Jacques Maritain Center : A History of Western Philosophy Vol. I / by Ralph McInerny

Part III: The Hellenistic Period

Chapter III

Sceptics and the New Academy

In this chapter, we want to discuss a number of Sceptics who actually antedate the Epicurean and Stoic school; our reason for postponing discussion of them will be made clear in a moment as well as the desirability of seeing in them a preliminary for a discussion of the New Academy. We will take the occasion of this chapter to indicate the subsequent history both of Scepticism and the Platonic Academy.

A. Pyrrho of Elis

Pyrrho was born about 365 B.C. at Elis and came to philosophy after an unsuccessful career as a painter. He is said to have studied philosophy under Bryson, the sophist, and Euclid of Megara; there is no doubt that he studied with Anaxarchus, a Democritean, with whom he accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaign in Asia. The variety of cultures and customs and ideas to which this journey exposed the young Pyrrho are thought to have had their influence in the philosophical position he adopted. After the death of Alexander, Pyrrho returned to Elis where about 330, at the age of thirty-five, he opened his philosophical school. He lived a long life; he died around 275 B.C. It is said that Pyrrho composed a poem in honor of Alexander, but apart from that he wrote nothing and we are dependent for an account of his doctrines on his pupil, Timon of Phlius, the so-called Sillographer whose name we have encountered in our discussion of Xenophanes, as well as on other secondary sources.

Acclaimed by later Sceptics as their founder, Pyrrho is a man whose personal doctrine is most difficult to determine, since there was always a tendency to read later formulations back into the founder. It is said that Pyrrho posed three questions as fundamental: What are things in themselves? How should we be disposed towards them? What is the result of these dispositions? The answers he proposed are somewhat bleak. Things do not differ from one another; they are equally uncertain and indiscernable. Our sensations and judgments can be productive of neither truth nor falsity. Consequently, we should trust neither sense nor reason, but strive to be without opinions, choosing neither one side nor the other of contradictories. No matter what is at issue, we should neither affirm nor deny. The result of these dispositions towards things is apathy, ataraxy, a suspension (epoche) of judgment, universal indifference. This attitude explains the claim that "I define nothing." One opinion is as good as another; the ideal is to suspend judgment, say nothing, make no commitments. Pyrrho is asking us to be wary of treating either our sensations or our judgment as revelatory of reality and we may see in this both the acceptance and the surpassing of Democritus. Democritus, we remember, had cast doubt on the validity of sensation; sweet and color are only conventions, telling us nothing of what is, since what is, is exhausted by atoms and the void. Now if Democritus called sensation into question, he did so in the interest of a knowledge in no way dubitable. Pyrrho does not give reason or judgment any privileged position: a judgment is no more valuable than its negation. Indeed, there seems to be some justification in distinguishing the immediate and mediate, with judgment being mediate and dependent on sensation. The value of judgment accordingly, is dependent on that of sensation. In speaking of sensation, Pyrrho does not advocate doubt as to the reality of what seems to us. When we taste sweetness, there is no reason to doubt that we do indeed have a sensation of sweetness. But this is what seems, a phenomenon, and is no infallible index of what is. That, reality, Pyrrho suggests, is unknowable. Pyrrho has no doubt that honey tastes sweet, but he would not have the temerity to assert that it is sweet.

It is sometimes suggested that such a distinction must be referred to later Scepticism and that Pyrrho himself would subject everything to doubt: it is just as likely that I taste bitterness as sweetness. On this view, Pyrrho's tendency is a complete and utter withdrawal and he could have nothing to say even about his own sense impressions that could not be contested. In a word, he would have nothing positive at all to communicate. His message would be that we must cultivate indifference, complete apathy, a universal suspension of judgment and commitment. What then are we to make of the fact that Pyrrho started a school? A teacher may come to see that he has nothing to offer to others, but it seems unlikely that one would become a teacher to teach nothing. The reply is that Pyrrho was teaching an attitude and that. he did it as much by example as by words. The anecdotes in Diogenes Laertius are then interpreted as bearing out this point.

