15. Towards the Deliquium of Ancient Greek Materialism: Cynism, Hedonism, Pessimism and Nihilism
In reality, that, what appears as Activity of Form,
is also the inherent Motion of Matter.
Everything that comes into existence merits
to pass away.
Matter begins to bloom, Matter is the great surprise;it is Future Matter, which we are searching for, and
which - already expressed by our searching - we areourselves.
For the time being, we are permanently threatenedby the danger of total failure, the danger that Matter
may dissolve itself in most senseless substantiality,in complete, most hopeless slackening.
Odi profanum vulgus et archeo.
(I loathe and shun the profane rabble.)
Ekpyrosis - Apokatastasis; Involution-Evolution-Transvolution
The alpha or omega of anything is not necessarily there where we generally consider it to be. Within a universal-historical context, dialectically, dialogically, the alpha and omega of anything is relative, indeterminate, eviternally in perpetual flux.
Trialogically, genesis, epigenesis, apokalypsis and even palingenesis are all historically interrelated and correlated poliversal processes. Already the Holy Scriptures had taught us that the Last shall be the First, and the First shall be the Last to enter the eternal „kingdom“, into royal divine ataraxic bliss. Many centuries later, the master dialectician, Hegel, made emphatic that the Whole is the Truth, and vice versa; and, later, Lenin complemented this wise, idealist, objective statement, by saying: The Truth is Always Concrete. Already Aristotle had considered the Truth to be nearer and dearer to him, much more concrete than the teachings of his tutor, Plato.
Hence, universally, based on a single postulate, only the Whole -- which itself is intensively in flux, that is, which is the evolution-involution and transvolution of Matter, which is always concrete-abstract -- is the whole, earthly, flowing, relative-absolute Truth.
However, within this principled context, we should remember that Heracleitus had stressed, that the Aristotelian ta symbebekota of Everything was eternal Promethean-Luciferean pyr, was the Cytherean-Mephistophelian eviternal Fire. Ergo, this fiery, germinating, brewing, pregnant arché was responsible for the formal-logical, universal generatio aequivoca of either Everything or Nothing, of Human Being and Human Non-Being. Within a closed system, we already know that the two sides of Everything -- Being and Non-Being, caged in universal, absolute non-relations -- co-determine each other, hence both of them, as opposites -- not necessarily as negations -- are themselves limited, less-developed Wholes in process.
It goes without saying that for the ancient Greek hylozoistic materialists the generatrix of Everything, of the arché, was Dialectical Living Matter, was the Universal Process, was the Cause of all Becoming-Being and Being-Becoming. According to them, unless this Cosmic Process and its dialectically inter- and correlated processes were not „nipped in the bud“ prematurely along their nexus of cause-effect, of necessity-chance, of apeironic-dynamic fiat lux, logically-dialectically, any particular being, thing or phenomenon, as the result of its own potency-potentiality, latency-tendency, could freely evolve epigenetically into the Future, into Future Matter. (Compare: C. Fr. Wolff, Theoria generationis, 1759.)
However, we should note that anything -- for example, even ancient Greek materialism -- eventually reaches its zenith, the universal height of its internal potency, correlated with its possible external potentialities, and then the natural, dialectical, inclinant, involutionary „phase“ of its flowing existence sets in, which necessarily and inexorably develops either towards its Apocalypsis (Revelation of St. John), its "Nothing", or towards its transvolutionary cosmic conflagration, towards its ekpyrosis, towards its atomized, ever resting Everything (Heracleitus, Zeno).
In other words, the Universe itself, including all things and processes, ultimately dissolves itself into its archaic principle, into fiery Matter, the matrix of all Existence. (See; Diels, op. cit., 22B, 31, 65; Stoicorum veterum fragmenta (SVF), collegit Ioannes ab Arnim, 4 Vols., 1921 - 1924, Vol. II, pp. 596ff.)
Later in this chapter, we would surely notice that the father of Stoicism, still under the influence of hylozoistic materialism, Zeno of Citium, had adopted the above-mentioned Heracleitean principle, and also he had declared material pýr as the sperm of Everything, out of which periodically a new Cosmos evolves. What a new Cosmos would imply, he did not tell us; furthermore, he did not explain why this New Creation necessarily must produce a Cosmos or more Cosmoi, and for a change, why it could not reproduce something completely different, for example, an Einai, or even something totally trifferent, for example, a Nothing, or anything else for that matter.
Nonetheless, it should be emphasized that not a single ancient Greek naturalist or materialist ever spoke about the total annihilation of the arché, of the hýle, of the Universal Principle, of the Hen Kai Pan, of the Substratum, of Substance, of Matter.
Concerning the above, about this fiery, panpsychic, panvitalistic, material Alpha-Omega, Heracleitus had itemized it as follows: "In a Circle, Beginning and End are common." (Fragment 34.) Consequently, Alpha and Omega, Birth and Death, Genesis and Cosmic Conflagration, all coincide. Non-Relational Opposites and Relational Negations condition and determine each other, they form the Essence of the Parmenidian hen kai pan, but as a Hegelian-Leninist concrete, intensive-dialectical, material Whole. The „ever-living Fire“, including its expression as Man, as Human-Being, always „was, is and shall be“, its „kindling in measures“ (evolution) and its „going out in measures“ (involution) (Frag. 51), and as such, it expresses its own Universal Absolute-Relative Truth.
Within the context of Human History -- here, especifically meant the labouring Patria -- already the father of Sophism, Protagoras, had stressed that Ruling Class Man, Human Being, the Master himself -- and not the Slave, not the Human Non-Being -- is, was and ever will be the „measure“ of „all things“; one of the fathers of scientific socialism very simply added: Man is the "Root of History" (Marx). Ernst Bloch stressed that the homo novus -- whom Che Guevara has mentioned in the global liberation struggle -- is not only the radix of History, he also could be, would be the real dynamei on, the true Aristotelian possibility, of all that he had become, what he is, and of that what he still could become.
As we could gather from the preserved fragments, it is not quite clear whether Heracleitus had followed his philosophic, evolutionary, or dialogical fiery thoughts to their dialectical conclusions, to their ultimate synthesis, that is, it is not certain, whether he had considered his "eternal", cycling universes as a dialectical series of developing less-developed Wholes towards more-developed Totalities, or, whether they were just permanent, re-cycled cosmoí. However, in the case of Zeno, it is evident that he had considered a permanent repitition of the same Cosmos.
Thus, nothing new really happened; Cosmic Being-Becoming and Becoming-Being was an eternal material rumination of the old straw. This type of philosophic rumination we have already encountered in the metaphysical-religious, meditative-contemplative Platonic transmigration of souls, and it was sustained and refined in Plotinism, Neo-Platonism and Roman Catholicism. Later, in the bourgeois epoch, in spite of its obvious revolutionary traits, in Social-Darwinism, we could find it again as the fundamental biogenetic principle; Nietzsche consecrated it to the atavistic principle of a "chosen" people. Its ideological Phoenician-Platonic „racist“ pendant, its "Herrenvolkism" surfaced in the murderous, social practices of German-Italian Nazism-Fascism; in colonial mode, it was perverted more in South African Apartheid, and now it is celebrating its international genocidal zenith in US-European Globalization, in Globofascism.
The Pudels Kern, the crux of the Whole Matter is as follows: on Father Earth, natural florescence and parture, human parturition and labour pain, social generation and degeneration, historic transformation and decomposition, that is, all telluric evolution, climax and involution, all global and globalized genesis, epigenesis and palingenesis - all of them are just different forms of Universal Change, of Movement and Motion - form the sum total of dialectical effluent-influent, singular-general, material-intellectual production and reproduction processes, of labour, of labour forces, of labour powers.
If we have studied very carefully our scientific-philosophic deliberations in Book I, then, the above is quintessentially what „pre-Socratic“, natural, hylozoistic, panpsychic, panvitalistic, materialist science-philosophy had taught us, id est, that the arché and everything that it creates, eviternally become - become Becoming, Being-Becoming and Becoming-Being. Socrates had explained to us its inherent, unilateral, idealist Socratic Drive, its innate, universal, metaphysical Thanatos Entelechy.
After Socrates, as we have seen in the previous chapter, Aristotle gave us the philosophic explanation why Cosmic Matter becomes: simply because it is Not-Yet, it is not yet itself, is not yet self-realized, it is still objectivated Form, is still alienated Form, hence, it is Future Matter, more precisely, Future Universal Form. This same universal principle applies to Patrian Man, a uni-mensional, less-developed, material whole within the universal, social context of a more-developed, ideal, but not yet realized Super Whole, of Future Matter in the process of Becoming-Itself, and, in reality, this Itself is the Form of Forms, Aristotle´s Idea of the Ideas, his version of the "good life", his Topos Ouranios, his Summum Bonum.
