Illustration of a bearded man in profile carrying a lantern and holding a scroll.


Diogenes Laërtius

(c. 201 - c. 300)

Diogenes Laërtius wrote his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers during the third century, borrowing from both Greek and Latin accounts. Along with the biography of Diogenes the Cynic, it also presents the lives of Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, among others.

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In his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laërtius tells of Socrates’ disciple Aristippus, who “derived pleasure from what was present, and did not toil to procure the enjoyment of something not present.” Such opportunism was not widely admired; Aristippus was sometimes called “the king’s poodle.”


According to Diogenes Laërtius’ third-century Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, Plato was applauded for his definition of man as a featherless biped, so Diogenes the Cynic “plucked the feathers from a cock, brought it to Plato’s school, and said, ‘Here is Plato’s man.’ ” When asked about the origin of his epithet, cynic deriving from the Greek word for dog, Diogenes replied that it was given to him because he “fawns upon those who give him anything and barks at those who give him nothing.”

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