"Whatever the extent of Pyrrho's own position, it seems clear that it was intended as a way of producing happiness. The notion of ataraxy and apathy, which we have seen constitute the respective aims of the Stoic and Epicurean ethics, have their source, it would seem, in Pyrrho. Actually we can trace a connection between Pyrrho and Epicurus, since Pyrrho's pupil Nausiphanes is said to have been a teacher of Epicurus. As we shall see, the Stoic and Epicurean schools were objects of attack by later sceptics; by the same token, it seems that later Sceptics were somewhat less hardy than Pyrrho himself. Even Pyrrho, however, is said to have possessed the great certitude that suspension of judgment and indifference is the key to happiness. Perhaps we would not trivialize his stand too greatly if we should say that, in a time of incredible political upheaval, when there was such a proliferation of philosophical doctrines, represented by warring schools, Pyrrho, who had seen tyranny at first hand as well as the variety of cultures and customs and perhaps had been struck by the impassivity of Indian holy men, chose to find happiness in a despair of philosophy, with one being considered as good as another, and total indifference to the vicissitudes of life. If one has to act, let him do so in such a way that he follows the customs of his time and place.

We have already indicated the possible influence of Democritus' critique of sensation on Pyrrho. This could be expanded, and the Eleatic doctrine and that of Heraclitus, insofar as both opposed sense and logos in favor of the latter, could be seen as influential. Apart from this, we may wonder about Pyrrho's affinity with the Sophists. If Pyrrho is an iconoclast, calling everything into question, he does not seem to differ in this from the sophists who, despite the attack of Socrates, Plato and Aistotle, were still around at the time of Pyrrho. The great difference would seem to be that the sophists sought to have a practical impact, going among men and seeking payment for their services. Pyrrho chracteristically withdraws. He preaches resignation and, like Socrates, becomes an object of veneration. Bevan suggests,{48} with some persuasiveness, that Pyrrho sums up the attitude of the common man before the multitude of philosophical schools and the rapidly shifting political scene. And yet, obscure as his own doctrine is, Pyrrho is hailed as their great forerunner by later sceptics, and their deference to him is qualitatively different from their attempts to find the root of their attitude in all previous philosophies.

Before turning to Timon, a word on the term "sceptic." Speaking of the later Sceptics, Diogenes Laertius writes,

All these were called Pyrrhoneans after the name of their master, but Aporetics, Sceptics, Ephectics, and even Zetetics, from their principles, if we may call them such -- Zetetics or seekers because they were seeking the truth, Sceptics or inquirers because they were always looking for a solution and never finding one, Ephectics or doubters because of the state of mind which followed their inquiry, I mean, suspense of judgment, and finally Aporetics or those in perplexity, for not only they but even the dogmatic philosophers themselves in their turn were often perplexed. (IX,70)

Like the term "sophist," "sceptic" acquired the meaning we would normally associate with it only gradually.

B. Timon of Philus

Pyrrho had a number of disciples whose names are known to us. One Eurylochos who is said to have fled from the questions of his students, plunged into the sea, and swum away; one Philo of Athens who if he was a teacher was himself his only pupil -- both anecdotes indicate how difficult it was to attain the Pyrrhonian ideal of avoiding all philosophical wrangling. Timon Phlius (c. 325 - c. 235 B.C.) is considered the more direct successor of Pyrrho. He is said to have started as a dancer, dropped that and gone to hear Stilpo at Megara; returning home, he married and went with his wife to Elis to hear Pyrrho. He went to Chalcedon to teach, went thence to Athens which became his permanent home where he died. Timon's way of following Pyrrho was unlike that of Eurylochus and Philo: Timon did not embrace poverty, liked his wine and was a contentious soul. He is known as the sillographer because of the lampoons he wrote with, philosophers as his target. Indeed, it appears that Timon was a prolific writer: epic poems, tragedies, satires, comedies and other works are attributed to him. We possess only a few fragments of his writings, drawn from Images and the Lampoons (Silli). The latter was, at least in part, a poem whose sub-title might have been "Timon in Hades" where he poses questions to Xenophanes concerning ancient and modern philosophers and elicits mordant and unflattering descriptions. There was as well a battle of the philosophers in which, we may suppose, they were allowed to show forth their absurdity. It also seems likely that Timon distinguished the dogmatic and anti-dogmatic philosophers, and locating the figures of the New Academy, notably Arcesilaus, among the latter, was able to point out their borrowings from Pyrrho. Certain philosophers are treated somewhat gently by Timon -- Democritus, of course, but also the Eleatics, Protagoras. It goes without saying that he held Xenophanes in esteem. Apart from his willingness to involve himself in philosophical wrangling, at least to the point of lampooning, and his rejection of the Stoic katalepsis , Timon servas only to indicate the as yet negative side of Scepticism. As a philosophical doctrine Scepticism undergoes change at the hands of the New Academy.

C. Arcesilaus

Arcesilaus was born at Pitane in Aeolia about 315 B.C. He studied mathematics in his native city and then came to Athens with the intention of studying rhetoric. Taken by philosophy, he studied under Theophrastus and then Crantor. He became quite devoted to the latter and continued in the Academy after Crantor's death, listening to Polemo and Crates as well. After the death of Crates, Arcesilaus took over the headship of the Academy. He lived to the age of seventy-five. Arcesilaus was a wealthy man and his mode of life was anything but austere. He had a good number of enemies; Timon of Phlius maligned him while he was alive, but praised him after his death. Epicurus is said by Plutarch to have been jealous of Arcesilaus' fame. Arcesilaus delighted in attacking the Stoics; nevertheless Cleanthes is said to have defended him, saying that his actions made up for what was lacking in his teaching. Arcesilaus wrote nothing and we are possessed of quite scanty information about his doctrine. What information we do have indicates that Arcesilaus was most concerned with refuting the Stoic claim to certitude in knowledge.

We have seen that the Stoics held that the first task of philosophy is to provide a criterion of truth, something they found in the comprehensive representation, the representation which commanded assent. That is, this representation is so clear and precise that it cannot be confused with anything else and thus bears within itself the confirmation of the truth of its object. Such representations were compared to an open hand by Zeno, and they are the first degree of knowledge. These representations elicit from the superior part of the soul an assent which, while a response to a stimulus, comes from a willed act. The soul cannot fail to give this assent when confronted with a comprehensive representation, and its assent is the second degree of knowledge, i.e., a hand with fingers partially bent. Comprehension (katalepsis) is represented by a fist and science by the fist clasped by the other hand. Thus, the wise man is defined ultimately in terms of comprehensive representations: if this first degree of knowledge cannot be defended, the Stoic theory collapses in its entirety. Arcesilaus, accordingly, addresses himself precisely to the doctrine of the comprehensive representation.

In questioning the comprehensive representation, Arcesilaus first attacks the notion of assent, for it is the assent to the representation which makes it comprehensive. Now, the objection runs, the assent is said to be produced by the will and is prior to or constitutive of knowledge and not consequent upon it. True assent, however, should follow on knowledge and the Stoic assent is something precipitous and unjustified. Moreover, this doctrine of assent is incompatible with the Stoic notion of the wise man. If assent is necessary to found knowledge, it must precede it; consequently the result of assent is not knowledge but opinion. However, the Stoics speak of the wise man who gives his assent only to the truth.

As to the notion of comprehensive representation itself, the Stoics would not want to make it the prerogative of the wise man and accordingly sometimes speak of it as between opinion and knowledge. This goes contrary to other statements which seem to say that only the wise man has such comprehensive representations. Apart from this inconsistency, Arcesilaus rejects the comprehensive representation itself as contradictory. Such a representation implies approval or assent if it is to be spoken of as always true; but judgment and approval are acts of reason, not of the senses. That is, if certain sense representations are said to be always true, truth is not something which belongs to them as sense representations, but is, as it were, superadded by reason. It seems likely that Arcesilaus also rejected the idea that there can be sensation which necessarily elicits the mental judgment that there are correlates of it in the real world, by appealing to dreams, fantasies and optical illusions. At times, such representations are equally irresistible to reason which gives assent to them. Consequently, the ideal must be the suspension (epoche) of judgment; the wise man despairs of ever possessing absolutely certain knowledge.

Like the earlier Sceptics, Arcesilaus' doctrine is a negative one; it goes beyond them in being dialectical, in delighting to take up the opinions of others and show they cannot command assent. Arcesilaus shies away from proposing anything like a positive doctrine, and is shrewd enough to agree that he cannot even be certain that he can be certain of nothing. But this is not the sum total of what we know of Arcesilaus. The earliers Sceptics saw the ideal of indifference and suspension of judgment as a way out of controversies which upset and distress; in a word, their negative approach was to be productive of happiness. The dialectical approach of Arcesilaus made it imperative that he answer his Stoic critics as to how action is possible if we know nothing for certain. If knowledge, both sensible and rational, is called into question, how can we perform the simplest tasks of our daily lives?

Arcesilaus, however . . . certainly seems to me to have shared the doctrines of Pyrrho, so that his Way of thought is almost identical with ours. For we do not find him making any assertion about the reality or unreality of anything, nor does he prefer any one thing to another in point of probability or improbability, but suspends judgment about all. He also says that the End is suspension -- which is accompanied, as we have said, by 'quietude.' He declares too that suspension regarding particular objects is good, but assent regarding particulars bad. (Sextus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, I, 232-3; tr. Bury)

Arcesilaus rejects probability in the sense that he denies that any representation can outweigh another; they are of equal value and one is no more worthy of assent than another. But he does admit a scale in terms of which choice is possible, and the founding note of this scale is the reasonable (eulogon). Thus, while rejecting any canon of truth, of knowledge as such, Arcesilaus introduces the reasonable as a canon or criterion of choice. In order to act, we do not require certain knowledge; indeed perceptions can influence the will without reason judging that they are absolutely true. The reasonable would seem to amount to a justification of action in terms of consistency but without any pretense that the statements involved in such a justification are any truer than their contradictories. The doctrine of the reasonable is thought to have been as much another attack on the Stoics as a positive doctrine of Arcesilaus; this attack won from the Stoics the concession that in acting the wise man does not rely on certain knowledge.

Before ending this discussion of Arcesilaus, something must be said of the view that his scepticism was a public stance and a device for testing students for entry into the profound reaches of Plato's philosophy.

And if one ought to credit also what is said about him, he appeared at the first glance, they say, to be a Pyrrhonean, but in reality he was a dogmatist; and because he used to test his companions by means of dubitation to see if they were fitted by nature for the reception of the Platonic dogmas, he was thought to be a dubitative philosopher, but he actually passed on to such of his companions as were naturally gifted the dogmas of Plato. (Sextus, ibid., 234; Bury)

This supposition of a dogmatic teaching at the interior of the school is fairly universally rejected by modern scholars: it is put forward by those who want to denigrate Arcesilaus or to mitigate his scepticism. Sceptics who resented the Academy's intrusion into their domain countered with the claim that the scepticism of Arcesilaus was largely for external consumption and that his true interest was to pass along the dogmas of Plato; Platonists, distressed by Arcesilaus' negations, found the hypothesis pleasant for obvious reasons. But if Arcesilaus is not to be thought of as teaching the positive philosophical doctrines of Plato, whose successor after all he was, it is argued that he did preserve and pass on to others the method of dialectics and that he doubtless used the dialogues themselves for this purpose. Since Xenocrates had extracted the "dogmas" from the dialogues, and this retail version was widely known, opponents hearing that Arcesilaus made use of Plato would think of the doctrinal précis of Xenocrates and formulate the accusation of dogmatism among the initiate of the supposedly sceptical Academy.

