Diogenes’ talent for undercutting social and religious conventions and subverting political power can tempt readers into viewing his position as merely negative. This would, however, be a mistake. Diogenes is clearly contentious, but he is so for the sake of promoting reason and virtue. In the end, for a human to be in accord with nature is to be rational, for it is in the nature of a human being to act in accord with reason. Diogenes has trouble finding such humans, and expresses his sentiments regarding his difficulty theatrically. Diogenes is reported to have “lit a lamp in broad daylight and said, as he went about, ‘I am searching for a human being’” (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book 6, Chapter 41).
Diogenes was seized and dragged off to King Philip, and being asked who he was, replied, "A spy upon your insatiable greed."
Once Diogenes saw the officials of a temple leading away some one who had stolen a bowl belonging to the treasurers, and said, "The great thieves are leading away the little thief."
When people laughed at him because he walked backward beneath the portico, he said to them: "Aren't you ashamed, you who walk backward along the whole path of existence, and blame me for walking backward along the path of the promenade?"
One day Diogenes shouted out for men, and when people collected, hit out at them with his stick, saying, "It was men I called for, not scoundrels."
Diogenes was knee deep in a stream washing vegetables. Coming up to him, Plato said, "My good Diogenes, if you knew how to pay court to kings, you wouldn't have to wash vegetables."
"And," replied Diogenes, "If you knew how to wash vegetables, you wouldn't have to pay court to kings."
Diogenes was once invited to dinner by a wealthy man. During the evening, one of the guests became so outraged by Diogenes' general behaviour that he began to throw bones at him, calling him a "dog." Whereupon Diogenes got up, went to the guest, cocked up his leg and urinated on him.
"Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards."
He was asking alms of a bad-tempered man, who said, "Yes, if you can persuade me." "If I could have persuaded you," said Diogenes, "I would have persuaded you to hang yourself."
Diogenes stood outside a brothel, shouting, "A beautiful whore is like poisoned honey! A beautiful whore is like poisoned honey! A beautiful whore . . . ". Men entering the house threw him a coin or two to shut him up. Eventually Diogenes had collected enough money and he too went into the brothel.
Diogenes was asked why he always begged. "To teach people," replied Diogenes. "Oh yes, and what do you teach?" people would ask him scornfully. "Generosity", he replied.
In the midst of serious discourse in the Craneum, Diogenes realized no one was listening. So he instead began to whistle and dance about to attract attention. Immediately, people flocked round him. Diogenes stopped and said, "You idiots, you are not interested to stop and pay attention to wisdom, yet you rush up to observe a foolish display."
"I have nothing to ask but that you would remove to the other side, that you may not, by intercepting the sunshine, take from me what you cannot give."
"The sun, too, shines into cesspools and is not polluted."
"We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less."
Diogenes was asked, "Tell me, to what do you attribute your great poverty?"
"Hard work," he replied.
"And what advice can you offer the rich?"
"Avoid all the good things in life."
"Because money costs too much. A rich man is far poorer than a poor man."
"How can that be?"
"Because poverty is the only thing money can't buy."
"Lions are not the slaves of those who feed them, but rather those who feed them are at the mercy of the lions: for fear is the mark of the slave, whereas wild beasts make men afraid of them."
"Most men are within a finger's breadth of being mad."
"It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours."