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(sīrĭnā`ĭks, sĭ–), one of the minor schools of Greek philosophy, flourishing in the late 4th and early 3d cent. B.C. Cyrenaic philosophy taught that present individual pleasure is the highest good. It is thus an early version of hedonismhedonism
[Gr.,=pleasure], the doctrine that holds that pleasure is the highest good. Ancient hedonism expressed itself in two ways: the cruder form was that proposed by Aristippus and the early Cyrenaics, who believed that pleasure was achieved by the complete gratification of
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, but its importance in philosophy declined in favor of the later version of EpicurusEpicurus
, 341–270 B.C., Greek philosopher, b. Samos; son of an Athenian colonist. He claimed to be self-taught, although tradition states that he was schooled in the systems of Plato and Democritus by his father and various philosophers.
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. It drew upon certain of Socrates' ethical views and also upon aspects of the view of knowledge held by the Sophists. AristippusAristippus
, c.435–c.360 B.C., Greek philosopher of Cyrene, first of the Cyrenaics. He held pleasure to be the highest good and virtue to be identical with the ability to enjoy.
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 of Cyrene, its founder, held that since each person can know only his own sensations, there can be no universal standard of what is pleasurable—hence, all pleasures are equally valuable. His followers modified this doctrine by distinguishing between greater and lesser pleasures. Theodorus held man's happiness to be a state of cheerfulness, while Anniceris stressed the pleasures of friendship, society, and patriotism. Hegesias (called the Death-Persuader) taught that a happy life is pure illusion and that the complete suppression of pain, i.e., death, is the only end worth pursuing.



a school of philosophy in ancient Greece that developed Socrates’ principles along the lines of a consistent hedonism. Founded by Aristippus of Cyrene, it was continued by his daughter Arete and grandson Aristippus and, later, by Theodorus, Hegesias, and Annikeris. The founder of the school, Aristippus, taught (as had Protagoras) that sensations tell nothing about objects in the external world but only correspond to mental movements and therefore are always true. Since there are no external criteria for evaluating mental movements or sensations (of which there are three kinds—pleasure, pain, and indifference), the concept of good, central to Socratic ethics, is replaced by that of pleasure. Thus, for the Cyrenaics, as for the Epicureans, the goal of human life is pleasure.

The consistent pursuit of individual pleasure brought some Cyrenaics (Theodorus) close to the Cynics’ contempt for conventional rules and religious traditions; others (Hegesias) pessimistically concluded that the hedonistic ideal was unrealizable in human life and that, therefore, one may strive only for the absence of suffering—death. Annikeris’ high regard for friendship, patriotism, and family feeling may be seen as an effort to transcend the Cyrenaics’ hedonism and as a foreshadowing of Epicureanism.


Aristippi et Cyrenaicorum fragmenta. Edited by E. Mannebach. Leiden-Cologne, 1961.


Gompertz, T. Grecheskie mysliteli, vol. 2. St. Petersburg, 1913.
Losev, A. F. Istoriia antichnoi estetiki: Sofisty, Sokrat, Platon. Moscow, 1969. Pages 108–18. (Bibliography.)


References in periodicals archive ?
the Cyrenaic, the Democritean and the Heraclitean, are left unsold.
The notion of indifference plays a more important role in the early Greek hedonist school of the Cyrenaics, founded by Aristippus of Cyrene, who held that sensations can be subsumed into the three categories of pleasure, pain, and indifference, depending on whether the impulse is gentle, violent, or calm.
Housman called himself a Cyrenaic, but it was his conservatism, not egoistic hedonism, that makes sense out of his life's work.
Going unsold is the Cyrenaic, a proponent of the hedonic principle that happiness is simply pleasure.
that taught that virtue is the only good, its essence lying in self-control and independence, and that later developed into a coarse opposition to social customs and current philosophical opinions--contrasted with Cyrenaic
Cyrenaic and related Epicurean modes of thought in this novel thus challenge the self-styled "Stoic" sympathies of Victorian British writers.
Voula Tsouna, The Epistemology of the Cyrenaic School.
Marcuse developed this idea for the first time in his criticism of the Cyrenaic hedonism, a philosophical school in old Greece, in the article "Zur Kritik des Hedonismus" (Kultur und Gesellschaft, vol.
Are you Cyrenaic, Sceptic, Epicurean, Cynic, Neoplatonist, Confucian or Zoroastrian?
This comment opens the way to a list of thirty-four witty remarks; all but three of which are taken from Diogenes Laertes's (1925) lives of Aristippus the Cyrenaic, Diogenes the Cynic, and Bion, although many are modified for Machiavelli's own purposes.
7), whereas `night divers by removing the insatiate and craziest of deeds and lugs one's natural inclination' (654E) or, as the Cyrenaic philosopher believed according to Plutarch, one ought not to indulge in love-making when there is a light but to draw forth a veil of darkness in order to curb the frequent appetite of the mind inflamed by receiving distinct images of the deed through sight (1089A; see also 1129B).
A similar thesis was held by Theodosius the Sceptic, who has even--wrongly, I think(5)--been claimed as a Cyrenaic because he too considered internal states private and incommunicable: