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Greek Skepticism*

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Gaby Divay
University of Manitoba, Archives & Special Collections

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Introduction

Pyrrho     Timon     Arcesilaus     Lacydes     Carneades     Clitomachus    Philo of Larissa     Cicero    Aenesidemus     Agrippa     Favorinus     Menodotus     Sextus Empiricus

Conclusion.    Bibliography.

Even though certain skeptical ideas are found in earlier Greek thinkers like Heraclitus (544-483 B.C.), Xenophanes (580-485 B.C.), Cratylus (fl. 410 B.C.) and the Sophists Protagoras (490-410 B.C.) and Gorgias (483-380 B.C.), skepticism as a philosophical method is considered to have originated with Pyrrho (365-270 B.C.) in the beginning of the Hellenistic period. The great post-socratic systems of Plato and Aristotle were dissolving into several philosophical schools who rivaled in their attempts to find a satisfactory explanation about the human condition. Both Überweg (I, p.34) and Bury (p.xxi) explain this preoccupation with ethics by the difficult historical situation of Greece from Alexander's times onward. Bury calls the political and social conditions depressing, so that the speculative theories about nature and science predominant earlier needed to be replaced with the more pragmatic focus of leading a happy life in spite of adverse surroundings. "Philosophy, in fact became the substitute for an out-of-date and exploded religion, and had for its aim, not the attainment of objective truth, but the provision for a subjective spiritual salvation from the manifold ills of life." (Bury, p.xxii). Überweg (p.34) sees a more positive impact of these times in the widening of horizons since the cultural contacts established through Alexander's campaigns. For him, the resulting cosmopolitanism causes the trend towards practical subjectivism also pointed out by Zeller. However, Überweg (p.37) rightly underlines that this direction is more important for the dogmatic schools of Stoicism and Epicurism, whereas the skeptical current, in spite of its aims, is grounded in epistemological principles. Ernst von Aster (p.98) considers it one of the most peculiar phenomena that skepticism has been made the foundation of a philosophical way of thinking and acknowledges its importance in the climate of late antiquity, where it merges with neoplatonic and stoic elements into the kind of eclecticism typical for Cicero and later Plutarch.

             The following discussion of skeptical thought will adopt the historical classification outlined by Brochard (p.37-39) whose masterpiece Les sceptique grecs (1887) is still one of the best treatises on the subject. Already Nietzsche, who was a scholar of classical philology and wrote a prize-winning article on Diogenes Laertius (1868) as a student in Leipzig, comments in Ecce homo (Werke, IV, p.1087) about "the excellent study" and then proceeds to call the skeptics the only honorable type amongst the more than ambiguous tribes of philosophers ("dem so zwei- bis fünfdeutigen Volk der Philosophen"). Brochard distinguishes four periods of skepticism, and terms them moral or practical skepticism (Pyrrho and Timon), dialectical skepticism (Aenesidemus and Agrippa), and empirical skepticism (Sextus Empiricus). Between the first and the second period he considers the probabilistic skepticism of the New Academy (Arcesilaus and Carneades), where he also includes Philo of Larissa and Antiochus of Ascalon.  Goedeckemeyer adopts a slightly different grouping with more dangerous sounding labels, but both his and Brochard's approach are basically chronological. In the present paper, the chain of ancient skeptics will therefore be discussed in the following order: Pyrrho and Timon, Arcesilaus and Carneades, Philo of Larissa and Antiochus, who accomplished the return of the Academy to a dogmatic course, Cicero, Aenesidemus and Agrippa, Menodotus and Sextus Empiricus.  Some less important philosophers will also be considered.

             From Pyrrho to Sextus, roughly five centuries go by, encompassing all of Hellenism (from Alexander's death to the birth of Christ), the height and decline of the Roman Imperium, and the rise of Neo-platonism (Plotinus, 205-270 A.D., probably was a contemporary of Sextus' disciple Saturninus, ca. 250 A.D.). Skepticism has no place when strong metaphysical needs become predominant, and Christianity, fulfilling these needs, eclipsed the Greek philosophical movement for centuries, until it was revived during the Renaissance.

             The following diagram illustrates primitively the time-frame and systematic filiation. The different trends of skepticism are labeled in Brochard's terminology, indicating Goedeckemeyer's in parenthesis.

Pyrrho (ca. 365-270 B.C.)

           The sources for Pyrrho's life and philosophical outlook stem mainly from his immediate disciple Timon, whose work however is only extant in a few fragments. However, accounts of Timon's writings relevant to Pyrrho can be found in Eusebios' (260-340 A.D.) Praeparatio evangelica (ch.XIV), who uses Numenius, Nausiphanes and a certain Aristocles (1st century A.D.) who belonged to the peripatetic school; Sextus Empiricus (Adv. math. I; XI; PH I; III); Diogenes Laertius (ch.IX) who uses otherwise little known authors like Antigonos of Carystos (ca. 290 B.C.), Ascanios of Abdera, Nausiphanes and Theodosius (ca. 175-242 B.C.?); and finally Cicero (De fin. and Acad. I) and Plutarch (Vita Alex.).

             From all of these sources then, Pyrrho's life and intellectual development has been pieced together by Brochard, Goedeckemeyer, Robin and various others to give the following account: he was born in modest surroundings in Elis on the Peleponese around 365 B.C. Earning his living as a painter of rather mediocre talent at first, he soon decided to devote himself to the study of philosophy. Two major influences are well documented. He was first taught by a certain Bryson, who might have been a disciple of Socrates (Brochard, p.52) but was more likely of the Megarian school, renowned for its brilliant dialectics, its mistrust of sense impressions and its belief in the One. More importantly, Pyrrho became the disciple and friend of Anaxarchos of Abdera who introduced him to the doctrines of Democritus and possibly also to Cyrenaicism. He accompanied Alexander the Great and Anaxarchos on the campaign to India (ca. 327 B.C.), where he had the opportunity to become acquainted with the wisdom of Eastern philosophy. Anaxarchos, who is said to have combined base flattery of the powerful in a way foreshadowing Macchiavelli with more noble traits like disdain of pleasure and prejudice (Robin, p.6), displayed considerable courage when he was tortured to death by Nicocreon of Cyprus (DL IX, 59). During his ordeal, he braved his enemy saying that he was not affected by the cruel treatment, and when his tongue was cut to silence him, he spat it into his oppressor's face.

             After his return from Asia, Pyrrho founded a school in his home town and lived modestly with his sister Philista, a midwife. Only twice did he lose his much admired composure: once when he sought refuge from a dog by climbing a tree, and once when he lost his temper, scolding his sister. These anecdotes are counterbalanced by those reporting his brave attitude during a surgical operation, and his indifference during a sea storm, when he pointed out to his panic-stricken fellow passengers a pig calmly eating away as an example of philosophical behaviour. He died in 270 B.C. greatly honoured and respected, at the age of ninety.

             Apart from a poem dedicated to Alexander the Great (SE, MI, 282), he wrote nothing, so that his teaching is entirely known from secondary or tertiary sources. He loved literature, in particular Homer whom he quoted frequently. Especially often he repeated the line "As leaves on trees, such is the life of man." (Iliad, VI, 146) and admired Homer's comparison of man to wasps, flies and birds (DL IX, 67). The practical goal of his philosophy was happiness. He defined it similarly to Democritus' ataraxia as a serene, trouble-free life and compared it to the calm sea on a windless day. In order to achieve an adequate state of mind for this inner piece (adiaphoria), the wise man will strive to free himself from strong emotions and desires as well as from all prejudices. Philosophy is the discipline showing him how to reach this goal.

             In a fragment of Timon's Images repeated in Sextus Empiricus (M XI, 20) Pyrrho seems to have taken a rather dogmatic stance, affirming to have a "standard of exact truth" and a rule for "goodness" which allows man a "life which is equal and just". In disagreement with Brochard (p.63) and Richter (v.1, p.315, n.84), Goedeckemeyer points out that even with the skeptical restriction "as it to me appears" in this passage, there is no doubt about Pyrrho's conviction that he knows and can teach the way to happiness. He was apparently unaware of the inherent contradiction with his own principles.

             Pyrrho's search for knowledge is, unlike the efforts of the dogmatic schools, directed at the reality of what appears rather than the truth of what exists. And again unlike the dogmatics, his search is seen as a means in achieving the goal of happiness. Therefore, he starts his contemplation of the objects in the natural, ethical or aesthetic realms with a thorough investigation of the tools used in gaining knowledge about them. He finds that perception and judgement are necessarily linked to the individual. They are therefore subjective and of relative value. Since they often reflect the objects in different and even contradictory ways, man will never be able to decide what the reality of things might be. As a result he has to admit, that he is not properly equipped to know and has to withhold judgement.

             Not only is the reality inaccessible to man, it is also useless and even harmful to attempt its exploration. For all practical purposes, it is sufficient to be guided by the appearances. In an exploration of all philosophical systems known to him he uses the dialectic method of weighing the arguments for and those against them. This leads him to the same result, namely that there cannot be any decision in favour of any doctrine, one being as valid (or invalid) as the next. Again, suspension of judgement is the only sensible solution. As Goedeckemeyer underlines (p.10, n.5), there had been many attacks on the senses and on reason before Pyrrho, but no one had ever adopted similar criticisms as the very basis of their philosophy.

             Since each opinion can be opposed by another of equal worth (isosthenia or antilogia), it is best to follow the pyrrhonian formulas of not knowing (akatalepsia), not leaning towards any side (arrepsia), not saying anything (aphasia) and remaining in suspense (epekeinten sygkatathesin (?)). There also is the famous "neither yes nor no" or "nowise more" (ouden mallon, SE, PI, 191), which was later reformulated to the even more uncertain interrogation ti mallon (Brochard, p.55). Sextus Empiricus explains extensively why these expressions only seem to be affirmative or dogmatic statements: they are meant subjectively, pertaining only to what and how something appears. Furthermore, like the fire consuming itself in burning or the laxative being purged along with what it eliminates, they are intended to be applied even to themselves.

             The systematic doubt leading to these principles of not-knowing does not, as has been immediately suggested by the opponents of Pyrrhonian skepticism, reduce those who endorse it to an entirely inactive, vegetable- or plantlike mode of existence. When Metrodorus of Chios, about two generations earlier, opens his book On nature declaring that we know nothing, not even if we know anything or if anything exists or not (Goedeckemeyer, p.3), he refers to ontological knowledge, which is by definition of a theoretical and therefore speculative nature. Just like Pyrrho, who knew those opinions well through the quite similar views of his teacher Anaxarchus, Metrodorus considers the senses to be the insufficient, but necessary source of knowledge. He emphasizes the fallacies attached to man's subjective condition and the impact of circumstantial relativity, concluding that knowledge thus derived is bastardly and illegitimate (Robin, p.6). He also points to the indispensable need for order in the continually changing stream of sense impressions, and he sees this order guaranteed in social habits and conventions, the most powerful expression of them being language. On all these points, he is in complete agreement with Pyrrho; unlike Pyrrho, however, he gives some credit to the rational means of knowledge and endorses Democritus' theory of the atoms and empty space.

Note 12.5.2000: That sounds very much like Nietzsche in "Wahrheit & Lüge im außermoralischen Sinn"... see Referee-Report, Dec.1999!

             Pyrrho's rejection of theoretical knowledge is radical, but his practical solution bears an obvious resemblance to Metrodorus': there can be no doubt that something appears white, that fire burns the skin, that honey tastes sweet, that the day appears light or the night dark. However, nobody knows if and what these things are in themselves and outside the perception of a particular person. The doubt, then, is limited to the "hidden things" (adela), to the unknowable essence or attributes of the objects perceived. It does not pertain to the appearances of these things (phainomena). For living, it is entirely sufficient to follow the rules of nature as clearly imposed by the senses and those of the laws, customs and religions of one's country, not because they are better than others, but because all are of equal value, and neither good nor bad.

             There may be a good deal of conservative laziness in this ideal, but it displays down-to-earth common sense. According to Brochard (p.59), "s'en tenir au sens commun, et faire comme les autres, voilà la règle qu'après Pyrrhon tous les sceptiques ont adoptée." The skeptics in Pyrrho's wake called themselves and were referred to by others as described by Diogenes Laertius (IX, 69-70): "... Pyrrhonian after the name of their master, but Aporetics, Sceptics, Ephetics and even Zetetics, from their principles, if we may call them such - Zetetics, or seekers because they were ever seeking truth, Sceptics or inquirers because they were always looking for a solution and never finding one, Ephetics or doubters because of the state of mind which followed their inquiry, I mean, suspense of judgement, and finally Aporetics or those in perplexity, for not only they but even dogmatic philosophers themselves in their turn were often perplexed."

             In order to justify the not altogether obvious claim that suspension of judgement or epoché should lead to happiness, a somewhat meager argument betraying sophistic rhetoric is advanced: dogmatic opinions generate harmful side-effects in that they present certain things as desirable, others as undesirable. Unhappiness is therefore often the direct result of such opinions: the privation of a possession considered good causes envy, restlessness, bitterness, etc., whereas its possession solicits fear of loosing it, preoccupation about securing it, etc. By eliminating the opinion as to what is good or bad, all these emotional disturbances detrimental to the goal of apathia, adiaphoria or ataraxia (Brochard, p.58, uses any of these terms for the ideal of inner peace shared by almost all ethical doctrines) will disappear. Therefore, doubt is the real and even the only good, since it leads to the suspension of judgement which in turn is the infallible cause for the inner peace called happiness.

