Saturday, June 09, 2007
Blaming It on the Dog
Let shame then be defined as a kind of pain or uneasiness in respect of misdeeds, past, present, or future, which seem to tend to bring dishonor; and shamelessness as contempt and indifference in regard to these same things.The ancient school of philosophy known as Cynicism elevated the vice of shamelessness (ἀναισχυντία or ἀναίδεια) almost to the status of a virtue.
ἔστω δὴ αἰσχύνη λύπη τις ἢ ταραχὴ περὶ τὰ εἰς ἀδοξίαν φαινόμενα φέρειν τῶν κακῶν, ἢ παρόντων ἢ γεγονότων ἢ μελλόντων, ἡ δ' ἀναισχυντία ὀλιγωρία τις καὶ ἀπάθεια περὶ τὰ αὐτὰ ταῦτα.
The name Cynic (κυνικός) was popularly derived from the Greek word for dog (κύων, kyōn, genitive kynos). Dogs had a reputation for shamelessness. Aelian, Varia Historia 7.19, notes:
Shameless and not easily removed are flies and dogs.John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Statues 12.2 (tr. anon.), draws moral lessons from the characters of various animals:
ἀναιδῆ δὲ καὶ μὴ ῥᾳδίως ὑποστελλόμενα μυῖαι καὶ κύνες.
From these animals, and such as these, learn to achieve virtue, and be instructed to avoid wickedness by the contrary ones. For as the bee follows good, so the asp is destructive. Therefore shun wickedness, lest you hear it said, "The poison of asps is under their lips." Again, the dog is devoid of shame [ἀναίσχυντον πάλιν ὁ κύων]. Hate, therefore, this kind of wickedness.One way in which a dog demonstrates shamelessness is its nonchalant way of performing bodily functions, such as urination and defecation, out in the open. An anecdote about Diogenes the Cynic, reported by Diogenes Laerius, Lives of the Philosophers 6.46 (tr. R.D. Hicks), points out the similarities between Cynic and canine behavior:
At a feast certain people kept throwing all the bones to him as they would have done to a dog. Thereupon he played a dog's trick and drenched them.What Hicks translates as "drenched" here is actually "urinated on".
ἐν δείπνῳ προσερρίπτουν αὐτῷ τινες ὀστάρια ὡς κυνί· καὶ ὃς ἀπαλλαττόμενος προσούρησεν αὐτοῖς ὡς κύων.
Dio Chrysostom, Orations 8.36 (tr. J.W. Cohoon), tells an anecdote about Diogenes the Cynic defecating in public:
While Diogenes thus spoke, many stood about and listened to his words with great pleasure. Then, possibly with this thought of Heracles in his mind, he ceased speaking and, squatting on the ground, performed an indecent act, whereat the crowd straightway scorned him and called him crazy, and again the sophists raised their din, like frogs in a pond when they do not see the water-snake.This time the euphemism "performed an indecent act" is in the original Greek, although "squatting" makes it clear that Diogenes defecated.
Ταῦτα δὲ λέγοντος τοῦ Διογένυς, περιίσταντο πολλοὶ καὶ πάνυ ἡδέως ἠκροῶντο τῶν λόγων. ἐννοήσας δὲ οἶμαι τὸ τοῦ Ἡρακλέους, τοὺς μὲν λόγους ἀφῆκε, χαμαὶ δὲ καθεζόμενος ἐποίει τι τῶν ἀδόξων. εὐθυς οὖν οἱ πολλοὶ κατεφρόνουν αὐτοῦ καὶ μαίνεσθαι ἔφασαν, καὶ πάλιν ἐθορύβουν σοφισταί, καθάπρ ἐν τέλματι βάτραχοι τὸν ὕδρον οὐχ ὁρῶντες.
Breaking wind in public is less of a breach of decorum than defecating, although most people are still mortified when they break wind inadvertently in a social setting. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 6.94 (tr. R.D. Hicks), tells the story of Metrocles' discomfiture:
Metrocles of Maroneia was the brother of Hipparchia. He had been formerly a pupil of Theophrastus the Peripatetic, and had been so far corrupted by weakness that, when he made a breach of good manners in the course of rehearsing a speech, it drove him to despair, and he shut himself up at home, intending to starve himself to death. On learning this Crates came to visit him as he had been asked to do, and after advisedly making a meal of lupins, he tried to persuade him by argument as well that he had committed no crime, for a prodigy would have happened if he had not taken the natural means of relieving himself. At last by reproducing the action he succeeded in lifting him from his dejection, using for his consolation the likeness of the occurrences. From that time forward Metrocles was his pupil, and became proficient in philosophy.Euphemisms in Hicks' translation once again obscure somewhat the point of this story. "When he made a breach of good manners" and "by reproducing the action" are both the same word in the original Greek, ἀποπαρδών, aorist participle of ἀποπέρδομαι, break wind.
