Is there such a thing as a “healthy dose of cynicism”?
Full episode text
George Bernard Shaw, in 1894, was once quoted as saying “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it,” while in 1892, Oscar Wilde was quoted as saying “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
In the 1986 book Classical Cynicism, modern cynicism was explained as general distrust of other’s motives. Of course, this particular attitude is one that each of us sees, experiences, and plays out very differently in our own lives. It’s also quite different from how the original ancient Greek Cynics went through life. In those times, being a cynic meant to give up all worldly possessions, reject the social expectations of indulging in food, drink, and sex, and living as simply as possible. In some ways, they were the straight edgers of ancient Greece.
In other words they had no trust of the social expectations.
What, exactly, is the difference between cynicism and realism is often in the eye of the beholder. Or cynicism and being truly perceptive. However you want to take cynicism, an understanding of other’s motives can often be quite helpful in understanding interpersonal reactions.