Athens, 444 - 366 B.C.

Eminent philosopher of ancient Greece. He was born in Athens, date unknown, to an Athenian father and a Thracian mother. He was contemporary with Plato and older than him. He was a student of Gorgias and later a friend and loyal admirer of Socrates. After the death of his great teacher, he founded a philosophical school near Kynosarges Gymnasium. From this name his followers were called Cynics and their heresy Cynicism. Diogenes the Sinopeus was a particularly famous student of his.

Socrates admired him for his temperate and almost ascetic life, his quiet independence and strength of character. In the dialectical debates he tried to overturn Socrates' definition of general concepts. That is to say, he fought against Plato's theory of ideas, and admitted as real only the partial. Only what we see, touch or otherwise feel really exists (empiricist doctrine).

General concepts according to Antisthenes are non-existent (horse I see, horsehood I do not see) and each concept means only one thing. From this the philosopher concludes that no subject can be assigned a different meaning, and the only correct judgments are tautological (A is A). It is not correct, e.g., to say gold is blond, but gold is gold, not man is mortal but mortal is mortal.

For this reason, Antisthenes also rejected the definition based on the essential features. These teachings were willingly accepted by the Cynics. And from these the tendency of the Cynics to make themselves completely independent of the needs of the outside world, reducing their needs to a minimum, practicing to endure all privation and all pain, and considering pleasures and especially pleasure as the greatest evils.