             Brochard (p.60) points out that Pyrrho is painted quite differently, with much more stoic emphasis on virtue and honesty and even reason by Cicero and Plutarch, who probably use Posidonius as one of their sources. Not much remains of Pyrrho's doubt and epoché in their portrait. Virtue has become the summum bonum, all else is not only of equal importance and neutral, but totally indifferent. Neither health nor sickness, wealth nor poverty, life nor death represent any interest whatever, and stoic apathia or utter tranquility to the extent of numbness appears as the desired consequence. The less rigid, more common sense ideal of the pleasant calm on a sunny, windless day corresponding to the adiaphoria mentioned in older sources seems more in tune with Pyrrho's character traits as far as they can be determined. He not only advocated this ideal, he applied it to living with fairly good success. He seems to have won the esteem of his contemporaries and the enthusiastic admiration of his disciples.

             Known are Nausiphanes, who was Epicure's teacher, Hecataeus of Teos, who also had cynic and stoic affinities; Theodorus, the Cyrenaic philosopher, who used pyrrhonian arguments for hedonistic purposes; Eurylochus who had difficulties mastering his temper according to an anecdote showing him in pursuit of his cook with a spit in hand (DL, IX, 68); Philo of Athens, who kept to himself and was indifferent to glory; and, most importantly, Timon.

Timon (ca. 325-235 B.C.)

             Sources for Timon are the fragments of his work, and accounts by Diogenes Laertius who draws from Apollodorus' Chronika as well as from Hippobotus and Sotion; Antigonus of Carystes' Life of Timon, Sextus Empiricus, Athenaios, and Aristocles in Eusebius (XIV, 18, 2) whose account relating to Timon is translated in Brochard (p.54).

             He was born around 325 B.C. in Phlius and was orphaned at an early age. First he became a dancer, but then took up philosophy with the Megarian Stilpo, who also taught Zeno and is believed to have influenced Stoicism. When he returned to Phlius, he married and met Pyrrho, who was on his way to Delphi. This encounter caused Timon to move with his wife to Elis, where he gathered a widespread philosophical knowledge under Pyrrho's instruction. Driven by poverty, he left for Chaledon and Byzanz, where he acquired a fortune through sophistic teachings. He seems to have known Aratus, whom he advised in matters related to a planned edition of Homer's works (SE, M, I, 53; DL, IX, 113). Around 275 B.C., he settled for the rest of his life in Athens, where he died in 235 B.C. at the age of ninety.

             He greatly admired Pyrrho, comparing him to the sun illuminating mankind with his particular wisdom, and made it his major task to give an orderly, because written account of Pyrrho's Weltanschauung. He was very productive, and wrote "in the time he could spare from philosophy" (DL, X, 111ff.) poems, tragedies, satires, comedies, and prose works of some 20,000 lines. Most important are his Silles or Lampoons (about 150 lines extant) and his Indolmoi or Images (only 13 verses known), small fractions of which are all that remain today. As shown by the testimony of Aristocles (Eusebius XIV, 18, 2), Timon deviates little from Pyrrho's position.

             Unlike Wachsmuth (p.29), Goedeckemeyer (p.22, n.9) does not believe that Aristocles' account stems from an independent treatise by Timon entitled Peri Eudaimonias, but rather from his earliest work Python, where he relates his first encounter with Pyrrho, and expounds the theoretical and practical principles of skepticism as proven by the use of the ouden mallon and the emphasis on appearances quoted by Diogenes Laertius (IX, 76 and 107). It states that happiness is the goal of man's thriving. In order to achieve it, three questions need to be explored: what is the nature of things, how should man relate to them, what is the result of man's attitude towards them.

             The answers are: the investigation of the nature of things shows that conflicting arguments put forth for their explanation are of equal value, which demonstrates that they cannot be known. Our senses and judgement are of no help, since they are necessarily subjective. Consequently, in answer to the second question, one must remain in suspense and abstain from adopting opinions of any sort. The result then is the epoché (according to Goedeckemeyer (p.24, n.4) both Pyrrho and Timon used of this term), causing aphasia, or the non-voicing of any opinion, on a practical level.

             Not without any link to the contemporary stoic emphasis on the goal (telos) in ethical matters, the epoché is now identified with the telos, since it automatically brings about the desired peace, i.e. happiness: "The end (telos) to be realized (Pyrrho and Timon) hold to be suspension of judgement (epoché), which brings with it tranquility (ataraxia) like its shadow" (DL, IX, 107). "The skeptics found that quietude (ataraxia), as if by chance, followed upon their suspense (of judgement, epoché), even as a shadow follows its substance." (SE, P I, 29).

             Timon goes beyond Pyrrho's refutation of the senses and judgement, rejecting also their combined forces. As reported by Diogenes Laertius (IX, 114), "he was constantly in the habit of quoting to those who would admit the evidence of the senses when confirmed by judgement of the mind, the line - Birds of a feather flock together" (synelthen Attagas te kai Noumenios). Attagas and Noumenios being two notorious thieves, this amounts to saying that if two crooks (the senses and reason) work together, the result has to be crooked.

             The reproach from dogmatic directions, that the epoché makes all decisions necessary for living impossible, Timon counters that the phenomena and habit are perfectly sufficient guides for this purpose (SE, M VI, 30; DL, IX, 105). The Indolmoi must have been a treatise on ethics not devoid of dogmatic tendencies (Brochard, p.85). Timon insists that nothing is good by nature and that the laws are of conventional origin (Hirzel, p.56). Happiness is jeopardized by the false opinions (or conceits as Indolmoi are rendered in DL, IX, 105) with which the dogmatics abuse the public. Real happiness can only be achieved through the freedom from such harmful and misleading "images" and by not deviating from the appearances as given by the senses. There is a noticeable polemic streak in these argumentations. Robin (p.34) believes that Timon loved this sort of dispute, and Brochard (p.84) compares his belligerent verve to those of the Cynics.

             The satirical element is especially strong in the Silles, where Timon subjects old and contemporary philosophers to a merciless, sardonic scrutiny. Wachsmuth, the ingenious editor of the Silles, has shown that each of the extant hexameters can be seen as the travesty of a Homerian verse (Brochard, p.82). He distinguishes three books: in the first, the shadows of ancient philosophers are evoked in a continuous exposition, reminiscent of Homer's Nekyia in the eleventh chant of the Odyssey. All of them receive their share of insults. The second and third books consist of a dialogue, where Xenophanes answers Timon's questions. The philosophers first engage in a furious discussion (2nd book) ridiculing themselves, until Pyrrho appears, who then wins everyone's applause. In the third book, they are depicted in an enormous fish tank. The dogmatics, especially the Stoics and Epicureans, try to capture the others with nets far too delicate, so that their prey can easily escape. The Academicians are a swarm of fish, with Plato in front and protected by Pyrrho from behind. Arcesilaus, whom Timon liked to mock more than anyone else, is a poor little fish hiding behind others (Robin, p.29-30).

             A few of these philosophers are acknowledged to have some skeptical virtues. Timon displays here the extent of his philosophical learning and provides an interesting genealogy of skepticism. Xenophanes is admitted into the illustrious circle because of his resigned saying that all human knowledge is nothing but opinion; even if someone chances upon the truth, he would not be in a position to know it. Parmenides, because he questioned the trustworthiness of the senses; Zeno, because of his dialectics against both thesis and antithesis; Melissus, because he is freer from speculations than most dogmatics; Protagoras, because of his statement that neither the existence nor the essence of the gods can be known; Democritus, because his reservations about the senses and knowledge in general; Socrates, because of his wise refusal to speculate about the nature of things and his preoccupation with ethics; and finally Arcesilaus is credited, But only later, in his Funeral Banquet of Arcesilaus (Arcesilaou Perideipnon), Timon gives him the honorary title of a skeptic.

             In a treatise against the philosophers of nature (Pros tous physicos, SE, M III, 2), which could be part of the Silles (Brochard, p.81), Timon refuses the validity of hypotheses, and underlines that even axiomatic assumptions such as the coming into existence and the cessation of existence, spatial and temporal movement and qualitative and quantitative change are impossible to explain rationally because of the problem of time. Since the present constantly changes into the past and the future constantly turns into the present, it is impossible to make any statements about what is. Brochard (p.88) points out that the objection against hypotheses anticipates already one of the five tropes attributed to Agrippa. In Timon's opinion, all such speculative philosophy is utterly useless for living. The pragmatic tendency already evident in the particular ethical bend of his and Pyrrho's philosophy is further emphasized by this total rejection of any inquiry into the essence of being. Typical is therefore his leniency towards the practical aspect of philology, and to some extent also medicine. Sextus Empiricus (M I, 53ff.) explains that Timon judged the art of reading and writing to be useful to life, whereas endless discussions about which sounds are naturally vowels or consonants and whether they are long or short are "boastful and needlessly inquisitive".

             Like Pyrrho, Timon applied his philosophical principles. His temperament being more gregarious than his master's, he had to apply himself harder to achieve the desired adiaphoria. He was renowned for his fondness for wine and witty disputes. But he also was said to enjoy quiet retreats in the gardens. When studying, he was sensitive to the disturbances caused "by maids, servants and dogs" (DL, IX, 113). On the other hand, he gave evidence of near perfect indifference in that he easily could forego his dinner, and gave no importance to his written output, letting his writings lie about so that the mice could gnaw at them, and he seemed never able to find a particular part when he was looking for it.

             Diogenes Laertius (IX, 115-116) reports two conflicting opinions about the further development of Pyrrhonism. According to Menodotus, there was an eclipse after Timon until Ptolemy of Cyrene. According to Sotion and Hippobotus, Timon's disciples Dioscurides of Cyprus, Nicolochus of Rhodes, Euphranor of Selencia, and Praylus of the Troad carried on the tradition. From Euphranor, there is a steady line of successors up to Sextus Empiricus.

             Goedeckemeyer (p.29) does not see any contradiction in these statements. In his opinion, it can be explained by different viewpoints, Menodotus looking at the pyrrhonian content, Sotion and Hippobotus at the historical filiation of skeptical teaching. He remarks that the centre of influence seems to have moved from Athens to Alexandria, and that already after Euphranor there was a blending of skeptical principles with empirical medicine. Both he (p.30) and Brochard (p.90) agree that philosophical skepticism was continued in the Academy, having been introduced there by Timon's contemporary Arcesilaus who first was his adversary and later seems to have become his friend.

Arcesilaus (ca. 315-241 B.C.)

             The main sources on Arcesilaus are Cicero, Antigonus of Carystos in Diogenes Laertius, Numenius in Eusebius, St. Augustine and Plutarch. He was born in Pitane to wealthy parents around 315 B.C., and was destined to become a rhetorician by his eldest half-brother, Moreas. His favorite brother, Pylades, helped him to follow his inclination for philosophy, smuggling him first to Chios, and from there to Athens, where he avidly studied a variety of subjects including mathematics and music.

             Although Theophrastus appreciated him as an extremely gifted pupil, he was convinced by Crantor to join the Academy, where he entered into the circle of Polemon and Crates. Crantor is reported to have left him his fortune when he died. He knew Plato's writings well and admired them profoundly; Homer and Pindar were his favorite literary authors. Apart from some epigrams and an exposition of his philosophical viewpoint for King Eumenes I (DL, IV, 38), he appears to have written nothing for publication. After Crates' death, he succeeded him in the direction of the Academy.

             The description of his character is somewhat contradictory, but Brochard (p.101), Goedeckemeyer (p.31) and Robin (p.41) agree that the reports in Diogenes Laertius of loose morals, in particular the accusations of homosexual leanings, not excluding his friendship with Crantor, and of his excessive fondness of wine have to be attributed to the slanderous efforts of a certain Aristippus. They are counterbalanced by more favorable accounts in Cicero's and especially Plutarch's writings (Goedeckemeyer, p.33), showing his generosity towards friends in need, his modesty, tolerance and unusual lack of flattery towards King Antigonus Gnonatas.

             His extraordinary rhetorical gift, supported by a pleasant appearance, seems to be acknowledged unanimously by foe and friend alike, and his enormous success may account for some of the jealousy documented. Epicure (Plutarch, Adv. Col., 26), for instance, has been reportedly envious of Arcesilaus' popularity. Admittedly, he was a bon-vivant, enjoying both his wealth and social contacts. He furthermore favoured controversial arguments of any sort, not because he was convinced of a certain view-point, but because he loved arguing while demonstrating the uncertainty of any particular position in principle. Being himself often attacked by Timon, he liked to refute Zenon's views. Some say that the founder of the Stoa was his fellow student in Polemon's Academy, others reject this as chronologically impossible (Brochard, p.119).

             Considering Arcesilaus' versatility, and his widespread education in philosophical and related matters, his personal acquaintance with Zeno is at least possible, as is his contact with Pyrrho and Menedemus; only the Megarian Diodorus Cronos (d. 307) he cannot have known. Nevertheless, a famous, much quoted persiflage of a verse in Homer's Iliad (VI, 181) by the Stoic Ariston of Chios describes Arcesilaus as being Plato in front, Diodorus in the middle and Pyrrho in the back, and illustrates his non-dogmatic acceptance of varied influences. It is generally interpreted to mean that Arcesilaus claimed to be of the Academy, but really was a Skeptic using Megarian dialectics (Robin, p.41).

             Since Antiquity there has been much debate about Arcesilaus' particular kind of skepticism. The point in question is whether he continued the Pyrrhonian or rather the Socratic-platonic tradition. Brochard (p.96) sees him developing skeptical germs already contained in Plato and Socrates, and rebukes Hirzel (v.III, p.36) for affirming a return to Socratic ideas. Goedeckemeyer (p.33), in opposition to both Hirzel and Brochard, maintains that he follows Pyrrhonian skepticism to its logical consequences, only using Socratic methods in achieving this goal. He also sees Cyrenaic influences at work (p.32), whereas Robin (p.48) finds a resemblance with certain Cynic elements. All agree, that Arcesilaus' predominant preoccupation is his opposition to contemporary Stoic dogmatism.

             According to Goedeckemeyer (p.32), Arcesilaus became familiar with Pyrrhonian skepticism through the Cyrenaic Theodorus, the Atheist (Diocles, in Eusebius, XLV, 66) and found a Weltanschauung in total agreement with his own inclinations. In order to reconcile the Academic position with this kind of attitude, he used a large amount of quotations illustrating the presence of doubt in Socrates, Plato, Parmenides and Heraclitus (Plutarch, Adv. Col. XXVIL, 2), in Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus and Xenophanes (Cicero, De orat., III, 18, 67). Socrates seemed to him much better suited than Plato for this purpose, since he consistently advocated the impossibility of knowledge (Laktantius, Instit. div., III, 6). In agreement with the basic Pyrrhonian precept, Arcesilaus maintains that everything is cloaked in absolute and impenetrable darkness, and neither the senses nor reason can shed enough light to gain any sort of assurance about the essence of being. In close argumentation along Stoic lines, he first acknowledges true and false representations, then underlines the impossibility to distinguish between them.

             The Stoic criterion for truth being the katalepsis or comprehension, he applies himself to discredit its validity, compiling examples for ambiguous realities like erroneous sense-impressions, dreams, drunkenness, demented visions, simply identical appearances, like two eggs or twins, or the Megarian sorites, making it impossible to decide, for instance, when a weak kataleptic impression turns into a strong akataleptic one. It follows that certain knowledge is impossible. Brochard (p.106) declares that the Stoics had to admit defeat in matters concerning the criterion, but that they took revenge by asking how life could be possible for someone who advocates the suspense of judgement in all matters.

             Goedeckemeyer (p.37) considers Arcesilaus' consequential reasoning to be the only justifiable position from an epistemological viewpoint. Arcesilaus accuses Socrates of dogmatism, since he affirmed that nothing can be known. He goes beyond this negative-dogmatic position and equivalent Pyrrhonian statements in including them in his form of absolute doubt (Cicero, Acad. I, 12, 45): that we know nothing is as uncertain as everything else. Paradoxically, the total negation of knowledge does not preclude further scientific investigation, and the search for truth, in agreement with traditional Academic goals, remains unmolested. It therefore allows a more positive attitude than the resigned, passive acceptance of existant laws and customs advocated by the Pyrrhonians.

             Against the Stoic ethical dogmatism Arcesilaus argues on relativistic lines, that neither wealth nor poverty, pain nor death could be considered good or bad, and that nothing he knew of was in itself of firm, absolute value. Applying the polemic gift characteristic of him, he added that if anything could be considered good, it would be the epoché or suspension of judgement, whereas the bad must be seen in rash consent. Happiness (eudaimonia) is for him, as for many others, the goal of ethical conduct, but Goedeckemeyer (p.42) points out that it remains undefined and therefore completely vague. Arcesilaus had to refute, however, the Stoic charges of the inability to live, and prove that the goal of happiness could well be attained on Skeptical principles. Action, he underlined, is not dependent on knowledge; even quite nebulous impulsions lead to action. He argued in favour of a purely practical wisdom (phronesis), based on the natural inclinations of a given individual. The criterion for action is the eulogon, or what is reasonable, and this may be considered a synonym for common sense. (Brochard, p.111).

             Sextus Empiricus (P I, 234), Cicero (Acad. II, 18, 60) and Numenius (Eusebius, VI, 6) report that Arcesilaus was accused by some of advocating Skepticism on the surface only, hiding the treasures of an esoteric (Platonist ?) dogmatism exclusively for worthwhile candidates or for better, less Skeptical times (Brochard, p..115).  Brochard (p.116) and Robin (p.69) reject this rumour, the latter on the grounds that any sort of Pythagorean or other mysticism are incompatible with Arcesilaus' characteristics. Brochard (p.116) points out that this speculation was nevertheless tenacious, being still endorsed, for instance, by Saint Augustine. Clearly putting forth a personal opinion, the father of the Church claims (Contra acad., I, 17, 38) that Arcesilaus had to put up with Stoicism because of its popularity. The mortality of the soul and a generally materialistic conception of existence gaining in acceptance, he had to pretend to agree, while hiding Platonic truth for a more enlightened posterity. Brochard himself intimates (p.97) that Arcesilaus might have had in mind, with his radical criticism of the senses and reason, "a higher kind of certitude, and of a different nature" (my transl.). It seems more convincing to assume with Goedeckemeyer a less religious and more philosophical, in particular epistemological, direction in the aims of the Greek thinker, who introduced skepticism into the Academy.

Lacydes (d. 204 B.C.)

             Arcesilaus was succeeded by Lacydes, whose life was recorded by Diogenes Laertius and and also by Numenius. He headed the Academy for twenty-six years (230-204 B.C., DL, IV, 61), was renowned for being a hard worker and drinker, and was said to have a pleasant personality. Suidas' article Lacydes mentions two treatises, Philosophia and Peri physeos, and there as in general Lacydes apparently adhered to Arcesilaus' opinions without much modification. His disciples, Telekles and Evandrus, headed the school towards the end of his lifetime (from 223 onwards), and were succeeded by Hegesinus of Pergamos. According to Goedeckemeyer (p.50), he established a short-lived peace with the Stoic school (Numenius, Eusebius XIV, 8, 1). But his disciple Carneades, considered by many (Strabo, XVI, 838; Cicero, De orat. III, 36, 147; Plutarch, De comnot. I, 4) the most important representative of the Middle Academy, returned to Arcesilaus' opinions and renewed the old feud on a much larger basis.

Carneades (214-129 B.C.)

             The main sources for Carneades are Diogenes Laertius and Plutarch, but both report little on his philosophy. Cicero, Numenius and Sextus Empiricus give detailed accounts of his teaching as they were described in the numerous writings of Carneades' disciple Clitomachus. Unlike Carneades, who wrote nothing, Clitomachus is reported to have composed some four hundred treatises; none of them are extant.

             Whether Carneades professed a severe or milder form of Skepticism was a matter of heated debate among his successors, Clitomachus advocating a stricter tendency, two other disciples of Carneades, Charmadas and Metrodorus of Stratonicea a milder interpretation. Hirzel (v.III, p.172) compares the situation to the conflicting indications about Socrates in Plato's and Xenophon's writings. Both Hirzel and Goedeckemeyer (p.102) agree that Charmadas and Metrodos were victorious and that theirs became the generally accepted interpretation of Carneades' skepsis for all subsequent classical philosophers.

             Carneades was born in Cyrene, on Plato's birthday, in 214 B.C. When he came to Athens, he acquired a thorough philosophical knowledge, studying all existing schools and the older philosophers before joining the Academy under Hegesinus. In particular, he applied himself to Chrysippus' writings from which he retained the terminology and a large number of arguments, using them for his purposes. He acknowledged this influence by saying that if Chrysippus had not existed, there would have been no Carneades (DL, IV, 62). Brochard (p.124) considers him to be the most important philosopher between Aristotle and Plotin; only Chrysippus may come close to him, in his opinion.

             He was a tireless worker, readily neglecting his appearance and foregoing his meals in order to study. His rhetorical gifts were extraordinary; he spoke with a powerful voice, and he excelled when piqued by anger. Antipater could not match him in public, and had to compose his attacks against him in private, which earned him the title "feather-screecher". Except for the famous embassy to Rome in 156, his life was exempt from noteworthy changes. He lived to be ninety and suffered from blindness in his old age. When his opponents reproached him for not committing suicide like his Stoic adversary Antipater, he replied that nature had assembled him and would know when and how to dissolve him. His death coincided with an eclipse of the moon which was interpreted as a sign of celestial mourning.

             His philosophical position is largely determined by his defense of Skepticism against the violent attacks from all sides, in particular from the Stoa. Robin (p.74) points out the similarity with Chrysippus' situation: he had come to the rescue of his school against Arcesilaus' criticisms, applying many of his opponent's arguments to his own Stoic system. Carneades had to defend Arcesilaus' views and he now turned points elaborated by Chrysippus into support for Academic skepticism.

             Like Chrysippus and Antipater, the Peripatetic Hieronymus Rhodius and the Epicurean Colotes insisted that suspension of judgement was unnatural to man, preventing him from making decisions and from acting. They refused to accept Arcesilaus' solution, that to act was possible without making decisions and declared that without some kind of consent one could not even decide, if a given being was man or ant. Carneades agreed that man is endowed with feelings and reason, and that some kind of criterion is necessary for living. He thus modified Arcesilaus' position to some extent, so that the third or new Academy is said to originate with him.

             He starts out by saying like other Skeptics before him that everything is shrouded in complete darkness, and denies the existence of a criterion for truth in principle, not limiting his objections to the Stoic criterion alone: neither the senses, nor the general representations, nor reason, nor custom suffice. For the senses, the relativity of perception shows that they are like bad messengers: a tower seems round when seen at a distance, square from proximity; an oar seems straight on land, bent in the water, etc. Since the senses don't always provide us with reliable information, they cannot be considered trustworthy. But since they are the very basis of our apprehension of reality, the resulting mental representations are questionable also.

             The Stoa believed the relation between thing and representation to be like a mirror-reflection, and a large arsenal is newly employed to refute this conception. First of all, there are representations not reflecting any reality, such as monsters in dreams, or hallucinations, and they can be cause for quite real emotions, like fear. But apart from this fundamental swipe at the Stoic concept of a one-to-one representation, false representations have been known; they cannot provide certain knowledge, not coming about directly; one cannot decide which ones are true; and there are always cases of mimicry.

             Much debate was centered around this last argument, and Carneades compiled an impressive inventory of anecdotes to prove his point: Castor and Pollux, two eggs, two hairs, two grains of wheat, the bronze statues of Lysippus and wax seals are all confusingly alike. Furthermore, representations differ both according to the subject and to circumstances: in a fit of madness, Hercules believes he is killing the children of his enemy, while he really kills his own. The aspect of the skin in summer is different from its appearance in winter, the skin of the baby different from that of the old person. Disease, movement, temperature and other conditions will make it look different in the same person, so who can decide what skin is?

             Reason and judgement depend entirely on uncertain representations based on not less uncertain sense data. They are attacked with the sorites of the heap already used by Arcesilaus: where exactly does a number of individual grains make a heap, and when does a right judgement turn into a wrong one? Carneades adds another sorites, the liar: if you say that you lie and you speak the truth, you are lying; now your are saying that you lie and you speak truly, therefore you lie. With its help he shows how dialectics as a typical product of reason and as the very art of proof eliminates its own foundation, and he compares dialectical argumentation to Penelope's weaving being constantly unraveled, or to a polyp devouring its own arm.

             The relativity of customs served Carneades just like the multitude of conflicting sense-impressions to argue for the impossibility of certain knowledge. Galen (De optima doctrina) reports that Carneades did not even exclude some mathematical propositions from relativity, as for instance the one stating that two quantities being equal in relation to a third are equal among themselves. The only valid consequence of not knowing anything is the epoché.

             Robin calls Carneades' doubt "radical", and distinguishes it from Chrysippus' and Descartes form of doubt, where it serves the role of attaining truth. For Carneades, truth and certitude do not exist in an absolute sense (Robin, p.95), and accordingly his philosophy is of an entirely subjective and relative nature (Brochard, p.137). As with his predecessors, the existence of reality is not in question, only man's means to apprehend it as it is are doubtful. To Antipater's objection that declaring things to be unknowable implies at least this knowledge, Carneades retorts that it is subjected to uncertainty along with all the rest (Cicero, Acad. II, 9, 28).

             In spite of this radical form of epistemological doubt, Carneades brings about a loosening of the strict requirement of suspension of judgement in the following manner: each thing can be viewed from the standpoint of the object and the subject, bringing about two categories of representation (SE, M VII, 166ff.). In relation to the object, they appear either true or false, and any conclusive judgement about them has proven impossible. In relation to the subject they appear either probable or improbable to varying degrees. Our judgements and actions are to be based on those more or less probable.