The praxico-theoretical conclusion which we could draw from the above, and which should be applied to our daily, revolutionary toil and emancipatory struggle, is that scientific-philosophic Práxis-Theory as part, as a Relation of the whole transhistoric process in the limited, formal-logical, universal patria, has the potency-potentiality, the subjective- and objective-real possibillty, to tend towards, and to be intended for real, material (natural) trans-formation a n d for true, formal (social) trans-materialization, trans-substantiation, in other words, for a Transcendental Emancipatory Relation between Nature a n d Society, for History.
Consequently, returning to our point of departure, in universal, internal, intensive affairs, not only is the Alpha relative to the Omega, and vice versa, but it is also absolute to the whole, concrete Truth; and, conversely, Life-Death is absolute-relative to individual or particular transhistoric genesis-decessus. Thus, what ancient Greek, hylozoistic materialism had discovered before its inexorable Hegelian „doom“, that is, before its eclipse by plagiarism, eclecticism, syncretism, cynicism, scepticism, "nihilism" and religious bigotry and ideological dogmatism, is that social consciousness - or rather the transhistoric degree of real, true, human consciousness - is still in its cognistic, cognitive infancy as far as emancipatory logics, reason, ethics and humanism are or perhaps could be concerned.
At the same time sapient panpsychism was an admonition to all „pre-historic“ pansophic ideologues and theologians who till this very day believe that they have discovered the "gospel truth", the alpha-omega of Life and Death in their deterministic or indeterministic Universe. What generally occurs on Earth when philosophia and sophia lose their real, true, rational, red, materialist Ariadne-thread, and hence degenerate into ruling class ideology, we will now illustrate in this Chapter.
Epigenetic Transition Towards Stoicism
By using Socratic irony in an extended way, it was precisely philosophic phenomena such as reason, morality, happiness, pleasure, fraternity and humanism which had occupied and preoccupied the „post-Socratic“, mainly idealist thinkers. Furthermore, it was the philosophic merits and demerits of the „pre-Socratic“ hylozoists which had preceded and partially generated the horos and the kategoria. We will observe that one of the results of the „Socratic Revolution“ in philosophy was that the Aristotelian „Right“ could consolidate itself, especially in its development across late Stoicism towards Catholic "Philosophy" or rather Theosophy.
But, also its negation, the Aristotelian ‘Left’, continued to persist across Theophrastus and Straton, and eventually it crossed the Mediterranean Sea, and continued to flourish in Northern Africa and the Arab world. Nonetheless, in the same way as there always exists real revolutionary fear in true emancipatory militancy, and vice versa, subterranean materialist currents continued to exist along with „Dark Age“ and „Middle Age“ idealist-religious metaphysics - in fact, a very careful study of the thoughts of St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, and more surely of Amalrich of Bena and David of Dinant (13th Century) will reveal this correlation and coexistence of materialism and idealism within European Medieval Thought. In Renaissance materialist philosophy, as expounded by Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Telesio, Patrizzi, Pomponazzi, Giordano Bruno, Campanella and Paracelsus, we could witness again the refreshing rebirth of hylozoism, of the Aristotelian „Left“, of modern philosophical materialism in its various forms.
Objective or objectivist Idealism as an intrinsic part of subjective or subjectivist materialism, and vice versa, never really could afford to lose their real philosophic relations, because without its negative determination, idealism and religion would cease to exist; and without its affirmative patrix, socialist materialism and capitalist ideology would fade into oblivion. Hence, in the same way as the Platonic idea never really lost total contact with its material arché, similarly, along the philosophic materialist-idealist continuum, we would note that even the Hegelian Weltidee (World Idea), in the last analysis, also retained the connection to its material fundamentum relationis. (See: Ernst Bloch, Das Prinzip Hoffnung, op. cit., pp. 238 239; also: Avicenna and die Aristotelische Linke, op. Cit., pp. 492 - 520.)
In general we could say that during the epoch of decaying European slavocratic social relations, of emerging capitalist means of production, that is, during that remote age of social revolution, philosophia as a specific historico-social consciousness, necessarily had to reflect and reproduce the specific material, intellectual contradictions of patrian human action and practice, perception and thought. On the one hand, as we could witness, the ancient Greco-Roman philosophic, materialist Negation -- Hylozoism, Democritism, Epicureanism and Lucretianism, but also early Stoicism and Stratonism - had managed to hold its own, despite the virulent, reactionary, idealist onslaughts of its growing Affirmation - Cynicism, Scepticism, Middle and late Stoicism, Neo-Platonism, Plotinism and Roman Catholicism. For centuries, even in the "Dark Ages", the contradictory Aristotelian "Right" a n d "Left" kept African, Arab, Mideastern and European Philosophy alive.