D. Carneades of Cyrene

Carneades was born about 219 B.C. and is said to have lived eighty-five years. A certain date in his life is 156/5 when in the company of Diogenes of Babylon and Critolaus, the embassy of philosophers, he visited Rome. On this occasion, Carneades presented the arguments of Aristotle, Plato and the Stoa on justice, and the following day refuted them all. It was dazzling performance and is thought to be indicative of Carneades' unusual procedure. Carneades wrote nothing; he studied under the Stoic, Diogenes of Babylon, was greatly influenced by the writings of Chrysippus, but joined the Academy and became its head. He is sometimes called the third founder of the Academy, (Arcesilaus being the second).

Carneades carries on the refutation of the Stoic theory of knowledge, repeating some of the arguments of Arcesilaus and adding some of his own. These have to do with the perception of sense qualities. Carneades wants to show that sight does not perceive color; by this he means that we never see the color of the object just as such, since its color can be seen to vary depending on changes in the object and changes in the viewer's position. We are aware of these variations in our sensations of a particular object, but we can never know what its color truly is. Sense qualities, in other words, are relative to the one perceiving them and the conditions in which he finds himself. There is no comprehensive representation which would be its own guarantee of truth and a foundation for science.

Carneades launched a direct attack on the Stoic dialectic which is of no little interest. We have seen that in the Stoic logic every proposition is true or false. Carneades borrows the paradox of the liar from the Megarians to contest this claim. If you say that you are lying and it is true that you are lying have you lied or are you telling the truth? The reply of Chrysippus was that this is an insoluble paradox, an exception, which does not disturb logic as such. Carneades will not accept this as a reply: one cannot simultaneously maintain that every proposition is true or false and that there are exceptions to this rule. Carneades makes use of the same difficulty to question the view that a syllogistic (in the Stoic usage) form guarantees the validity of an inference. The Stoic would say, "If you say that it is now day and this is true, it has to be day; but you say it is day, this is true, therefore it really is day." Carneades asks if the following is equally irreproachable. "If you say that you are lying and, in saying it are telling the truth, you are lying; but you say that you lie and are telling the truth, therefore in telling the truth you are lying." There is a relatively easy way to get rid of the difficulty posed by this paradox, for one might point out that "I am lying" and "it is daytime" are not on the same level, since the first statement must be attached to another to have any siguificance, i.e., it is about a proposition or propositions in the way that the second is not. Carneades, receiving no effective reply, used the difficulty to call into question the validity of logic. Nor was he at all half-hearted in his rejections. He is said to have regarded the mathematical proposition, "If equals are added to equals the result is equals" as dubious; so too "Two quantities each of which is equal to a third are equal to one another" is not necessarily true. In effect, nothing is certain, neither in the order of sense nor in that of reason. This claim is directed against every positive philosophy and not simply against the Stoics. We have the individual impression (pathe) and have no way of distinguishing one from the other in such a way that some are seen clearly to stand for external realities, and others not.

Carneades, then, teaches the absence of all certitude in knowledge; there is no criterion of truth, no comprehensive representation. There is on this score a definite continuity between him and Arcesilaus. A doctrine peculiar to Carneades is that of the probable (pithanon) which demands comparison with what Arcesilaus called the reasonable (eulogon). Brochard{49} has drawn attention to the fact that there are conificting accounts of Carneades' doctrine on the suspension of judgment (epoche), one stemming from Clitomachus, the pupil of Carneades, the other from Metrodorus. According to Clitomachus the epoche can be understood as meaning that the wise man affirms nothing, or it can mean that the wise man, while affirming nothing, prefers certain representations as being more likely. In action, of course, the wise man must choose, but this does not entail having opinions or giving assent to what is not certain. According to Metrodorus, on the other hand, Carneades did not hesitate to give assent to representations which are not certain. Thus, following Metrodorus, Carneades would apear in a midway position with respect to Arcesilaus and the Stoics. These would agree that the wise man gives his assent only to true representations and would disagree on whether there are any; Arcesilaus, feeling there are none, counseled a universal suspension. Metrodorus suggests that Cameades would let the suspension go and assent to what would be recognized as only opinions. It is this suspension of the suspension which seems to have led Carneades to his doctrine of the probable.