             Also, properties of objects are never perceived in an isolated fashion, since our perceptions are always composite: a man is seen in his size, in his movements, with colour and clothing, and along with him the background is taken in. The concurrence of all these factors emphasize probability; if there is conflicting evidence, the probability fades. In everyday life, most representations are accepted on these grounds with a high degree of probability, but some circumstances call for a closer examination of the facts.

             If someone enters a dark house and sees a coil of rope, there is a possibility that it is a snake. The object is immobile; so are sluggish snakes. But when poked, it does not move, while a snake would; therefore, in all likelihood, it is a rope and not a snake.

             In a less leisurely situation, a man running from his enemies towards a shelter believes seeing an opponent inside; since there is no time to investigate the matter, he changes his course, the possibility of danger being sufficient to decide not to enter.

             In conclusion, the strictest epoché is to be maintained in judgements concerning things in their objective perspective or related to their being, whereas affirmations are perfectly in order for any subjective or practical evaluation. Even as far as scientific endeavours are concerned, Carneades' position allows for opinions as long as they are not claiming to be truth, and are clearly understood for what they are: more or less likely probabilities.

             Goedeckemeyer (p.65) underlines Carneades' systematic approach in the antidogmatic argumentation; he does not attack so much individual dogmata, but combines historical with methodological strategies in order to point out the weakness of a given problem. His aim is to prove its inherent and fundamental uncertainty. But because the Stoa is the fiercest opponent of the academic tradition, Zeno's, Chrysippus' and Antipater's arguments are refuted in much more detail than any other. In particular, for questions concerning natural philosophy, theology and ethics his argumentations have been preserved, constituting a mine of examples and anecdotes exploited by philosophers of all times (Brochard, p.181).

             To explain nature, he compiles the opinions of Thales, Anaximander, Anaxagoras, Xenophanes, Parmenides, Democritus, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato and Pythagoras to conclude with the question whose explanation is the most convincing. Since it is impossible to choose, it must be admitted that nature remains unknown. Even our own nature is subject to diverse opinions, concerning both the body and the soul, as well as any possible relation between the two.

             Epicure advocates a chance assembly of atoms moving without cause; Heraclitus, Democritus, Empedocles and Aristotle believe in universal causes and necessity. The Stoic explanation of nature postulates an animate universe, gifted with reason and organized to the best interest of man, a conception closely resembling Leibniz' best of all possible worlds. The concentration of a superior rational power inherent in all observable existence is God or Jupiter, many partial manifestations finding expression in less important deities. The Stoic pantheon represents a problem related to the sorites of the heap: since Jupiter has brothers like Neptune and Pluto, why not consider the Nile and any other body of water to be gods? If the sun is a god, why not the day, the morning, the evening, the month and the year? Temples have been erected for allegorical notions like Faith, Concord, Honour and Hope. Where is the dividing line of deification?

             To conclude the existence of a superior being because of the regular movement of the stars or similar natural phenomena is not justified, nature itself being quite sufficient a cause, as already the Peripatetic Strato had advocated a century earlier. To Chrysippus' metaphor of the world as the well built mansion of God, Carneades therefore opposes a world not built, but formed by nature. To the extrapolation from supposed world harmony (sympatheia) to a principle of universal reason (logos) he polemically proves that the principle could be equally seen in mathematics, music or philosophy (Robin, p.109).

             If the gods are considered to be animate and corporeal, reasonable and virtuous, Carneades points out the illogical consequences: everything living being subject to change, the gods must be mortal rather than eternal. They cannot be perfect if they possess reason and virtue, those qualities being useful only to understand the unknown and to practice the good; should they be neither omniscient nor virtuous?

             The anthropomorphous concept of the Epicurean Gods he counters with animal deities of the Egyptians and other peoples, and with the relativity of all esthetic judgements, questioning the superior beauty of the human body. Why the Gods, living in continual bliss, would need a body at all, having no use of it, is a question for which the Epicureans never found any satisfactory explanation.

             The alleged provision for man is questioned on the grounds of all sorts of creatures being absolutely useless, unpleasant, or dangerous to man, such as whales, flies or scorpions. And is the pig's purpose of being, as Chrysippus claimed, really to be slaughtered and eaten by man?

             As for the most marvelous present of the gods, reason, Carneades points out that it is more often than not used for questionable or criminal ends, citing Medea and Atreus as examples. They would have been both better and happier without it. The Stoics insist that it is only the application of reason which is bad, whereas the present remains valuable in itself. Carneades retorts that already the possibility of bad application makes the assumption of a gift by solicitous, kind and omniscient gods unlikely. And how can it be explained that many virtuous humans live in utter misery, whereas most of the ruthless prosper?

             Particularly pointed are his attacks on stoic divination, showing the contradiction between this practice and the assumption of necessity. The Stoics reject chance, everything being planned from all eternity. But this begs the question, why there should be any anticipation of the future in the first place.

             Besides, it is incompatible with the freedom of will. Without freedom of will, there is no reason for making choices between good or bad actions, and human responsibility is annihilated. The sophisticated distinctions put forth by Chrysippus between absolutely necessary and only potential causes are rejected. Carneades accepts only necessary or natural causes, and claims that voluntary actions do not come about in the same causal way, the will being itself the cause for action. He accuses the stoics of confusing temporal succession and causality. Hecuba can hardly be considered the cause of Troy's ruin because she gave birth to Paris; the well clothed traveler is not the cause of robbery.  Precedence in time is not a sufficient condition for being a cause; some inevitable consequence has to be present, as is the case with a wound causing death, or fire generating heat.

             Against "scientific" divination, in particular astrology, Carneades advances that, unlike other sciences such as mathematics or music or the arts, it does not have a proper field of operation. The haphazard interpretation of less than certain signs can be demonstrated by the disagreement between diviners of various origin, and by the rare accuracy of their prognostications.

             Natural continuity is obvious to anybody, ebb and flow as well as the menstrual cycle and oysters' growth are known to be related to the moon. But how could the personal wishes of somebody be linked to the earth, the sky and the entire universe? How can it be explained that amongst so many people born under the same constellation there is only one Plato? And did all those perishing in a shipwreck have an identical astrological chart? If a mule and a man are born on the same day, why is one destined to carry loads all his life, while the other accedes to great honours?

             As for the so-called natural divination through ecstasy, dreams or oracles, why, if the gods want to communicate with man, do they have to do it in such an unclear way? As far as the oracles go, Demosthenes even accused the Pythea of having partial views and of "philippising"!  The oracles are becoming rarer and rarer; is this because the people are more educated and consequently less credulous?

             Chrysippus reports of a man, who dreamt of an egg and was told by a diviner that he would find a treasure, and he did. But haven't others dreamt of eggs without finding gold, and couldn't the dream have been more explicit? It is much more likely that dreams are based on impressions gained during the day than that they are muffled voices of the gods. In last analysis, it is better not to inquire about the future at all, and especially not by such uncertain means.

             During his famous embassy to Rome in 156 B.C. Carneades lectured on justice, the first day exposing all the arguments for, the second all those against it. Especially the latter are well known. He defined justice as a human invention. Nature's law is invariable and valid for all existence, each living being looking for what is necessary and good for it. Human law, apart from the obvious relativity of legal rules and customs, changes constantly even in one place and cannot be but based on convention, contract and brute force. The true root of the law is therefore injustice rather than justice, and selfish gain is the ruling principle, be it for the individual or the state.

             Who claims that the unjust lives in constant fear and unrest, whereas the just has inner peace and no worries may consider whether it is not more desirable to be unjust but live as master rather than being just and suffering under someone else's rule.

             A man wanting to sell a rebellious slave or an unsanitary house has interest in keeping these flaws to himself, or else he will not be able to sell. To ascertain his advantage, he will be quiet and dishonest rather than vocal and honest. A shipwrecked man encountering a weaker victim perched on a plank will be just, but suicidal if he doesn't secure the plank for himself; especially if nobody looks on, he will be wise to opt for such rather unethical survival. Powerful states like Rome would abandon their conquered territories and be content cultivating their own fields if they were obeying "natural" justice. Slavery and the exploitation of animals would not exist if there were a natural law prescribing the best for all beings. In conclusion, though this is not put forth affirmatively, there is no justice in the sense of a natural law.

             Carneades was accused of preaching immorality, and Cato, worrying about the strong impression Carneades' accomplished rhetoric had made on Roman youth, hurried to send the Greek delegation home.

             On the question of the ethical goal, the summum bonum, Carneades attacks the stoic ideal of virtue as supreme and unique good. Since the Stoics also advocate a life according to nature, they should acknowledge the natural advantages as well, rather than trying to suppress or overcome them. Antipater was forced to admit defeat on this point (Brochard, p.157).

             In a systematic account of the highest good, Carneades enumerates pleasure, absence of pain, and the enjoyment of natural gifts like health, intellectual faculties, the body, and similar things, and lastly, the pursuit of the natural advantages in themselves. Although in his usual fashion he avoids declaring himself in favour of any of these possibilities, it is believed that he advocated following nature's leads, since they impose themselves as a practical criterion for the conduct of life without requiring any a priori position. This is at least Brochard's conclusion (p.160) after considering the diverging opinions on Carneades' concept of the summum bonum in several of Cicero's writings. Brochard (p.162) defines Carneades' moral philosophy as a position close to Aristotle's rule of the golden mean and practical common sense. Easily accessible, it allows a life of wise moderation not just for a chosen few.

Clitomachus (ca. 187-110 B.C.)

             Clitomachus, or Hasdrubul by his original name, was born around 187 B.C. in Carthage and moved to Athens at the age of twenty-four. For four years, he diligently studied with Peripatetic, Stoic and Academic philosophers, and then decided to join Carneades. After nineteen years in the Academy he had a dispute with his master, and founded at the age of 47 (139 B.C.) his own school, which he led for ten years. After Carneades death in 129 B.C., he returned as head of the Academy and kept this position until his death.

             Less rhetorically inclined than Carneades, he must have devoted considerable time to the writing of 400 works mostly based on his teacher's philosophy. Brochard (p.187) considers him the father of all Consolations, since he composed such a treatise on the occasion of the destruction of his hometown (Cicero, Tusc., III 22, 54). He also wrote four books on the epoché (Hirzel, III, p.163) which were used extensively by Cicero in his Academica (II, 31, 98: De sustendis assensionibus). Two other works on the same topic were dedicated to the poet C. Lucilius and the consul L. Censorinus (Cicero, Acad. II, 32, 102).

             Goedeckemeyer (p.98) attributes an austere Skepticism to Clitomachus which also affected the influential interpretation he gave of his teacher Carneades, and was followed by his disciples Philo of Larissa and Heraclitus of Tyrus. As mentioned earlier, Clitomachus' outlook was not uncontested, since in Athens the factions of Charmadas and Metrodorus of Stratonicea were rivaling with him and with each other. The Academy also appears to have had branches in Larissa (Callicles), Naples (Aeschines), Rhodus (Melanthius) and Alexandria (Zenodorus of Tyrus). After Clitomachos' suicide in 110 B.C., the milder form of skepticism advocated by Metrodorus and Charmadas eventually became predominant in the last important representative of the Skeptical Academy, Philo of Larissa.

Philo of Larissa (ca. 150-78 B.C.)

             The main sources for his life and works are Cicero, who uses him in his Academia, Sextus Empiricus, Numenius, St. Augustine and Stobeus. He was born around 150 B.C., and before he became the most influential disciple of Clitomachos, he had been studying for nine years with the Carneadean philosopher Callicles in his hometown Larissa. During the first Mithridatic war (89 B.C.) he fled to Rome, where he supposedly stayed until his death (around 79 B.C.). While he headed the Academy after Clitomachos' death, he represented the stricter tendency of Skepticism in the same way as his predecessor.

             His disciple Antiochus of Ascalon, at one time a fervent defendant of Philo's position, defected to become an equally fervent advocate of Stoicism. Using mainly the counter-skeptical arguments of Antipater, he virulently attacked his former mentor. In particular, he accused the Skeptical Academicians of unjustly seeing their roots in the doctrines of ancient philosophers, who might have been expressing doubt here and there, but who had been really quite dogmatic in many ways. Especially Socrates, who used his doubting irony only as a method, and Plato who founded a complete philosophical system, could hardly be regarded as skeptics. He pointed out that the probability advanced by Carneades was of no help, since the probable can be evaluated only in relation to truth. He compared this solution to the blind man who, after loosing his sight is assured that he really has lost nothing since all can still be seen.

             With the zeal of the newly converted, he defended the validity of the senses, rejecting Skeptical reproaches because of the strictly pathological realms of their arguments: drunkenness, insanity, mystical ecstasy, etc. are hardly normal states, and in the average situation the senses are perfectly adequate. Even the likeness between certain objects is no obstacle, the senses being amenable to training: no mother would ever be in doubt about the distinctiveness of her twins. Some peasants have been known to identify, by glancing at an egg the hen who laid it. Since the sense impressions are essential for establishing notions, and since these are the foundation of all arts and sciences, the Skeptics, by refuting the senses, destroy the possibility of living, and alienate man from his natural purposes.