However, even in this context, we should not forget the relations between affirmations, negations and opposites, and, certainly not those between the determinations within contradictions and between various contradictions themselves; also not the Bezüge of our own Trialogics, of our Unigories, Diagories and Triagories. On the other hand, the post-Aristotelian epoch was characterized by specific ethical, syncretistic and religious tendencies, but, it was also an epoch of ingenious epigones, who nurtured multifarious forms of platitudes and plagiarism.
Apart from Epicurus, Lucretius, Lucian, Theophrastus, Straton, Zeno and Plotinus, it is very difficult to identify real, true, universal thinkers in this period of social transition and decomposition of ancient slave society. However, on the whole, during the centuries around the birth of Jesus Christ (which is the alpha of our modern time calculation), philosophic-idealist darkness was ascending on Pan-Hellas and the Roman Empire, which resulted in a protracted eclipse of Promethean, Heracleitean Fire, a suffocation of real, human, revolutionary, praxico-theoretical ethos and pathos.
Of course, now and then, Spartacist sparks, Epicurean hedonistic flames and Lucretian flambeaux still blazed the aurorean, emancipatory sky, but it was the Plotinian Original Light which was the historically-real torch-bearer of the immediate "New" in medieval obscurantism - and yet, its material, materialist shine still emanated concrete reminiscences and substantial echoes of hylozoistic originality of the latent revolutionary "New in the Past", whose emancipatory tendency was still flowing in the darkened Present of yestermillennium.
Cynicism - The Canine Matrix of Stoicism
The intellectual powers of conceptualization of the ancient Greek philosophers were boundless, aurorean and aeonian. In Antiquity, the early Greek philosophers were very much concrete and down-to-earth; they even elevated the „dog“, kyon, to a philosophic predicament, to a historic category. Exempli gratia: man’s „best friend“; for dog, not donkey ages, Kyon became the derogatory sobriquet of Diogenes of Sinope, the real father of ancient Greek Cynicism.
But, more sublime and feared phenomena, such as Suicide and Death -- the Not-Yet of future, patrian Human Suicide Bombs, or "Shock and Awe" -- gained philosophic merit and scientific impersonation. Another famous Cynic, Hegesias of the Cyrenaic School acquired the appellative „Peisithanatos“ - someone who advises others to commit suicide.
In fact, if we take a bird eye' s view of many everyday, grammatical, philosophic, military, botanical, astronomical and colloquial concepts, we can detect very easily this cynic-canine, creative tradition. The following carefully selected terms very aptly demonstrate the inconsistent, dualistic features of this philosophic-intellectual process: doggy - doggish; doghouse - dog hole; dogsleep - dogfight; hot dog - dog’s meat; dog parsley - dog louse; dogwood - dogshores; dogdays - dog’s ages; Dogstar - Greater Dog; but, also dogmatism and Dogberryism.
Transhistoric Canine Fever
Let us take a brief transhistoric sojourn through the wilderness of patrian glory and nobility, to explain the spirit of cynical, stoic times. In hours of anxiety and austerity, like today, in days of repression and depression, like in the current months, in epochs of social transition and historical transformation when the old Pythagorean order bids farewell in a most violent Promethean, Luciferean fashion, and the birth pangs of the New already begin to fill the aurorean, revolutionary firmament, virulent Cynicism, everywhere desperate suicidal acts and myopic activism gain volatile, reactionary, social momentum.
During such trying „best and worst of times“, such „seasons of light and darkness“, when exploited, oppressed and discriminated human non-being daydreams to accomplish the „best thing“ which (s)he „ever had done“ (See: Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities), and when in total alienation (s)he wants to annihilate her/himself for the love of mankind, when the aristocratic „best“ and the absolutist "Holy of Holies" of the wealthy, powerful elites, of the nobility and clergy begin to crumble like castles-in-the-sand, that is, ex improviso, when everything around them immediately becomes dreadful, fearful and obscure; and, when the plebeian-proletarian „worst“ becomes an enlightened matter of just throwing shackles and chains to the street dogs, --- a modern example of this is the performing of "Caracas miracles" against Globofascism -- then, the beginning of the end, and the end of the beginning of Draconian, Draculian bondage is near, is palpable, tangible, is presciently in sight: ex propriis, the time becomes „ripe“ to usher in an epoch of social revolution, or, like now, even to create a mode of post-production, of creativeness, of creativity, an African-Arab inspired natura naturata a n d natura naturans.
