyrene. According to Cicero, he was blind, and when some women bewailed the fact, he replied, "What do you mean? Do you think the night can furnish no pleasure?"
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy and Middle Eastern philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.
This page is a list of topics in ancient philosophy.
Theodorus the Atheist, of Cyrene, was a philosopher of the Cyrenaic school. He lived in both Greece and Alexandria, before ending his days in his native city of Cyrene. As a Cyrenaic philosopher, he taught that the goal of life was to obtain joy and avoid grief, and that the former resulted from knowledge, and the latter from ignorance. But his principal claim to fame was his alleged atheism. He was usually designated by ancient writers ho atheos, "the atheist."
Aristippus the Younger, of Cyrene, was the grandson of Aristippus of Cyrene, and is widely believed to have formalized the principles of Cyrenaic philosophy.
Timocrates of Lampsacus was a renegade Epicurean who made it his life's mission to spread slander about Epicurus' philosophy and way of life. He was the elder brother of Metrodorus, Epicurus' best friend and most loyal follower, who was born in Lampsacus in the late 4th century BC. He studied with his brother in the school of Epicurus, but some time c. 290 BC, he broke with the school, apparently because he refused to accept that pleasure was the supreme good of life. The dispute became quite bitter; Philodemus quotes Timocrates saying "that he both loved his brother as no one else did and hated him as no one else." In a much quoted letter, Metrodorus, in exaggerated fashion, took Timocrates to task for not making the stomach the standard in everything relating to the prime good. Metrodorus wrote at least one work against Timocrates; and Epicurus also wrote an Opinions on the Passions, against Timocrates. In response, Timocrates wrote a polemic against Epicurus, whereby he claimed that Epicurus was not a genuine Athenian citizen, and that he was slovenly, weak, ignorant, rude, and vomited twice a day from overindulgence. His book against Epicurus, published after his apostasy was entitled "delights" (euphranta).
Aristotle of Cyrene was a Greek philosopher who may have belonged to the Cyrenaic school.