             Even though none of these arguments were new, they must have been the most complete and systematic catalogue brought forth so far (Goedeckemeyer, p.111). Under their impact, Philo was forced to modify his strict view of probability to a milder one. He defended the Skeptical elements in the old philosophers, and added Stilpo, Diodorus, the Cyrenaics and even Chrysippus to the list. Against the senses, he pointed out that they couldn't be all that perfect if they had to be supported by art, science and training, and that even under perfectly normal conditions bronze statues and seals remain indistinguishable. And failing once, they are untrustworthy for all other purposes. Also, the sorites cannot be destroyed by calling them silly or immoral, but only by disproving them.

             As for the probable, he underlined that it was not only sufficient for living, but that it was de facto used as a criterion also by the Stoics. The Skeptics, far from disavowing the existence of truth, only refuse to acknowledge the possibility of its apprehension. Abstaining from rash assent was still the best attitude for the wise man in matters not readily discernable, and even Panaitios had refused to endorse an important dogma of his school, namely divination. Compiling with more systematic care than anybody before him arguments from all schools and times, he concluded against Antiochus that certainty had not been gained so far in any aspect of philosophy. Epoché was still as necessary as ever, all of the conflicting positions being of equal strength.

             The accusation that the New Academy since Arcesilaus wrongly claimed to be the continuation of the Old Academy, he countered with the argument that Plato was in his opinion a Skeptic. Important evidence was Plato's method of exploring problems under all possible aspects without ever advancing a firm solution. Even in the question of knowing versus opining there was hardly any difference between the two Academies, the younger one being the rightful successor of the older. Antiochus' attempt to reconcile Stoicism with the Peripatos and Plato's Academy he regarded as totally unjustified. But he added that he was open to convincing arguments, and should they be produced, he might abandon his Academic affiliation to become a Stoic himself.

             Antiochus was furious (Cicero, Acad. II, 4, 11) and accused Philo in his Sosus to have changed direction in an unacceptable way. Philo countered sharply, reaffirming his Academic position. He underlined that the quest for truth in the multifaceted Academic way was in itself of value, and far removed from dogmatic intolerance. Any position should never be fanatically defended, but be abandoned in good grace whenever proven unlikely.

             The main concern of Philo's philosophy is ethics. Important related issues in natural philosophy, like the existence and direction of the world, the essence of human nature and particularly the soul, he discarded as being impenetrable. Establishing a parallel between philosophy and medicine, that became important later on with the tradition of Sextus Empiricus, but had apparently been introduced by older philosophers, as for instance Chrysippus, Philo gives ethics a practical and psychological turn reminiscent of Socrates (Goedeckemeyer, p.126).

             Stobeus (Eclog. II, 40 ff.) has preserved the resume of an untitled moral treatise in six parts which is attributed to Philo. The first is an exhortation to lead a virtuous life (protreptikon); the second lists remedies against bad and good influences on the soul (therapeuticon); the third sees happiness as the goal of philosophy, using the medical metaphors of mental and psychological health; the fourth prescribes means to preserve this health in the way of living (peri bion) and is divided into two parts, the second of which counts for a separate (the fifth) division because of its importance. The first deals with particular concerns, such as whether the wise man should marry; the second of more general import, such as the foundation and administration of states. Finally, considering the lack of wisdom predominant among the masses, and due to their lack of leisure to philosophize and to develop idle theoretical viewpoints, a sixth part outlines in brief handbook form precepts (hypothetikos logos) for all sorts of situations.

             Brochard (p.207) finds a reflection of this "excellent" moral writing in Cicero's De officiis, and, obviously fond of Philo, he defines his wisdom as less "farouche" than Pascal's and yet firmer than Montaigne's. Although Brochard does not mention Montaigne explicitly, he paraphrases a well known saying of his with these words: "Il (Philo) n'estime pas ... que l'ignorance et l'incuriosité soient deux oreillers pour une tête bien faite" (see for comparison Montaigne, III, 13, p.1073).

             Especially, Philo's consideration for the masses, contrasting so sharply with the Stoic distaste for the common man, seems endearing. Brochard considers Philo to be one of many representatives of several Skeptical Academicians mistreated or neglected by the history of philosophy, and described in the following way: "Esprits déliés et subtils, éloquents sans affectation et ennemies de tout pédantisme, ouverts à toutes les idées justes sans être dupes des mots, sûrs dans leurs amitiés, les nouveaux académiciens furent les plus aimables de tous les philosphes" (p.208). With Philo, the New Academy comes to an end, Antiochus giving it a decisive turn towards the eclecticism which links it to Neo-platonism.

Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

             According to Goedeckemeyer (p.201), Cicero is the last blossom of Academic Skepticism, and in agreement with this opinion, he dedicates roughly seventy pages to him. Considering Cicero's eclectic position, such a treatment seems somewhat exaggerated. The detailed profile does not give any convincing justification for Cicero's prominent position in a history of Greek skepticism. In many, if not all, essential points Cicero appears closer to Stoicism, Platonism, and the Peripatos.

             Cicero wrote his philosophical works late in life during more of less involuntary political retirement. They reflect the extensive philosophical education he received as a young man. The Epicurean Phaedrus had an early influence on him, but Philo's teaching in Rome made a more decisive impression, and Cicero always considered himself an Academician. On Philo's advice, he became acquainted with other major schools of philosophy. He studied dialectics with the Stoic Diodorus, and during his 78-77 educational journey to Greece and Asia Minor, he met in Rhodus (where he wanted to hear the famous rhetorician Apollodorus Mola) one of the most eminent Stoics, Posidonius. In Athens, he heard his former teacher as well as the Epicurean Zeno, Phaedrus, Antiochus, and perfected his rhetorical skills with the help of a certain Demetrius.

             When he returned to Rome, he became Quaestor (76 B.C.), and his subsequent political career left him, with the exception of the short interruption of his exile in 58-57, little time for philosophical studies beyond mere reading. Greatly affected by the death of his daughter Tullia in February of 45 B.C., he retired to his country domain in Asturia, where he wrote in quick succession a Consolatio, the Hortensius, and the two versions of the Academica. In 44, he produced five books on the highest goods and evils (De finibus bonorum et malorum), five books of Tusculanae disputationes, three on the gods (De natura deorum), two on divination (De divinatione), a discussion of old age (De senectute), one about fate (De fato), one on friendship (Laelius), two on glory (De honoribus), and finally three on duty (De officiis).

             After Caesar's murder (March, 44) he had hoped in vain for a renewal of the Republic. Most of 43 B.C. he was leader of the Senate, in strong opposition to Marcus Antonius, who had him murdered in December of that year.

             Cicero's own writings are the principal source for his philosophical evaluation. All closely follow Greek predecessors, but not without critical selection and comment, and all are displaying a particularly accomplished form.

             In the Academica, where he defends the skeptical position of the New Academy against Lucullus' viewpoint (based on Antiochus) and in the Tusculanae Disputationes, Cicero most clearly reflects Academic skepticism. According to Hirzel (III, p.314, 479), Philo is the main source for both these treatises, but Goedeckemeyer (p.146) considers Clitomachos' influence equally important, and for this reason sees him advocating the more severe form of Skepticism.

             The centre of Cicero's philosophy is the search for happiness and truth, but for the practical aspects of life the probable is much emphasized. Like Philo, he considers the Old Academy, including Socrates, as a predecessor of the New Academy, and he is particularly fond of the Socratic goal of self-knowledge.

             However, in his ontological viewpoint he closely follows the Stoic opinion of a harmonious universe reflecting the benevolent intentions of a superior reason. Consequently, his pantheistic theology and his anthropocentric conception of man clearly bear resemblance to Stoic ideas, but with the exclusion of fatality and divination. Further influence of a milder stoicism represented by Panaitios and Posidonius can be observed in the identification of virtu with the summum bonum, and turpe (or brutishness) with the summum malum.  Man is naturally good, but this characteristic is implanted like a seed needing appropriate conditions to develop its potential in the best possible way. Often it is crippled by wrong education or detrimental experience. But since man is endowed with free will, he can and has to strive towards the fulfillment of his innate qualities.

             The fundamental dualism in Cicero's conception of the world (the supralunar realm is ethereal, perfect, and eternal, the sublunar region, although beautiful and balanced in many ways, is material, has flaws, and is subject to decay) and of man (the soul reflects the qualities of supralunar essence, the body those of sublunar characteristics) is in its spiritual tendency modelled after Platonic doctrines. In particular, Cicero's theory of learning and of the soul suggests this affinity. The astounding ability to learn and to remember can, in his opinion, only be explained by the recollection of a knowledge prior to one's existence. He sees in the soul the only element in the sublunar region to escape decomposition, because its reasonable part, being specifically human, is of divine origin. Whereas discussions about its nature - be it fiery, airy, liquid, ethereal or otherwise - and its location are of no concern to him, he believes in its special status, so that death means nothing else but a deliverance from earthly bounds. In other words, he is convinced of the immortality of the soul and of a better life after death.

             Life is seen in a rather gloomy light: for most of us it is nothing but never-ending plight and pain; it is the exile from our original and perfect domain; it is a cumbersome journey towards a safe haven. The ancient philosophers were right when they considered it a punishment to live, and believed it best not to be born at all, second best to die as fast as possible. However, it is not permissable to escape cowardly by committing suicide. Everything has to be supported with courage and only with explicit invitation by the divinities may one exit life (Tusc. II, 27, 66ff.), as for instance in case of unbearable pain.

             The reasonable part of the soul is identified with virtue. Its role is to master the unreasonable part, which manifests itself in passions and affects, and, when out of control, represents sheer brutishness (turpe). Since happiness depends on virtue, we can be in command of it by eradicating evil with the suppression of demeaning emotions.

             Although this stern emphasis on virtue seems at first glance entirely stoic, Cicero really agrees with the Academic and Peripatetic position in granting importance to a certain degree of physical well-being and even favourable external circumstances. But then for him, there is no contradiction with the Stoic doctrine, since the differences do not lie in unreconcilable opinions, but rather in a quibbling over words. Also, in the practical application of his moral principles he advocates a road accessible to all, reminiscent of the Peripatetic rule of the golden mean already supported by Carneades and Philo, but also by the Stoic Panaitius. To be just, to be charitable and clement, to be moderate, not to harm anybody,including slaves, to be courageous, those are the norms to obey.

             In agreement with his own practice in life, Cicero stresses participation in state affairs for the well being of the social organism. Among the social duties to be observed are religion (without superstition), the fatherland, and one's parents. Rhetoric has a prominent position in his philosophy, since it is useful in political enterprises as well as moral education. He sees it closely related to the Academic method to argue pro and contra any argument in an objective way. The aspect of duty seems to be inspired by Panaitius (Bieler, p.121) and adapted to Roman circumstances, but the pronounced conservative tendency may be considered a skeptical component.

             Zeller (Grundriss, p.247) sees Cicero's affiliation with the Skeptical Academy in a purely formal light, lying in the Academic method of argumentation. Whatever doubt there is found in Cicero can be related to general confusion due to the many conflicting opinions advanced by the major philosophical schools. He denies any originality on Cicero's part, and considers Stoic dignity, laced with Platonic spirituality, to be the predominant element.

             This opinion is more convincing than Hirzel's, who tries to present Cicero as a firmer Skeptic than he really is by minimizing the spiritual tendencies, and Goedeckemeyer's who does not agree with Hirzel on this point, but who grants Cicero a prominent place in the history of skepticism. Bieler (p.118) states that Cicero's philosophical works had little impact on his contemporaries, who were for the most part well acquainted with Greek philosophy themselves. The Patristic and Renaissance, however, drew heavily on these writings, so that Cicero does have an important position in the history of ideas as a mediator of Skepticism (Popkin, Skept., p.451).

Aenesidemus (ca. 50 B.C.-10 A.D.)

             With Aenesidemus, Skepticism enters a new phase. Although only remnants of his work have survived through a summary in Photius, paraphrases in Sextus, or discussions in Tertullian and Diogenes Laertius, his philosophical opinions are relatively well known. Biographical information about him is, unfortunately, almost nonexistent. As Brochard points out, any date between 80 B.C. and 130 A.D. has been proposed for the height of his activity. Like many others, Brochard sees him as a contemporary of Philo of Larissa, Antiochus of Ascalon and the young Cicero in the eighties or seventies of the first century B.C.

             Goedeckemeyer (p.211) advances quite convincingly that he was influential during the second half of that century, from the low forties to the late twenties. He offers the most elaborate network of cross-references ranging form Philo Judaeus (30 B.C. - 50 A.D.) to Photius (9th century A.D.) and concludes that Aenesidemus' Pyrrhoneioi logoi in eight volumes, dedicated to his friend and fellow-student in the New Academy, L. Tubero, must have appeared shortly before or after Cicero's death in 43 B.C. Cicero, who was also a friend of L. Tubero, and roughly of the same age, does not seem to have known Aenesidemus' works. Aenesidemus' reproach that certain representatives of the New Academy were almost entirely Stoic might not have been aimed at Philo, but his disciples Eudorus or Arius Didymus, and perhaps even Cicero (Goedeckemeyer, p.211, n.1).

