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James Altucher


10 Modern Cynics

The word "cynic" comes form the Cynic school of Greek philosophy. Like "stoic" comes from Stoicism. What was Cynicism? It was basically a belief that organized society was absurd and meaningless. That no meaning can be derived from the man-made structures and institutions we've built around this.

The first Cynic philosopher, Diogenes, was originally accused of some sort of financial crime and banished from society. So he gave up on trying to please society. He would walk around naked, shit in the streets, etc.

But modern day cynics exist as well. Here are a few modern cynic "philosophers".

    1. Diogenes

    I'll include him anyway in this list.

    One story: Alexander the Great wanted to meet the great Cynic philosopher and found Diogenes sunbathing by a lake. Alexander said, Diogenes, whatever you want from my kingdom I will give you.

    Diogenes said, Ok, can you move, you're standing in the way of the sun.

    2. Albert Camus

    Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Author of books like 'The Stranger' and 'The Myth of Sisyphus'.

    He basically believed that life was absurd and had no meaning. And the only purpose was to live fully in the present moment.

    BUT, he also believed that although there was no real meaning in society, that the pursuit of individual meaning was a path towards happiness.

    A quote from "The Myth of Sisyphus" (note, the myth if of a man sentenced to Hell/Hades with the punishment that he has to roll a boulder up a steep hill each day, only to watch it roll down to the ground whenever he gets to the top and then he has to go down and start over. )

    "I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a lifetime. But we must imagine Sisyphus happy."

    3. George Carlin

    Thought that most people were stupid and superficial and created false structures that he refused to bow down to.

    Here's a Carlin quote:

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately."

    4. Nietzche

    The philosopher. Thought that traditional morality was man-made and a hindrance to self-actualization.

    5. Oscar Wilde

    6. William S. Burroughs

    7. George Bernard Shaw

    8. Mark Twain

    9. Douglas Adams, author of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

    Some of my favorite cynical quotes from Adams:

    From Hitchhiker's:

    "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."

    "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

    10. Ayn Rand

    from Atlas Shrugged:

    ""The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt. A man who becomes a coward in order to escape from death, becomes a traitor in order to escape from life.""

    from "The Fountainhead":

    "The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone."

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