However, sad to say, as a rule, with very few historic exceptions, what mostly discloses itself in times of true social crisis, of real social revolutions in the patrian labour system, in all spheres of life pregnant with severe contradictions, where the relations and forces of production heavily crash and clash on each other, is the following: The development of pessimistic, caustic, nihilistic dog-eat-dog attitudes dispersed throughout all social layers; especially in the lower classes; the appearance of churlish, snarlish, morose manners; an ostentatious, cynical contempt for sacred, religious, ideological nectar prevails; and, furthermore, everywhere a general boorish behaviour, surreptitious hatred and clandestine fear display themselves -- especially directed against the unknown, against minorities and strangers.
All these are brought forth by the fatally wounded status quo and by the crushing establishment in decay, in death agony. They breed disregard for authority, for the master, for responsibility, for "law and order". As could be verified historically, this social epidemic entails all walks of life ranging from the family to the State; in such ages, the rebellious youth and intellectuals form revolutionary circles and discussion groups, declare total war against all forms of authoritarian, totalitarian rule, law, order, justice and convention. The youthful vanguard, the torch-bearers of the New, begin to dog on their corrupt, senile masters, to scorn all oppressive, traditional values, morals, and customs.
Across the length and breadth of international patrian society, overnight like mushrooms, all kinds of solidaric groupings and organizations sprout chaotically, but they barely have any emancipatory objectives, subjectives and transjectives in common: a disgust against the ancien regime, against its puppets unites them, sets loose a popular rebellion against economic squandermania and political megalomania, a class hatred directed against Croesusian wealth and power spreads to the four winds; a revolt against all monotonous recreations and useless procreations is being launched.
Summa summarum, in fact, all the under-dogs of opulent society begin to pick up stones and sticks, to brandish knives and axes, to take up arms against a „sea of troubles“, against "shock and awe", against "awestruck", against anything which is connected with or intended pro bono publico, especially pro aris et focis.
At the turn of historic events, across the Old World, the pauperized helots and pariahs, the slaves and serfs, the previously „meek and humble“, now the „wretched of the earth“, acquire a street dog attitude, flanked by the bored middle-class youth and critical young aristocrats, including all those who intend to commit class suicide -- all of them, begin to call it off - to abandon the stenchy social quagmires of either slavocracy or feudalism, of colonialism and imperialism, to doubt human „nature“, values, morals, „facts“ and absolute „truths“.
The majority of them, like in the roaring "sixties" of the last century, begin to acquire stereotypical „Hippie-Rastafarian“ traits; their hairstyles and beards begin to resemble those of ancient ape-men, or man-apes, at worst, of dog-apes, at best, of Karl Marx. They adopt cynic-existentialist, nihilistic-pessimistic cosmovisions, human motifs and motives. But, let us return to the centuries before the birth of Christ, of Christianity, to philosophical Cynicism.
From Cynic Pessimism to Nihilism
Antisthenes (444 - 366 B.C.) was a very close friend of Socrates, but he was also very amicable to the Sophists, especially to the so-called nihilist, Gorgias - here already we can detect the Cynic „root of all evil“, so much hated by official "philosophers". It was Gorgias who had made a tremendous philosophic contribution to the pregnant "nihilism" and extreme scepticism about the future of patrian, labour society within Cynicism-Stoicism. Later, it was hijacked as opium, and was transmitted to Christian theology and Roman Catholicism, to the Inquisition and the burning stake.
By synthesizing Platonic Socratism and Sophism, Antisthenes laid the intellectual foundations for the evolution of Cynicism as a specific weltanschauung, as intrinsic part of the idealist-objectivist, materialist Negation within ancient Greek philosophy. In an ancient Athenian gymnasium, dedicated to the Cynic Saint, Heracles, in the Cynosarges, Antisthenes was educating the socially dislocated, the victims of slavocracy, the „scum of the earth“, the „wretched“ of Hellenic society. As already alluded before, Cynicism itself probably received its name from kyon or from the Cynosarges.
Of significance, however, taking into account what has been expounded before about Cynicism, about its canine matrix, we could say that within the context of the decomposition of ancient Greek slave-owning society, as „plebeian-proletarian“ philosophy, Cynicism was essentially directed at the impoverished lower social classes and the uprooted declassed societal elements - in modern terms, we would say, at the petit bourgeoisie, lumpen-proletariat and anarchistic social elements. Thus, here we have a transhistoric forerunner of the utopian socialist and communist, anarchist tendencies around the time of the French and Industrial Revolutions in Europe.
Linking their views with Socratic paedagogic principles, the Cynics considered that paideia should also be transmitted to the helots, pariahs and slaves of Hellenic society, hence, it should not remain a privilege of the „chosen few“ - of the wealthy, elitist nobility. Furthermore, contrary to the Sophist, upper class chrematists, the „business-philosophers“, the Cynics, like Socrates, refused to accept remuneration for their public educational endeavours.
Nonetheless, the Cynic teacher had his own peculiar notions about what education, culture and morality should be. These we will elaborate later. Certainly, as time passed by, and while anxiety, autarchy and austerity mounted, the Cynics began to experience dire economic needs and problems. Ingeniously, they transformed financial folly into Socratic virtue, by postulating, inter alia, the following cardinal maxims of „good living“: self-indulgence, self-reliance, pacifism, apathy, fatalism, pessimism, „don’t care“ attitudes, lackadaisical and lack-a-day behavioural social patterns. These certainly did hot nurture original, new, philosophic qua scientific thinking, and surely not dialogical, transvolutionary Práxis-Theory, rather they nurtured future practice and ideology.
Ex nunc, in Panhellenic class society, reaching its zenith, Cynicism progressively became an anti-praxico-theoretical social movement, in spite of its objectively existing social-revolutionary historic base, as productive dynamei on; its followers formed part of the exploited working „drones“ of Ancient Greece and the later Roman Empire. In suite, the Cynic mob was still essentially slave-plebeians not yet capitalist-proletarian.
As indicated before, the Cynics and their followers adopted ancient versions of the modern Hippie-Rastafari modus vivendi. Impetuously they criticized everything that was „sacred“ to the glorious Hellenic haut monde, everything ranging from its haut couture to its aristocratic-democratic snobbish behaviour, to its anti-poor hauteur.
However, at least subjectively and individually, some declared total war against all fervent forms of human passions, not only against those which later would generate Nazism, Fascism and Apartheid, but also against the immediate Empedoclean-Cytherean ones - an ethical stance which they had inherited directly from Socrates. (See: Xenophon, Memorabilia, I, 6, 10.) As we have seen in previous chapters, it was this revolting Cynic element which had influenced Epicureanism and Lucretianism.
Moreover, this anti-culturalism generated an antinationalism, a negation of all excessive, irrational eruptions of the Hellenic eros for the patria, has produced an antidote against reactionary patriotism and "home land" policies. The Cynics anticipated the conception that the worker has no patria (Marx & Engels, Communist Manifesto). The Cynics again rediscovered the matrix of all things, -- and, although expressed here in patriarchal terms -- they nurtured the emancipatory maxim: ubi bene, ibi patria, where one feels really well, there is one´s home. Also, this was a direct assault against the conversion of modern capitals into an urbi et orbi aeterna of national, opulent elites.
As indicated, an important scientific side-effect of the Cynic movement, of its philosophic crusade against ruling class „human nature“, against official celestial and chthonic gods, was the re-discovery of the mater of phýsis, of Matter. Eo ipso, as revealed already, Cynicism was an intrinsic, negating part of the declinant, involutionary process of ancient slave-owning society, hence it impossibly could offer objective-real and subjective-real possible social revolutionary or emancipatory alternatives to labour class rule.
In facto, it mirrored very distinctly the historic fading-away and the absolescence of ancient ruling class society; no wonder that the slave-lords so bitterly hated this „scum of the earth“, this canine-plebeian faex populi. Similarly today, for example, the dethroned Venezuelan oligarchic Herrenvolk detest the paupers around them, openly they discredit the social class base of the Bolivarian Revolution of the Chavéz government. Like in our times, like their modern counterparts, they had considered these „wretched“ to be dirty, uncivilized, mean, morose and vulgar creatures, in modern reactionary, ideological terminology, to be "camel-drivers", „terrorists“, „hippies“ and „communists“.