             It is known that Aenesidemus came from Knossos in Crete and taught in Alexandria (DL IX, 116). According to Diogenes Laertius (ibid.), a Pyrrhonian trend of Skepticism was extant there at that time, and a certain Heraclides (of Erythrea ?) seems to have been Aenesidemus' teacher. He also must have been closely associated with the mitigated skepticism of the New Academy. The Pyrrhonian sentences were apparently meant to explain and justify to his fellow student Tubero why he rejected the Academy and adopted Pyrrhonian Skeptical principles. All eight books are summarized in Photius (Cod. 212).

             In the first, Aenesidemus accuses the New Academicians of dogmatizing along the lines of Stoicism in distinguishing between good and bad, true and false, wisdom and folly, and just stopping short of accepting the phantasia kataleptike. The Pyrrhonians, in contrast, are not affirming or denying anything. Since nothing has yet been established with certainty, suspension of judgement is indicated as outlined in the Pyrrhonian doctrine or rather direction (agoge). The second book treats causality, movement, generation and destruction; the third, sensations and thought; the fourth, signs and ontology (nature, the world, the gods). The fifth presents the eight tropes of etiology, showing that causes are unknowable. The sixth deals with good and evil, the seventh with virtues. The eighth book demonstrates that neither happiness, nor pleasure, nor wisdom can be the ultimate goal (summum bonum), and that there is nothing man could postulate as final objective (Brochard. p.248-249).

             The famous ten tropes (or topoi, logoi; Brochard, p.254) enumerated in Diogenes Laertius (IX, 78; 87) and, less reliably, in Sextus Empiricus (P I, 36-163) constitute a methodological catalogue of Skeptical arguments against certainty, be it of a sensible, rational or scientific nature, and are meant to lead as a logical consequence to the suspension of judgement. They stem from Aenesidemus' Hypotyposis eis ta Pyrrhoneia (DL, IX, 78; Aristocles, Eus. XIV, 18,11), and may be either the title (Haas) or part of the Pyrrhoneioi logoi (Ritter), or an independent treatise (Zeller; Saisset). Certain things produce in us similar effects, so that they seem certain because of their habitual occurrence. However, the opposite beliefs are just as founded as the ones we tend to believe in. Distinguishing between them is impossible, since they carry equal weight.

             The first trope points out that animals (including man) are born and equipped in different ways, and that therefore perceptions are quite varied. For instance, the sense of touch differs with the surface of skin, feather, scale or shell. There is no reason to believe that human perception is superior to that of the animals', it being impossible to decide whose senses capture reality more adequately.

             The second trope deals with the differences among the physical and mental constitution of man. How can one chose a valid criterion? The consensus of the majority is impractical, since it can never be determined in a satisfactory way due to the inexhaustible dimension of time and space.

             The third trope addresses the diversity in human perception. A painting seems to reflect a relief to the eye, yet the touch reveals no prominence. Perfume smells good, but tastes bad. An apple could have qualities not detected by the human sensual apparatus, just as a blind man cannot conceive of colours.

             The fourth trope points out that perception varies with situational factors: depending on whether he is awake or asleep, drunk or sober, healthy or diseased, young or old, resting or moving, man sees things in a different light. Love sees beauty where there isn't any, and who could decide which among so many conflicting ideas corresponds to reality?

             The fifth trope deals with changes in perception because of spatial considerations. A ship, small at a distance, appears big from close by; a tower seems square from far away, and round in proximity. The neck of a dove changes colour depending on its position.

             The sixth trope addresses mixtures: perception comes about globally, so that light, temperature, movement may modify the object observed. The facial colour, for instance, varies with hot or cold air, age, and health. The voice is susceptible to changes due to strain, temperature and colds. The colour purple adopts a different shade in the sun than in candle light. Man cannot distinguish what really is any better than he can detect oil in a well blended cream.

             The seventh trope points out that quantity can change the aspect of objects. Examples are the horn of the goat (usually black, it appears white when shaved), sand (while individual grains are hard, it feels soft in large quantities), and wine (salutary in moderate amounts, it becomes debilitating when enjoyed in excess).

             The eighth trope deals with relation: everything appears in relation to something else, and to the perception of somebody. Right and left, big and small, high and low, are meaningless without a specific context and a perceiving subject. The same applies to notions like father and son. Therefore, nothing is known in itself, all things being relative to our mind.

             The ninth trope maintains that frequency affects our outlook: the sun does not seem amazing because we are used to its regular appearance. A comet, being considerably smaller, but rare and unexpected, has a much greater impact. Catastrophes like earthquakes are especially frightening when experienced for the first time, but frequent repetitions will build up the dulling effect of habit.

             The tenth trope insists on the relativity of human customs, laws and opinions. The Egyptians embalm their dead, the Romans burn them, the Paeonians throw them into lakes (DL IX, 84). The Persians allow marriage between father and daughter, the Greeks do not. On the subject of beauty, justice, religion, and existence different countries advance a never-ending stream of different views, all believed to be true in a given society at a given time. Since it is impossible to decide in favour of any of them, suspension of judgement is the only solution.

             The number and the order of the ten tropes is lengthily debated by the critics and is rather confusing. As outlined above, they appear in Sextus Empiricus (PI , 36-163). Diogenes Laertius (IX, 78-88), following either Favorinus or Theodosius, has a more logical grouping in Brochard's (p.260) opinion: the first four and the tenth are related to the subject; tropes five, six, seven and nine, to the object, and the eighth trope provides a link between subject and object.

             To the insufficiency of the senses, Aenesidemus adds the refutation of science. By mind boggling logical summersaults inspired by Megarian dialectics (Goedeckemeyer, p.222), he proves that neither truth, nor causes nor signs can exist. Brochard (p.290ff) expresses a similar confusion we have experienced: he feels that Aenesidemus' argumentation is chameleon-like: "Si on consulte le bon sens, si on voit où l'on va, on resiste énergiquement; si on considère les raisons invoquées, elles sont claires, simples, irréprochablement enchaînées: on hesite, on est inquiet; on se demande si ce n'est pas le bon sens qui a tort et le sceptique qui a raison. Tour à tout, ... l'argumentation paraît irrésistible ou ridicule". He concludes that for Aenesidemus the relation between existence and perception is analytic, whereas "for us" , it is synthetic.

             Against any dogmatic theory of cause and effect, Aenesidemus advances eight tropes of etiology. Brochard (p.266) calls them a list of sophisms, and enumerates with them the concrete examples from natural philosophy assembled by Sextus' editor Fabricius (1718). In Sextus Empiricus (PI, 180-185), Aenesidemus' etiological tropes read like this: "... the First ... shows that, since aetiology as a whole deals with the non-apparent, it is unconfirmed by any agreed evidence from appearances. The Second Mode shows how often, when there is ample scope for ascribing the object of investigation to a variety of causes, some of them (the dogmatics, G.D.) account for it in one way only. The Third shows how to orderly events they assign causes which exhibit no order. The Fourth shows how, when they have grasped the way in which appearances occur, they assume that they have also apprehended how non-apparent things occur ... In the Fifth Mode it is shown how practically all these theorists assign causes according to their own particular hypotheses ... In the Sixth it is shown how they frequently admit only such facts as can be explained by their own theories, and dismiss facts which conflict therewith though possessing equal probability. The Seventh shows how they often assign causes which conflict not only with appearances but also with their own hypotheses. The Eighth shows that often, when there is equal doubt about things seemingly apparent and things under investigation, they base their doctrine ... upon things equally doubtful". Furthermore, mistakes related to a mixture of the above points have been observed.

             Having thus denounced the theory and practice of causality and induction, he attacks the theory of signs. According to the Stoics, phenomena are interpreted by reason as effects of causes, and can therefore be seen as signs. Aenesidemus points out that these effects or signs are frequently interpreted in contradictory ways. Symptoms of fever, such as a high temperature, sweat, a speedy pulse also lead to different conclusions amongst physicians: one sees them as an indication of strong blood, another of high tension, etc. If the signs were perceptible or intelligible, they would be as obvious as whiteness, appearing in like manner to everybody in good health.

             In ethics, Aenesidemus seems to have given some emphasis to pleasures (hedone), but Brochard (p.271) believes that this term is meant in a very large sense including perhaps ataraxia (as for Epicure) or eudaimonia (as for Pyrrho). On the whole, he followed closely the old Pyrrhonian line. Stating that the highest good is inexistant, he hasten to add that this is only seemingly an affirmation. It is not a dogma but a subjective opinion, misleading only by the constraints of language, which is naturally dogmatic and lends itself to the expression of Skeptical viewpoints in very unsatisfactory ways (Photius, 170a 12, in Goedeckemeyer, p.228).

             Much discussion revolves around the question whether Aenesidemus did or did not embrace Heraclitus' doctrines, as certain textual indications suggest. Some, like Natorp, Saisset, Zeller and Diels cannot accept this view, in seemingly blatant contradiction with Aenesidemus' skepticism. Others, like Brochard (p.284) and Goedeckemeyer (p.229), agree that he must have changed direction twice: from the diluted Skepticism of the New Academy he turned to radical, Pyrrhonian Skepticism, and ended up with a negative-dogmatic position in the wake of Heraclitus.

             Brochard (p.285) sees in this last turn an understandable psychological development, especially, since Aenesidemus is known to have declared that Pyrrhonism is the road leading to Heraclitism. First, Aenesidemus doubts and sees opposites in a balance not allowing any judgement. But, since the mind is always looking for answers, he does not find this position acceptable for long, and discovers in Heraclitus a satisfactory explanation for both doubt and opposites.

             There is great affinity between Heraclitus' view of the flux of things and Aenesidemus' intuition of an ever-changing world of appearances. As for the opposites, he turns from believing that things are "neither this nor that" (ou mallon) or an "absolute-relativistic position" (Goedeckemeyer, p.214) to Heraclitus' opinion that they really are the same in their extremes, or to the coincidentia oppositorum later exploited by Nicholas Cusanus and Nietzsche (Philosophisches Wörterbuch).

             Affirming the oneness of opposites obviously goes beyond mere appearances and resembles a metaphysical dogma. So does the postulation of air, number, and time as first principles, all being identical with unity. This first principle is material, and also is the source of all existence, or, as Brochard (p.273) amplifies his source of information (SE, M IX, 337): "... malgré la diversité des apparences, c'est la même essence qu'on retrouve au fond de toute chose, et grâce à cette communauté d'essence, on peut dire que le tout est identique à chaque partie, et chaque partie identique au tout". Goedeckemeyer (p.232) points out that while Aenesidemus believes to adopt Heraclitus' ideas, he really sees him through stoical spectacles, and that his dogmatic viewpoints reflect the "Kompromiß-Philosophie" characteristic of his age. Like the New Academicians, trying to reconcile in good faith Stoicism with their philosophy, Aenesidemus is possibly quite unaware of blending Stoic, Peripatetic and Neo-pythagoreic (p.234) components with predominantly Heraclitean elements.

             In agreement with the fundamental theses of perpetual change and all-transcending unity, he sees the soul like Heraclitus, but also like Strato, as the place where both perception (sensual) and thought (rational) take place. Goedeckemeyer (p.235) calls him therefore an advocate of a monism of the soul ("Anhänger der Einheit der Seele"). Similarly, his conception of common notions (our present-day universals?) is a mixture of Heraclitean and Stoic ideas: seeing the universal agreement on certain ideas, he relates them to an omnipresent reason, and accepts them as a criterion for truth: phenomena common to all humans are true, those particular to individuals are not (Brochard, p.275). Natorp (p.117) and Goedeckemeyer (p.231) insist, however, that "truth" in Aenesidemus' usage really is the equivalent of probability.

             Brochard (p.288) sees the dogma of common notions and the conception of the soul as the logical consequences of Aenesidemus' fundamental monistic position, and he maintains that Aenesidemus "... en se ralliant au dogmatisme héraclitéen ... n'abandonne aucune des thèses qu'il avait précédemment soutenues". Things in themselves, meaning a reality independent from its context and a conscious mind, remain unknowable; causes and demonstrations are equally uncertain, and still nothing can be advanced with certainty.

             Brochard (p.286, like Natorp, p.84, 293, and Hirzel, III p.64ff.) compares Aenesidemus to Protagoras who, in his opinion, is a dogmatic Skeptic because he accepts the coexistence of as many individually restricted worlds as there are minds. He furthermore defends Aenesidemus' dogmatic turn by considering it stronger, more open and honest than the Pyrrhonian position (p.287). In fact, Brochard accuses the Pyrrhonians of "lip service" since they claim that they do not know anything whereas they really are quite sure they do not and cannot know. He also considers them hypocritical, anxious to save appearances and not to shock generally accepted values. Their attitude "est une sorte de pis-aller". Firmly admitting, like Protagoras and Aenesidemus, that truth cannot be known in principle seems to him a more satisfactory declaration in spite of the negative-dogmatic overtones. He also insinuates (p.288) that subsequent Skeptics counted Aenesidemus among their ranks in spite of his defection, and that they understood his motives well.