Sextus Empiricus reports that the probable was possessed of degrees.

And respecting the probable impressions they make distinctions: some they regard as just simply probable, others as probable and tested, others as probable, tested, and "irreversible." For example, when a rope is lying coiled up in a dark room, to one who enters hurriedly it presents the simply "probable" appearance of being a a serpent; but to the man who has looked carefully round and has investigated the conditions -- such as its immobility and its color, and each of its other peculiarities -- it appears as a rope, in accordance with an impression that is probable and tested. And the impression that is also "irreversible" or incontrovertible is of this kind. When Alcestis had died, Heracles, it is said, brought her up again from Hades and showed her to Admetus, who received an impression of Alcestis that was probable and tested; since, however, he knew that she was dead his mind recoiled from its assent and reverted to unbelief. So then the philosophers of the New Academy prefer the probable and tested impression to the simply probable, and to both of these the impression that is probable and tested and irreversible. (Outlines,I,227-9;Bury)

From the point of view of the subject, not all impressions are of equal value, some have more probability than others and can thus merit our assent. More importantly, what is called the probable seems to involve a whole nest of impressions and the degrees of probability seem to be read in terms of the compatibility of various impressions. It is thought that Carneades was not attempting to judge the relationship of impressions and external objects, so much as the subjective differences among impressions. At times we cannot put an impression to the test by comparing it with others; when we do have time for this, an incompatibility may emerge, or a compatibility, in terms of which what was originally probable becomes less or more so. The notion of the probable, of giving assent to what is recognized to be merely an opinion, does not seem to have been simply a response to the exigencies of the practical life. Whether it is a question of actions to be performed or of speculative positions, Carneades is able to examine them in terms of the probable and make his choice. In this way, for example, he can assent to the proposition that nothing is certain as to something probable and thereby avoid a difficulty.

In destroying, to his own satisfaction, the Stoic theory of knowledge, Carneades had toppled the whole system; nevertheless, as we have seen, he did go on to discuss its logic. It must also be said that he argued against the notion that the cosmos is an intelligent being, against the Stoic attributions of divinity and acceptance of the popular gods and against the notion of fate or providence.

E. Some Later Sceptics

The immediate successor of Carneades as head of the Academy was Clitomachus, followed by Philo of Larisa who was listened to in Rome by Cicero in 87 B.C. The successor of Philo, Antiochus, rejects scepticism, attempts to reconcile Platonism and Aristotelianism and, according to Cicero, is in reality the most authentic Stoic, meaning doubtless a Stoic of the stripe of Panaetius and Posidonius. With the death of Antiochus, the Academy ceases to have adherents at Athens, according to Cicero; its immediate continuation in the Greek world is to be found at Alexandria in Egypt. At the end of this chapter we will give a brief indication of the subsequent history of the Platonic Academy.

We shall not be detained by the difficulties which attend any attempt to trace the history of the Sceptic school after Timon of Phlius. We have already seen that Pyrrhonism was fairly effectively usurped by the Academy and that it flourished there until the time of Antiochus. Diogenes Laertius (IX, 116) suggests a continuity of heads of the Sceptic school, but scholars are agreed that acceptance of this chronology involves insuperable difficulties. Accordingly, we shall content ourselves with a brief mention of two of the most important later Sceptics, each of them separated by a large temporal gap from one another and from the earliest non-Academic sceptics.

1) Aenesidemus of Cnossus

Very little is known of the life of Aenesidemus; a good deal is known of his teachings. A native of Cnossus, on Crete, he is thought to have been alive in the first century before Christ. He taught at Alexandria in Egypt. He was the author of Pyrrhonian Discourses, Against Wisdom, On Inquiry and perhaps several other works. We possess information of the content of the Discourses. Aenesidemus is intent on showing that scepticism and the Academy must not be confused; the Platonists are essentially dogmatists, he feels, whereas the sceptic is never certain that something is true or not true. He always and everywhere suspends judgment.

