Speaking of Self-Deprivation, the Cynics were masters at such a practice. The Cynics were a philosophy school beginning around 450 BC in ancient Greece. Most famous were Antisthenes, Diogenes of Sinope, and Crates.
The Cynics thought that:
- The goal of life is happiness which is to live in agreement with Nature.
- Happiness depends on being self-sufficient, and a master of mental attitude.
- Self-sufficiency is achieved by living a life of virtue and reaching your highest potential.
- The road to living an excellent life is to free oneself from any influence such as wealth, fame, or power, which have no value in Nature.
- Suffering is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions and a vicious character.
What they meant by a life according to nature is to live with the absolute bare necessities. In other words, they lived an ascetic life (a life of self-deprivation). By depriving themselves of worldly desires completely, they draw nearer to to a life of virtue and excellence.
As I said in Part 1, I can see their good intentions, but I think that, in short, they throw the baby out with the bath water by trying to eliminate judgment from the equation. Would you like some food? No. Would you like some shelter? No. Would you like air conditioning? No. Would you like to travel to Hawaii on a vacation? No.
In short, I think that ascetics have the right idea: that material things and excesses do not bring happiness. They certainly lay the foundation for finding happiness. But aren’t they only half-right?