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Against the Oracle
(The Detection of Imposters)

by Oenomaus of Gadara

new material in this book copyright © 2020

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Cynic Philosophy

The Cynics were an influential school of philosophers in ancient times—the prime influence on the Stoics—but it is hard to understand why. Their name comes from the Greek word for “dog,” and they behaved something like stray dogs, living on the street, acting shamelessly, attacking their enemies fiercely.

This book contains the longest surviving fragments of writing by a Cynic philosopher. The introduction shows that the fragments are enough for us to reconstruct the entire book was like.

It also explains the Cynics’ influence on the Stoics. Both wanted to be independent of good or bad fortune, so both believed that only virtue was important. Both believed that virtue consisted in living according to nature, but they had different ideas of what this meant.

The Cynics believed that we must reject the comforts and conventions of civilization to live in accordance with nature—even defending incest and cannibalism. The Stoics made themselves much more respectable by substituting ideas of living according to nature that they borrowed from Aristotle and Plato.