University of Vermont

University Communications

The Classics Unleashed

Release Date: 08-05-2009

Author: Lee Ann Cox
Phone: 802/656-1107 Fax: (802) 656-3203

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Diogenes, founder of the Cynic school of philosophy, is a dog on the loose as portrayed by classics professor Mark Usher in his new children's book published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The canine character is apt, the Greek word for cynic translating as "dog-like" — a term applied to Diogenes for his pointedly offensive lifestyle. He flagrantly demonstrated what would become the Cynic tradition of living simply, according to nature, finding one's worth apart from the material. Diogenes follows Usher's first book for kids, Wise Guy, an equally playful introduction to Socrates. Read more about that book in this article from 2005.

Continuing the kid-lit with Diogenes was a natural choice for Usher, who, like many scholars, views the philosopher as the true successor of Socrates, not the more recognized Plato.

"Socrates," says Usher, "lived a life of poverty, walked around barefoot, irritated people on purpose; he was always a provocateur. Diogenes and the Cynics followed in that tradition more closely." It's a fact recognized even in antiquity. It was Plato, according to Usher, who called Diogenes, "Socrates gone mad."

Read a transcript of the audio slideshow.