Μητροκλῆς, ἀδελφὸς Ἱππαρχίας, ὃς πρότερον ἀκούων Θεοφράστου τοῦ περιπατητικοῦ τοσοῦτον διέφθαρτο ὥστε ποτὲ μελετῶν καὶ μεταξύ πως ἀποπαρδὼν ὑπ' ἀθυμίας οἴκοι κατάκλειστος ἦν, ἀποκαρτερεῖν βουλόμενος. μαθὼν δὴ ὁ Κράτης εἰσῆλθε πρὸς αὐτὸν παρακληθεὶς καὶ θέρμους ἐπίτηδες βεβρωκὼς ἔπειθε μὲν αὐτὸν καὶ διὰ τῶν λόγων μηδὲν φαῦλον πεποιηκέναι· τέρας γὰρ ἂν γεγονέναι εἰ μὴ καὶ τὰ πνεύματα κατὰ φύσιν ἀπεκρίνετο· τέλος δὲ καὶ ἀποπαρδὼν ἀνέρρωσεν αὐτόν, ἀφ' ὁμοιότητος τῶν ἔργων παραμυθησάμενος. τοὐντεῦθεν ἤκουεν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐγένετο ἀνὴρ ἱκανὸς ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ.
Crates was an adherent of the Cynic school of philosophy, and this anecdote is a conversion tale, which tells how Metrocles was converted from the Peripatetic to the Cynic school by Crates.
According to Epictetus 3.22.80 (tr. W.A. Oldfather), public wind breaking was characteristic of the Cynics:
Can it be that we do not perceive the greatness of Diogenes, and have no adequate conception of his character, but have in mind the present-day representatives of his profession, these "dogs of the table, guards of the gate," who follow the masters not at all, except it be in breaking wind in public, forsooth, but in nothing else?Julian, Orations 6.202b-c (tr. Wilmer Cave Wright), also refers to Diogenes the Cynic's habit of breaking wind in public:
μήποτε οὐκ αἰσθανόμεθα τοῦ μεγέθους αὐτοῦ οὐδὲ φανταζόμεθα κατ' ἀξίαν τὸν χαρακτῆρα τὸν Διογένους, ἀλλ' εἰς τοὺς νῦν ἀποβλέπομεν, τοὺς τραπεζῆας πυλαωρούς, οἳ οὐδὲν μιμοῦνται ἐκείνους ἢ εἴ τι ἄρα πόρδωνες γίνονται, ἄλλο δ' οὐδέν;
On the other hand, when Diogenes made unseemly noises or obeyed the call of nature or did anything else of that sort in the market-place, as they say he did, he did so because he was trying to trample on the conceit of the men I have just mentioned, and to teach them that their practices were far more sordid and insupportable than his own. For what he did was in accordance with the nature of all of us, but theirs accorded with no man's real nature, one may say, but were all due to moral depravity.I owe many of these references to Derek Krueger, Symeon the Holy Fool: Leontius' Life and the Late Antique City (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), chapter 6 (Symeon and the Cynics).
Ἐπεὶ καὶ Διογένης εἴτε ἀπέπαρδεν εἴτε ἀπεπάτησεν εἴτε ἄλλο τι τοιοῦτον ἔπραξεν, ὥσπερ οὖν λέγουσινοἱ πολλοί, ἐν ἀγορᾷ, τὸν ἐκείνων πατῶν τῦφον ἐποίει, διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὅτι πολλῷ φαυλότερα καὶ χαλεπώτερα τούτων ἐπιτηδεύουσι, τὰ μὲν γάρ ἐστιν ἡμῖν πᾶσι κατὰ φύσιν, τὰ δέ, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, οὐθενί, πάντα δὲ ἐκ διαστροφῆς ἐπιτηδεύεται.