             Both Brochard (p.297) and Goedeckemeyer (p.235) assign to Aenesidemus a transitional role, seeing him in complete agreement with neither the Academic nor the strictly Pyrrhonian direction of Skepticism, nor with the later trend of empirical investigation. His concern to find a metaphysical system and his dialectical argumentation are decisive in their opinion. Brochard (p.298, 2) points out that the Empiricists have a more material orientation and concentrate on purely practical concerns. He compares them to modern time Positivists, like Auguste Comte, whereas Aenesidemus, still preoccupied with metaphysics, resembles Kant. Even though Aenesidemus opened up the possibility of scientific investigation by saying that nothing had been proven true so far instead of affirming everlasting and unchanging darkness, he himself did not have any scientific inclinations. His later successors, however, continued precisely in this direction, and to the detriment of metaphysical concerns.

             Aenesidemus' followers seem to have adhered to his Pyrrhonian direction. Listed in Diogenes Laertius (IX, 106) are Zeuxis of Tarent and Antiochus of Laodicea. Goedeckemeyer (p.237) adds Apollonides of Nicaea who dedicated a commentary on Timon's Silles to Tiberius, and seems to have revived an historical interest in Pyrrhonian origins.

Agrippa (ca. 100 A.D.)

             Agrippa, probably a young contemporary of those mentioned above, is not named in Diogenes Laertius' list of Neo-pyrrhonian leaders, and also Sextus Empiricus does not mention him at all. Nothing much is known of him, but he must have lived at the end of the first century A.D. He added five tropes of logical importance to Aenesidemus' ten. They were meant to uproot any kind of dogmatic belief: the first is the general disagreement of opinions; the second is the regressum ad infinitum; the third points out subjective and objective relativity; the fourth sees in any hypothesis an a priori assumption, and the fifth is the diallelus, or circular argument. With these weapons he attacked individual dogmatic theories like those of the criterion, the sign, the causes and movement, and also denied that anything can be taught (DL IX, 100). In his argumentation he displayed considerable historical knowledge and polemic inclination (Goedeckemeyer, p.243).

             Unlike Aenesidemus, Agrippa excludes the very possibility of attaining truth, and sees in the phenomena sufficient guidance for living. Reason is inadequate, so that there is logically no road to certitude. Brochard sees in Aenesidemus a dialectician, in Agrippa a logician. He points out (p.306) that modern Skeptics still draw on these five tropes he describes as "irresistible" and as "la formule la plus radicale et la plus précise qu'on ait jamais donnée au skepticisme".

Favorinus (ca. 80-150 A.D.)

             Less important but better known than Agrippa, Favorinus, who was predominantly a rhetorician and politician, had pronounced Skeptical leanings. Born around 80 A.D. in Arles (Arleate), he lived in Rome and received his rhetorical education under Dion Chrysostom (ca. 40-120), who had loose connections with Cynicism. During an extended stay in Athens (ca. 106), he met with the Cynic Demonax, the Academician Herodes Atticus and, most importantly, Plutarch (ca. 45-125) who had a lasting influence on him (Goedeckemeyer, p.249).

             Although there is some debate about whether his Skepticism was Academic or Pyrrhonian, it seems that to Favorinus' mind, there was not much difference between the two trends. He used arguments familiar to both, such as relativity, differences in opinions, the ten tropes, and he advocated probability like Carneades. Successful, rich, popular and befriended by Epictetus (60-138) and Hadrian (76-138), he led a privileged life until his death.

             Brochard (p.328) mentions that he was not much respected by contemporary philosophers. Lucian (ca. 125-180) draws a satirical picture of him, suggesting that because of his high voice and effeminate behaviour he must have been a hermaphrodite or eunuch. Galen mocks his method of eloquently defending at least two sides of any subject. His disciple Aulus Gellius, on the other hand, remembers him fondly all his life in his Attic nights. Plutarch also thought highly of him, and devoted De primo frigido to him.

             Goedeckemeyer (p.256) accuses him of calculated mass-appeal and greed. Apparently, he defended notoriously immoral clients to increase his fame and fortune, so that the judgement of a well educated sophist or at most a popularizing philosopher seems justified. Whatever Academic Skepticism there remained at that time was totally extinguished with him.

Menodotus (ca. 150 A.D.)

             With Menodotus who according to Brochard (p.310) lived around 150 A.D. in Alexandria, the fusion between Neo-pyrrhonian Skepticism and medical Empiricism takes place. Already his predecessor and teacher, Antiochus of Laodicea, was presumably a physician, but Menodotus combined the leadership of the Empirical medical school with the direction of Pyrrhonian Skepticism. According to Goedeckemeyer (p.258), he reduced Agrippa's five tropes to two of relativity, stating that nothing can be comprehended by itself, nor by any other means. He wrote several treatises, and was important enough to be attacked by Galen, who seems to have followed one of Menodotus' works in De subfiguratione empirica (Brochard, p.312). Apparently, he dedicated one of his efforts to Septimus Severus, advocated the arts and sciences in the specifically Skeptical understanding of these concepts, and forgot about any Skeptical reserve in bluntly calling the theories of the famous physician Asklepiades incorrect.

             Galen (De subf. emp., 63) draws an unpleasant picture of him, accusing him of seeing in medical practice only a means to become rich and famous. His temper was quick and his tongue sharp, insulting his medical or philosophical opponents so readily that Galen compared him to a barking dog. Through his polemic verve he reminds Brochard (p.312) of Timon.

             In scientific methodology, Menodotus follows a purely phenomenological line: he attacks medical dogmatism and the questionable researching of causes, adopting a position of negative dogmatism himself in affirming the impossibility of knowledge per se. He distinguishes the endeiktic sign from the hypomnetic sign, rejecting the former as dogmatic, since it infers causal relations. The latter is acceptable, since it only remembers previously noted observations.

             Science in the empirical sense relies on the succession and coexistence of phenomena, and frequency plays as important a role as regularity. Instead of definitions based on a priori assumptions, a complex of symptoms founded on observation and experience leads to an understanding of the phenomena and provides a practical guideline to similar appearances. These allow the compilation of instructive sentences or theorems recording past experience for the use of future analogous cases (Goedeckemeyer, p.259-61).

             Menodotus' contemporary and successor Theodas of Laodicea also attracted Galen's scorn. Two works are known by him, an Introduction (Eisagoge) and the Main Principles (Kephalaia), where he ascribed three parts to medicine: signativa, curativa, and sanativa. The bases of medical knowledge are observation (teresis, a term introduced by him), experience including historical tradition, and analogy. In addition, the use of reason is accepted and opposed to the simple and mindless heaping of observational data (Brochard, p.211).

             A younger follower of the same generation, Theodosius, wrote a commentary on Theodas' Kephhalaia (mentioned in Suidas), of which "not a syllable subsists" (Goedeckemeyer, p.264, transl. g.d.). Unlike Menodotus, who fiercely opposed any reconciling tendencies, Theodosius accepted Homer, the seven wise men, Euripides, Xenophanes, Zeno, Democritus, Plato, Empedocles, Heraclitus and Hippocrates (DL, IX, 71ff.) as precursors of Pyrrhonian Skepticism. This attempt to reconcile ancient elements with his position is the exact parallel to attempts on the Neo-academic side, as witnessed in Cicero's Academica and in Plutarch (Adv. Colotes, 26,2).

             With Herodotus of Tarsus, the master of Sextus Empiricus (DL IX, 116), the skeptical school moved from Alexandria to Rome, say Haas (p.14) and Sepp (p.88), to "the East" believe Pappenheim (Lebensv., p.48ff.) and Goedeckemeyer (p.265). If he was the famous physician mentioned in Galen (Bk. Viii, 751) and lived in Rome under Trajan (98-117 A.D.), as Sepp (p.121) speculates, he could hardly have been Sextus' teacher, since Sextus' dates are fairly unanimously placed in the second half of the second century.

Sextus Empiricus (ca. 150-210 A.D.)

             Next to nothing is known about the life of this man, to whom we owe the most important and complete source of ancient Skepticism.

             Since he often refers to "we" and "us" in the context of Greek customs, it is assumed that he was of Greek origin. He seems to have been to Alexandria, Athens and Rome, but lived and taught "where (his) teacher was talking" (P III, 120), probably somewhere in the East. The main argument for Goedeckemeyer's (p..265, n.6) assumption is the Romans' obvious ignorance of Pyrrhonian Skepticism which contrasts with the attention it receives later on by Eastern writers like Gregory of Nazantius, Agathias and Georgius who refute Sextus and Skepticism as dangerous in much the same way as Saint Augustine opposes Cicero's Academic Skepticism (Goedeckemeyer, p.331).

             Sepp, who has a pronounced tendency to detect Skepticism in almost anybody anywhere, believes it to be quite influential in Rome. He even identifies Sextus Empiricus with the teacher of Marcus Aurelius (121-180), a certain Sextus of Chaeronea who along with his illustrious disciple was, in Sepp's opinion, falsely considered a Stoic by Capitolinus (p.86).

             As if this highly speculative connection, not alluded to in any of the other critical works consulted, were not enough, he also finds by means of some complicated mental arithmetic and erroneous information (Brochard, p.316) in the article Sextos in Suidas sufficient reason to link Sextus to the Libyan lawyer Sextus Caecilius Africanus, makes Apuleius his nephew (p.89) and Plutarch his uncle (p.90). The amazing composite picture of the skeptical philosopher is then presented like this (p.90): "Der Lehrer des Mark Aurel und früher des Verus war also nach dem oben Gesagten Arzt, Jurist und Pyrrhonischer Philosoph und heißt Sextus Cäcilius Empirikus aus Chäronea, Africanus (Aibus)."

             We prefer to this highly creative and rather unskeptical statement the wiser admissions of Brochard (p.314), Goedeckemeyer (p.266, n.2), Bury (p.xli) and others, that little else but the approximate time of his life is known. Goedeckemeyer (ibid.) bases it on a system of references in Sextus, Diogenes (ca. 230-250) and Hippolytus (ca. 220-230), as well as on Sextus' remark (P I, 65) that the Stoics of his times are his main opponents. Stoicism, deteriorating rapidly in the third century, could not have played this role had Sextus lived then.

             Goedeckemeyer (p.268) describes him as a successful physician and cultivated philosopher, who proves not only his extensive readings - Timon is the skeptic most often cited - but also his personal philosophical preferences, however subtly and modestly presented. He leads the positivistic tendency established under Menodotus to its fullest accomplishments, and taking back Agrippa's negative-dogmatic touches, returns to the absolute-skeptical viewpoint of Aenesidemus.

             Without being blind to Sextus' stylistic flaws and tiresome, schematic proofs, both Brochard (p.325-326) and Goedeckemeyer (p.268) appreciate his thoroughness, exactitude and systematic approach, and reject the much repeated opinion of Zeller, Haas and Bury that Sextus is nothing but a mindless compiler of the type later represented by Diogenes Laertius.

             His philosophical works have survived almost completely and constitute what Brochard (p.322) calls in analogy to scholasticism the summa of Skepticism. Bury (p.xlii) considers them "immense arsenals stored with all the weapons of offence and defense of every conceivable pattern, old and new, that ever were forged on the anvil of Scepticism". Brochard points out (p.322) that Sextus very truthfully exposes the views of all the main Skeptics, not only or mainly those of Aenesidemus, as Zeller believes. Rarely mentioned by name - neither Agrippa nor Menodotus are referred to, although their doctrines are described at length - their opinions are blended into one collective statement, including the author's own opinions. His impartiality lets him expose the positions and arguments of his opponents with equal precision and they often have great value in their historical evaluation. For instance, his account of Stoic epistemology is so well presented, that one almost forgets the purpose, which is to refute them in the long run. His ideas are usually clear and his style is free of pretensions. Thanks to his writings, Skepticism is the best known philosophy of antiquity: "Nous ne connaissons pas bien les sceptiques, mais, grâce à Sextus, nous pouvons connaître parfaitement le sceptisisme" (Brochard, p.327).

             The Outlines of Pyrrhonism (Pyrrhoneioi hypotyposes) are like a "bréviaire du scepticisme" (Brochard, p.322) in three parts, of which the first establishes Skeptical principles, while the other two refute all kinds of dogmatic theories.

             Of the eleven books probably regrouped after Sextus' times as Pros mathematikos, five (M VII-XI) are an amplification of the Outlines.  Rather than an outline - commentary relation, Goedeckemeyer (p.291) sees in them an application to the theory. The other six parts (M I-VI) examine the individual arts and sciences from a skeptical point of view.

             Existence can be divided into things perceived through the senses and common to all,and things non-evident. The latter are subject to much disagreement. Some affirm to know something about them, and are therefore dogmatics; others, namely the Academics admit that they don't know anything about them, while the Skeptics still attempt to find an answer (P I, 2). Quite expressively, the dogmatics are compared to men shooting in the dark (M VIII, 325), where nobody even knows when he hits a target. Xenophanes already expressed that idea. The firm intention of the Skeptics, being philanthropic, is to cure the dogmatics of their conceit and rashness; for that purpose, and depending on the gravity of the individual case, the remedy will vary in kind and dose (P III, 280).

