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Cyrenaĭci

Κυρηναϊκοί). A sect of philosophers who followed the doctrines of Aristippus (q.v.), and whose name was derived from their founder's having been a native of Cyrené, and from their school having been established in this place. Aristippus made the summum bonum and the τέλος of man to consist in enjoyment, accompanied by good taste and freedom of mind, τὸ κρατεῖν καὶ μὴ ἡττᾶσθαι ἡδόνων ἄριστον, οὐ τὸ μὴ χρῆσθαι (Diog. Laert. ii. 75). Happiness, said the Cyrenaics, consists, not in tranquillity or indolence, but in a pleasing agitation of the mind or in active enjoyment. Pleasure (ἡδονή) is the ultimate object of human pursuit; it is only in subserviency to this that fame, friendship, and even virtue are to be desired. All crimes are venial, because never committed except through the immediate impulse of passion. Nothing is just or unjust by nature, but by custom and law. The business of philosophy is to regulate the senses in that manner which will render them most productive of pleasure. Since, then, pleasure is to be derived, not from the past or the future, but the present, a wise man will take care to enjoy the present hour, and will be indifferent to life or death. Such were the tenets of the Cyrenaic School. The short duration of this sect was owing, in part, to the remote distance of Cyrené from Greece, the chief seat of learning and philosophy; in part to the unbounded latitude which these philosophers allowed themselves in practice as well as opinion; and finally to the rise of the Epicurean School, which taught the doctrine of pleasure in a more philosophical form. The Cyrenaic teaching that pleasure is the only good was developed in a curious way by Hegesias (q.v.), who argued that as pleasure is the only good, and that as, by reason of the uncertainties of life, an existence of pure pleasure is impossible of attainment by man, the true philosopher will not seek to live, but will end his life by suicide. He therefore preached the doctrine of selfdestruction. See Wendt, De Philosophia Cyrenaica (Göttingen, 1841); Von Stein, De Philosophia Cyrenaica (Göttingen, 1855); and Ueberweg, Hist. of Philos. vol. i. pp. 95-98 (Eng. trans. N. Y. 1872).

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