Antisthenes was famous in antiquity for his studies of Homer's poems, his affiliation with Gorgias and the sophistic movement, his pure Attic writing style, and his inspiration of Diogenes of Sinope, who founded the Cynic philosophical movement. Antisthenes stands at two of the greatest turning points in ancient intellectual history: from pre-Socraticism to Socraticism, and from classical Athens to the Hellenistic period. Antisthenes' works form the path to a better understanding of the intellectual culture of Athens that shaped Plato and laid the foundations for Hellenistic philosophy and literature.
Antisthenes of Athens keeps in mind the goals and polemics framing each philosophical and textual discussion. The volume considers the ancient traditions about Antisthenes' rejection of Plato's "Theory of Forms," his assertion of the paradox, "It is impossible to gainsay," and his denial that definition of essence is possible, as well as the plausible intentions of Antisthenes. In cases where these questions are not easily settled, and where modern interpretation has varied, Susan H. Prince identifies the roots of the disagreements. The goal and meaning of Antisthenes' other famous ancient paradox, "I would rather go mad than have pleasure," is illuminated by comparison with other evidence showing that pleasure does have a place in his ideology. Evidence for his relationship to Diogenes of Sinope, and for his receptions by the Cynics, Stoics, Skeptics, Christians, and Neo-Pagans is examined for both its historical value and its distorting tendencies.