Nonetheless, the Cynic rediscovery of the Great Mother, of Gaia, of Sophia, of Mother Nature, did not lead to any sapient, social práxis-theory. Throughout the whole epoch of social revolution, in fact, until the 4th Century A. D., Cynicism flourished. Its autarchic legacy still flamed up among the original Christian fraternities of beggars, among the various heretic religious sects and orders, especially among the Carmelites (around 1156 A.D.), the Florentine Servites (around 1233 A. D.), and even among the Augustinian Eremites and the Franciscans.
Precisely because Cynicism, in its origin, was part of the „sigh of the oppressed creature“, the „heart of a heartless world“, "the soul of soulless conditions" (Marx), it has attacked superstitious-religious doctrines, including Platonism, especially its Neo-Platonist variety, above all, its Platonic Socratic doctrine of the summum bonum. The Cynic refused to accept any higher authority, any holy superlatives, any Supreme Being. He only recognized a single, individual, subjective bon. Besides, for that matter, Socrates did not determine with philosophic precision what the Athenian bonnibell and her gallant bon viveur had to cognosce in the glorious Highest Good.
In other words, he did not attribute a definite essential content to his major philosophic and virtuous concept. Consequently, Cynicism, along with Hedonism and Stoicism, in accordance with their respective social orders, gave their own interpretations of this divine horos. However, Antisthenes still refrained from giving this Cynic „simple good“ a concrete, human-praxical content. But, a posteriori, even Virtue was converted into a synonym for goodness, for the enjoyment of hedone for achieving individual ataraxia.
Eventually, as Cynicism was also decaying, Virtue was desecrated to a profane eudemonistic sublimation of human and social desiderata and optatives. Now, the Socratic daimon, the future Christian guardian angel, should be pleased; it should feel eu (well), should be nourished with ataractic hedonistic nectar. On the other hand, the slaves and the helots, the faex populi, anticipating the coming Roman Catholicism, were taught to be eviternally happy with their earthly lot, and, to enjoy the least possible crumbs which were falling from their master’s table; the „flesh-pots“ of the Pharaohs were not intended for them; at best, as we will see later, these „wretched“ should commit suicide and as fast as possible fade away into ataraxic oblivion, into the kingdom of heaven, to leave the mongrels, wolves and werewolves to devour their bloody prey in peace, in world peace.
On the materialist side of the scale, however, the Cynics had taught their followers not to take anything which concerns doxa (that is, concerns ruling class ideology) as being Dei gratia, self-evident and eternal. In this way, Cynicism was interlinked with Epicureanism which had declared total war against the religious dies irae (Final Day of Judgement (Wrath)), against the aristocratic, democratic dernier cri, which tried to glorify a dying culture.
Let us now surpass to the real progenitor of Hellenic Cynicism to Diogenes of Sinope (404 - 323 B.C.), who was resident at the Pontos Euxeinos, was a contemporary of Alexander the Great and of Aristotle, and was the most devoted pupil of Antisthenes. We have already become acquainted with the fact that, in a derisory manner, the Greek gentry had titulated him with the apathaton (nickname) „Non“, had condemned him to Human Non-Being. Furthermore, many „doggish“ anecdotes were circulated about his canine behaviour patterns and Cynic modus operandi. Of significance to us is that Diogenes had systematized the various Cynicist doctrines of his time.
He itemized the various Cynic trends that we have already highlighted before. Basically, he propounded a fatalistic, retrospective world outlook which denied real historic future. In reality, he propagated an ancient version of Rousseauian „noble savage“ philosophy, a return to the „happy days“ of Mother Nature.
Let us advance to the next eminent Cynic-Hedonist philosopher. Already since its very inception, Cynicism had produced its own intrinsic Hedonistic Negation: the Cyrenaic school of philosophy. For this reason, Aristippus (435-360 B. C.), the founder of Hedonism, has very often been mistaken as the founder of Epicureanism, but as we have noted already, there is a basic difference between these two schools of philosophic thought (between Cynicism and Hedonism).
Of interest is the fact that Aristippus was claimed to be another brilliant disciple of Socrates, and that he also nurtured warm relationships with the opponents of Socratism, with the Sophists. Taking the famous Protagorian homo-mensura principle as his philosophic point of departure, he elevated hedone (pleasure) to a philosophic telos (end, objective). But he agreed with Epicurus that only through the achievement of hedoné, Man could accomplish a perfect calmness of mind, that is, ataraxia. Consequently, Aristippus had transformed Socratic arete into hedone, into the fulfilment of eudaimonia. Virtually, the highest human goals were reduced to apathy, ascetism, individual pleasure and extreme subjectivism.
However, as indicated before already, in the process of regressing to Mother Nature, early Cynicism had also rediscovered the arché, the material principle. Hence, it acknowledged the real existence of objective reality, but in a Gorgian-Berkeleian philosophic sense, because it maintained that Man impossibly could cognosce the ousia (essence) of the external world. Hence, ex consequenti, it is sheer nonsense to try and change or even exercise peripheric influence on the concrete world order, including its historico-social dimension. Human thoughts, feelings and emotions - in fact all wishes to change and improve society, all revolutionary optatives and emancipatory desires - are merely subjective; they just mirror an internal reality.
Obviously, this Cynicism propagated by Aristippus was counterrevolutionary, it drove a formal-logical wedge between Thought and Action, between Subject and Object; and, consequently, between Human Emancipatory Práxis and Theory, and their dialogical emancipatory relations were discarded as phantasmagoric pipe-dreams, as wishful thinking. Certainly, this was a Socratic-Platonic idealist remnant, a reactionary virus which was living forth in Cynicism. Paradoxically, but very logically, Aristippus detected traces of gnostic and ethical principles in subjective, individual human feelings and affects.
Analogous to Plato’s conflictory Praxis-Theory relation, there existed a salient dissymmetry between what the Cynics preached officially and what they lived concretely. However, we should always take into account the various dialectical and dialogical processes, the development from less-developed wholes to more-developed ones, from lower levels of perception, to advanced praxis, to advanced degrees of Práxis-Theory; the progression from theoretical approximations to sublime philosophical understanding.
According to historic records, in real life, only a very small number of active Cynics actually had a total disrespect for Greek arts, culture, philosophy and science. For example, Diogenes, the „cosmopolitan“, did not negate cultura per se, he only opposed membership to any existing cultural association, which furthered ruling class lies and ideology.
And, because ancient Greek culture was closely associated with the Olympic gods, mystery cults and other associated practices of superstition and divination, as pagans, the Cynics attacked all forms of polytheism and desecrated its teachings to the level of popular doxa, which did not merit serious scientific, philosophic consideration, in fact, this historic process from poly- to monotheism very clearly reflected the transitional social relations from Greek slave-owning society to Roman feudalism.
However, on the other hand, in the 4th and 3rd Centuries B. C., the early Cynics did not nurture any special erotic feelings for monotheism. Theodorus Atheos, an early 4th Century B.C. Cynic, as his sonorous name already implies, openly attacked polytheism and publicly denied the existence of any variety of Supreme Being or omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God. As a result of this bold atheistic stand, of this proclamation of a „good life“ without God (theos), he was persecuted like Socrates, Anaxagoras and Giordano Bruno, and was eventually driven out of the metropolis, Athens, ostracized from the alma mater of religious idealism.
Later, around 300 B.C., Hegesias of the Hedonistic-Cyrenaic school very clearly demonstrated the logical consequence of Cynic subjectivism, pessimism, fatalism and nihilism. In a very convincing manner, he taught that hedone and eudaimonia necessarily must epitomize in epithymetic, ataraxic bliss, that is, in Thanatos itself.
Hence, „Peisithanatos“, as we know already, counselled his devoted ancient "Jonestonian" audience that the summum bonum of chthonic life is to negate it totally, id est, to commit „murder/suicide“. Thus, even the modern „co-operative socialism“ of Guyana has experienced its own version of Cynic counter-revolution. Now, cynic human suicide bombs patrol the Mideastern Oriental regions.
At any event, returning to the root of all evil, in the land of the Pharaohs, which had been notorious for its low life expectancy, and for chronic pestilence, the philosophic lectures of Hegesias gained mass attendance. Transgressing from Theory into Practice, and reaching out for transcendental bliss, progressively his Cynic followers were taught how to surpass all forms of thanatophobia and to accept self-annihilation as a „natural“ modus operandi, as a virtuous principle, as a human telos worth striving for. Fearing the expansion of Cynicism in Egypt, and its concomitant mass-suicide orgies, the rulers eventually prohibited Hegesias to address any audience.
Thus, it became very clear that the only social panacea which Ancient Greek eudamonistic Cynicism had to offer to the impoverished, exploited plebs, slaves and faux populi was a suicidal, extelluric, ataraxic bliss, void of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Cynicism had ushered in the Total Eclipse of Ancient Materialism, as we would witness in the next chapter.
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