Aenesidemus argued against the possibility of truth, causality and proof, and is famous for his doctrine of the ten tropes, or modes by which suspension of judgment can be brought about. As to truth, he argues that it cannot be sensible, cannot be intelligible and cannot be both. (Cf. Sextus, Ad. Log. II, 40-47) His arguments against causality consist in showing that body cannot cause body, nor the incorporeal the incorporeal, nor can body cause the incorporeal or vice versa. (Sextus, Ad. Phys. I, 218-226) Various arguments against the possibility of proof which are set forth by Sextus Empiricus are taken, as by De Vogel{50} to have Aenesidemus as their source. The arguments against proof attempt to show that the propositions from which something is shown are themselves in need of proof and that, ultimately, the validity of proof itself is in need of proof. Nor will the sceptic accept the admission that not everything stands in need of proof nor can be proved.

But, say they, one ought not to ask for proof of everything, but accept some things by assumption, since the argument will not be able to go forward unless it be granted that there is something which is of itself trustworthy. But we shall reply, firstly, that there is no necessity for their dogmatic argumentations to go forward, fictitious as they are. And, further, to what conclusion will they proceed? for as apparent things merely establish the fact that they appear, and are not capable also of showing that they subsist, let us assume also that the premisses of the proof appear, and the conclusion likewise. But even so the matter in question will not be deduced, nor will the truth be introduced, so long as we abide by our bare assertion and our own affection. And the attempt to establish that apparent things not merely appear but also subsist is the act of men who are not satisfied with what is necessary for practical purposes but are eager also to assume hastily what is possible. (Sextus, Ad. Log., II, 367-8)

But, if assumption lies at the beginning, is what is assumed trustworthy because it is assumed, and if not, why say that the true is such by assumption?

The ten modes attributed to Aenesidemus have the same object as any sceptic device, to show that affirmation is as ungrounded as negation in the same matter. This leads to the suspension of judgment. Thus, appearances are opposed to objects of thought, or appearances to appearances, thoughts to thoughts. A tower appears round from a distance, square close up; the order of the heavens induces to a belief in providence, the sufferings of the good calls providence in question. Let us see how the ten modes of Aenesidemus operate.

(1) The first mode is based on the variety among animals, e.g., as to sense organs, some being more keen sighted than others, some having a more acute sense of smell. Thus, it would seem that when confronted with the same objects, they have different impressions. On what basis would preference be given to one impression over another?

(2) The second mode has to do with differences among men, on the assumption that, faced with the difficulties of the first mode, one retorted that the impressions of men are to be taken as normative. But are men so much alike? Some men sweat in the shade and shiver in the sun; some go a long time without water, others not. (3) The third mode is based on the differences between the senses: to sight, an apple is red; to taste, sweet, and so forth. The eye finds dimensions in a painting which touch does not; some things are pleasan.t to taste and not to smell, and vice versa.

(4) The fourth mode is based on differences of condition: things appear differently to us depending on whether we are well or ill, sleeping or awake, young or old, happy or sad, etc.

(5) The fifth mode relies on the different customs of men with respect to what is beautiful or ugly, good or bad, true or false. A Persian father may marry his daughter while this shocks the Greek.

(6) The sixth mode takes its rise from the fact that a color differs in moonlight, sunlight and lamplight; that a stone in water can be moved by one man, while two are needed to lift it on land.

(7) The seventh mode proceeds by observing that in different positions and from different distances things appear differently (e.g. the sun at rising, at noon, at sundown), and concludes that we never know them as they are in themselves.

(8) The eighth mode notes how the properties of things are said to vary in quantity and quality: thus what is hot or cold is not absolute, but relative to us and our condition, as is the amount of wine which is healthful.

(9) The ninth mode points out that things are called rare for subjective reasons. For some, earthquakes are rare occurences, for others usual.

(10) The tenth mode has to do with relatives of all kinds, and suggests that, since we can know them only with reference to something else, we cannot know them in themselves.

Sextus Empiricus devotes much time to these modes (Outlines, I 36-163), which he lists in a slightly different order than that of Diogenes Laertius whose order we have followed. Sextus feels these tropes are based on differences in the judging subject, on variances in the object, or on both, and he groups the tropes accordingly.