             The Skeptical tendency is called Pyrrhonian for its origin, zetetic for its search for truth, aporetic for weighing different arguments and ephectic for its refusal to make any decisions (PI, 7). Since there is no criterion evident to all to determine the hidden truth, suspension of judgement is at order.

             The method is to oppose to each opinion one contradicting it, and if there isn't any, to point out the possibility of its future discovery. The Skeptic does not dogmatize, since he remains aware of the purely subjective and relative nature of his statements (P I, 14). Just as he would never deny sense impressions like sweetness and warmth, he does not have to withhold judgement on complex givens, like number, movement, growth and decline, as long as he does not venture beyond the phenomena. Even imaginary concepts are acceptable, if they clearly come about by resemblance to observable facts, such as the giant being an enlarged human, and a centaur a synthesis of horse and man.

             Perception and intelligent observation of the appearances are the main guides of the Skeptic in deciding his actions. Nature (P I, 23ff) in the sense of both biological needs particular the the species and as individual inclination, as well as the customs, laws and religious beliefs of one's country provide further guidance for conduct. The goal, quietude, is quite easily reached by such a moderate, middle-of-the-road approach. It follows naturally the suspension of judgement in all matters metaphysical (P I, 26), whereas the dogmatic must battle for inner peace and is not likely ever to achieve it. The handy form of the ten tropes help the Skeptic to reach epoché in all situations.

             To the Stoic accusation that the Skeptics cannot grasp their metaphysical concepts, Sextus replies with an analysis of grasping: in one sense, and fully acceptable to the Skeptic, it means "imagining"; in another, it has the meaning of "comprehending", and this is impossible not only to the Skeptics, but just as much to the dogmatics who flatter themselves to understand, even though they fight amongst themselves over various assertions of equal absurdity (P II, 9ff).

             Similarly, he takes apart the criterion of truth, dealing first with the criterion, then with truth separately. Three possible means of apprehension could serve as the criterion: one is natural, like the senses; the other is artificial, like a measuring tool; the third is logical. Given the endless disputes raging over each of these possibilities, no conclusive answer can be given.

             The logical means can be seen in three further components, all of them turning out to be just as inadequate: man is the subject of apprehension, the senses and/or reason are the means, and the appearances are the object (M VII, 38-45; P II, 80-84). The notion of man, in order to be the criterion, would have to be satisfactorily defined, which has never been achieved yet; the senses are often contradicting each other, and even more uncertain when compared to different individuals. As for reason, there is already disagreement on its very existence, never mind its essence.

             Since the senses precede any rational operation, there is question about how trustworthy their information is. They well might be like dishonest servants, falsifying or withholding messages meant for their master. Finally, the relation between thing and concept is far from being clear, as proven by the large number of theories on the subject. The stoics believe the concept to be a reflection of the thing, but then imaginary things like centaurs would have no status of any sort.

             Similarly Sextus deals with truth, refuting first various opinions about its existence, then about its essence, and finally concludes that its location can be found neither in the judgement, nor in verbal expression, nor in the thinking process.

             The result of this detailed investigation shows the ineradicable uncertainty of "truth" and its equally obscure criterion (M VIII, 141ff.). Since anything transcending the sensual apparatus has to be revealed by some indirect evidence, Sextus deals with signs and demonstrations.

             Of non-evident objects, some are altogether non-evident (the number of stars), some are naturally non-evident (pores, evidenced by sweat) and some are occasionally non-evident (Athens to Sextus, writing elsewhere) (P II, 97ff.). The first category (kathapax adela) cannot be apprehended at all, as the stoics will concede. The second (phystei adela) is revealed by indicative signs and the third (pros akairon adela) by commemorative signs. While commemorative, or suggestive, signs are based on observation, and represent associative processes by recalling something temporarily absent from the mind, indicative signs are highly speculative and based on a priori assumptions of a logical nature (M VIII, 152ff.; P II, 102ff.). Far from maintaining "that no sign exists, as some slanderously affirm of us" (M VII, 157), the Skeptics readily infer from smoke that there is fire, and from a scar that there once was a wound, many such instances having been observed to support these connections. Their objections are directed at the indicative sign, which is the only one known in stoic theory.

             The sign in this sense postulates a necessary link between itself and the reality it denotes. Therefore, a sign cannot be conceived of as an absolute; it is by definition part of a relation (M VIII, 273). Like all relative concepts, such as right and left, the sign never is perceived in isolation, but together with the object it refers to. But if they appear together, what need is there for the sign (M VIII, 161ff.)?

             The Epicureans hold the sign to be sensible, the Stoics see it as being of a rational nature. It cannot be sensible, since it is far from the universal acceptance attached to sensually perceived phenomena like warm temperature and bitter taste. Also, if man were equipped with a special sense able to capture these signs, they would be directly perceived and he would not have to put so much effort into learning them. They cannot be rationally dealt with either, as is obvious from countless conflicting interpretations given to a single sign. For example, that the body moves is not necessary nor convincing evidence of the soul. In conclusion, the existence of the sign is doubtful, and its essence, thought to lie in unveiling the unknown, is in great need of revelation itself (M VII, 244ff.).

             If the indicative sign has such a precarious status, it follows that logical demonstrations, consisting of signs and proofs, are similarly problematic, and after long discussion turn out to be totally arbitrary and unintelligible postulates advanced by the Stoics and Epicureans.

             To the accusation that his own explanations are endangered along with the dethronement of the sign and of demonstrations, Sextus replies that they are entirely subjective and that even if they were meant to be proof they would be eliminated along with the argument such as the purgative, or the fire consuming itself with the wood, or a ladder being knocked over once a high place has been reached (M VIII, 480-481).

             In natural philosophy, he discusses God as the universal principle of activity and passivity. The notion of God does not prove his existence, as shown by the example of the Centaur or the Scylla (M IX, 49). The controversy about God's existence becomes even fiercer when it moves on to His possible essence.

             Linked to the active principle is the question of cause and effect (M IX, 194ff.). The Stoics point out the necessity of such a cause in order to explain living and dying, becoming and dissolving. Without such regulative law, chaos would reign everywhere. For the Skeptics, cause is a relative connection (M IX, 208ff.), without existence of its own. Because of this its conceptualization is extremely difficult.

             The principles of agens and patiens are questioned because they imply material contact and change. Both the material and the immaterial essences turn out to be major philosophical problems in themselves and in relation to causes. In particular, the immaterial entities of space and time, movement, number, and quantitative or qualitative change are a source of the wildest speculations.

              In Ethics, Sextus follows the usual distinction of general and applied moralities (ethike theoria, and peri tou bion techne). Everybody is in disagreement about the good to look for and about the bad to avoid. It is obvious that, contrary to the claim of the Stoics and the Epicureans, these moral notions are not implanted by nature, and this conclusion is furthermore supported by their geographical and historical relativity (P III, 198-234; M XI, 96ff.).

             He considers the dogmatic moral theory to be outright harmful, since only wise suspension of judgement is helpful in attaining happiness (M XI, 110ff.). But dogmatic practical ethics are not any more acceptable; they tend to cultivate various vices such as the ruthless pursuit of glory or pleasures. The dogmatic claim of moral philosophy being an art or science is refuted because first of all it lacks a proper subject; secondly, it cannot be taught, which is proven, apart from any theoretical difficulties of instruction, by the discrepancies observed between the dogmatics' own lives and precepts, and thirdly, the rules proposed are of such general nature - one's parents should be honoured, a debt repaid, etc. - that most ignorant people, totally ignorant of moral education, would act accordingly anyway. Finally, in the inability to control the affects and in the efforts to suppress them, dogmatic ethics lead their followers to unhappiness. The immoral giving in to his impulses finds at least some relief (M XI, 210ff.; P III, 273ff.), and momentary happiness.

             The arts and sciences are not in principle useless, as the Epicureans believe. Where Philology is concerned, reading and writing are most useful subjects and an invaluable help in combating forgetfulness. Certain dogmatic attempts, however, discussing the nature and length of vowels, are insubstantial. Nobody has ever agreed on phonetic units, so that diphthongs and long vowels are included in the twenty-four letters of the alphabet, although they are twice as long as other elements (M I, 169ff.). Orthography does not contribute anything necessary for life, and nobody has ever died from misspelling words (M I, 169ff.). Emphasis on the normative rules of "good Greek" are equally silly and more often than not in opposition to current language usage (M I, 175ff.).

             Similar objections are raised against Rhetoric (M II), Geometry (M III), Arithmetic (M IV), Astrology (M V), carefully distinguished from Astronomy which is a useful art based on the close observation of appearances, and finally Music (M VI).

             After Sextus, his disciple and empirical physician Saturninus is the last known representative of Skepticism. He probably was a contemporary of Diogenes Laertius (Brochard, p.328), but is not reputed to have introduced any original elements into the declining Skeptical tradition.

Conclusion

             One last aspect has to be mentioned briefly. It relates to the empirical concept of science and its subsequent influence. Science in the dogmatic sense departs from a priori assumptions and thus has a transcendent or metaphysical basis. Science in Sextus' sense is based on strict observation of the phenomena, and any abstractions within this framework keep their practical orientation and verifiable validity. The Empirical approach, free of metaphysical speculations, is typical for the Skepticism he represents, and has close affinities with modern scientific methods. Deichgräber (p.340-346) devotes an interesting chapter to Bacon, and also draws suggestive parallels with philosophers of his own time, in particular with Vaihinger's Philosophie des Als-Ob (p.280, 345). Brochard (p.310, 360, 375, 378) frequently points out arguments that are still used "today", and notes many similarities with the Positivists of his time, for instance with Renouvier and Claude Bernard (p.372). Speaking of Menodotus (ibid.) whose methods are essentially the same as Sextus', he departs from his usual objective style by giving the following definition: "Sa méthode est celle qui éclaire et féconde l'expérience par le raisonnement, et se défie d'une vaine dialectique sans se borner à amasser des faits. C'est la vraie." Even though he (p.377) sees differences in the use and abuse of dialectics (for the Skeptics only), and in the goal ("purement morale" for the Skeptics, "utilitaire" for the Positivists), he considers the Empiricists as "les véritables ancêtres du positivisme" (p.378).

             Robin (p.298) invokes Auguste Comte and Kant, Pappenheim (Einleitung, p.18) mentions Hegel and Schopenhauer, Richter makes innumerable allusions to modern Skeptics and deals at great length with Montaigne, Hume and Nietzsche. Somewhat more briefly he considers Kant (a partial Skeptic in his eyes), "Aenesidemus" (Gottlob Ernst) Schulze (v.2, p.435) and Platner (v.2, p.439) who both defended a more radical Skepticism and were possibly influenced by Hume. Hegel (Verhältnis, p.213-272) hands out many polemic swipes against "Herrn Schulze", whom he considers much inferior to classical Skeptics. That Hegel has a thorough knowledge of ancient philosophy is obvious throughout this long (60 pages!) book review and also in his lectures (Werke, Bd.19; roughly 500 pages are on Greek philosophy, 170 on Skepticism).

             In his chapter on Positivism (II, p.445-454) Richter mentions next to Comte and Stuart Mill philosophers like Herbert Spencer, Helmholtz, Avenarius and Mauthner. Especially noteworthy are several explicit references to Ernst Mach, who had an enormous influence on the generation of his time. Among other impacts, he can be directly linked to the so-called Sprachkrise in Austrian authors like Hermann Bahr, Hofmannsthal, Schnitzler, Musil and Rilke. But in contemporary literary criticism the filiation or even the really quite striking similarity with Greek Skepticism is not recognized. The very term skepticism seems to be absent from the field of "Germanistik", and phenomena related to this philosophical position are subsumed under names like pessimism, nihilism, negativism, solopsism, etc. The historical perspective never extends beyond Nietzsche (d. 1900!), or at the very utmost, Schopenhauer (d. 1860).

             The abundance of historical links between late nineteenth century philosophers, scientists or literary authors (the latter are mentioned frequently in Richter) and classical Skepticism is probably due to the predominantly diachronic "Zeitgeist" of prestructuralism and Gestalt theory (ca. 1910), but also to the substantial classical education common during that time and sadly missing today. Mach's empirical tendencies are perhaps related to Kant's and Hume's influence only because ancient Skepticism is not well known any longer. It is, however, at least conceivable that Mach had first hand experience with classical Greek texts, including those discussed in the present paper.

            We would like to conclude with a citation by Brochard (p.376) comparing the Positivists of his century to the Greek Skeptics: "Les positivistes protesteraient peut-être contre le nom de sceptiques, et ils en auraient le droit, car ils affirment beaucoup, et quelquefois trop de choses. Les sceptiques, de leur coté, repoussaient le nom de savants. Mais la différence est ici dans les mots plutôt que dans les choses. Tout positiviste est sceptique, au sens où l'entendaient les médecins comme Sextus; tout sceptique était positiviste, au sens que donnent aujourdhui à ce mot ceux qui l'ont inventé! Les uns sont sceptiques en métaphysique, les autre ne sont sceptiques qu'en métaphysique: c'est bien près d'être la même chose."

Gaby Divay, Archives & Special Collections, University of Manitoba


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Originally prepared as an Independent Study in 1987/8


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