2) Sextus Empiricus

Sextus Empiricus is thought to have lived in the second century of our era; he was head of the Sceptic school, a physician (hence the Empiricus, denoting a particular approach to that art). it is difficult to say where he lived; he exhibits knowledge of Rome, Athens and Alexandria. For our purposes, his main interest is the fact that he is our primary source for the Sceptic school in general. As it happens, his summary of sceptic attacks on the Stoics makes him a source for Stoic doctrine as well. We shall confine our comment here to the purely bibliographical level. This is justified in any case, since Sextus is primarily a compiler of the teachings of the school he represents and we have been relying on him heavily for that teaching.

The surviving works of Sextus can be thought of as two in number, Outlines of Pyrrhonism and Adversus Mathematicos. The latter is often subdivided, as in the Loeb Classical Library edition by Bury, something which makes references hard to verify by the beginner when equivalences are not given. In that edition, volume one contains the Outlines; volume two contains two books "Against the Logicians" which are books VII and VIII Adversus Mathematicos, respectively, the first six books being found in volume four. Volume three contains two books "Against the Physicists" (IX and X of Adversus Mathematicos) and a book "Against the Ethicists" (XI).

F. The Subsequent History of the Academy

With Antiochus, the identification of the Academy with Scepticism ceased and his eclectic efforts to show the fundamental agreement of Stoicism, Aristotelianism and Platonism was carried on at Alexandria, whence Antiochus had gone to Athens to succeed Philo as head of the school. The Athenian Academy seems to have broken up after the death of Antiochus, but his influence remained with what is called the eclectic Academy in Alexandria under the leadership of Eudorus (c. 25 B.C.) Eudorus is thought possibly to have written a commentary on the Timaeus and on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, as well as a work against the Categories of the latter. He is also said to have written a work on the division of philosophy. Eudorus was responsible for a new edition of the dialogues of Plato, arranged in tetralogies, as well as a collected edition of Democritus.

Perhaps the most famous of later Platonists is Plutarch of Chaeronia (45 A.D. - c. 125 A.D.) in Boetia. He studied in Athens and possibly in Alexandria, returned to his home town to what appears to have been a leisurely life, although he gave lectures. Plutarch went to Rome in 90 A.D. on public business and lectured in Rome; the lectures were later published as the Moralia. Once more at Chaeronia, he wrote his Parallel Lives of Illustrious Greeks and Romans. Plutarch was a deeply religious man and was a priest of Apollo at Delphi. His Lives have exerted great influence, not least because they are a source for many of Shakespeare's plays. Plutarch is regarded as a forerunner of Neoplatonism. As against the Stoics who identified God with the world, Plutarch teaches God's transcendence. Only God truly is, since he is unchangeable; so too only God is truly one. God is the highest principle and is goodness; to account for evil in the world, Plutarch introduces a principle other than God. Moreover, he introduces various daimons or spirits as intermediaries between God and man. In his ethics, Plutarch gives love of one's fellow men, philanthropy, as the sum of the virtues.

In speaking of the Academy of the second century of our era, we are no longer speaking of a group of men at Athens; some Academicians were at Athens, of course, e.g. Atticus, but of equal if not greater importance are such men as Albinus and Theon of Smyrna and Gaius; at Alexandria there was, perhaps, Celsus, who made a written attack on Christianity, and Ammonius Saccas, a Christian and teacher of Plotinus. Maximus of Tyre was teaching philosophy at Rome during this period. Apuleius of Madaura expounded the Platonic philosophy in a number of works written in Latin. Though some of these men are doubtless of some importance, that importance is eclipsed by Neoplatonism.

{48} Bevan, Stoics and Sceptics (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1959).

{49} Victor Brochard, Les Sceptiques Grecs (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1932), pp. 133-4.

{50} C. J. DeVogel, Greek Philosophy, Vol. III, (Leiden: Brill, 1959), pp. 221ff.

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