6
SEXTUS EMPIRICUS

We do not know where Sextus Empiricus lived, but he did write in Greek and lived around the year 200. We know next to nothing about his life except that he was the compiler and historian of ancient Skepticism, especially the teachings of Pyrrho (c. 360–270 B.C.) and the philosophy named after him, Pyrrhonism. Whereas the Academic Skeptics (the school originally founded by Plato) followed Socrates (who asserted that he knew only one thing— that he knew nothing) in claiming certainty about their lack of knowledge, the Pyrrhonists claimed that we could not even know that we knew nothing. For Sextus, “Skepticism is an ability to place in antithesis, in any manner whatever, appearances and judgments, and thus—because equality of force in the objects and arguments opposed—to come first of all to suspension of judgment and then to mental tranquillity.”

Skeptics accept appearances, but not positive beliefs. Appearances of the way the world is are passive aspects of perceptions. One is forced, involuntarily, to see the world the way one does, but the skeptic actively refuses to draw conclusions from this regarding real existence. “While living undogmatically, we pay due respect to appearances.”

Using a device called tropes (modes of balancing arguments), Skeptics called attention to the relativity and undecidability of beliefs and explanations. For every physical or nonphysical state of affairs there were innumerable possibilities for its explanation, and there is no reason to suppose that we can know which is the correct explanation. While they conceded similarities in some appearances, they doubted whether these similarities led to essential knowledge. “It appears to us that honey is sweet. This we concede, for we experience sweetness through sensation. We doubt, however, whether it is sweet by reason of its essence, which is not a question of the appearance, but of that which is asserted of the appearance.” They pointed out that animals and humans perceived things differently and that among humans enormous differences existed in judgment, evaluation, taste, ability, and habits. “Different men take delight in different deeds” and “If fair and wise meant both the same to all, Dispute and strife would be no more.”

Different philosophies and religions offer equally dogmatic accounts of the origin of life and the nature of reality. There is relativity of knowledge and custom, so that it is impossible to decide the truth on these matters—or any matter. This inherent undecidability leads to a state of confusion. Here the Skeptics advised withholding assent or dissent regarding any opinion. The term they coined for this suspension of judgment was Epoche, a state of purposefully refusing to have an opinion on metaphysical matters. It was not that they denied the gods or the soul, but they refused to assent either to their existence or nonexistence. They espoused a deliberate agnosticism. Doubt all! Maintain an inner aphasia (silence) on metaphysical matters! Doubt, thus characterized as the purgation or laxative of the soul, cleanses the soul of the excrescences that befoul it. Ultimately, the Skeptics thought and claimed to have reached Ataraxia (tranquillity or imperturbability of soul), their version of peace of mind.

-374-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Classics of Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Time Line xi
  • Part One - The Ancient Period 1
  • 1: The Pre-Socratics 3
  • 2: Plato 20
  • 3: Aristotle 240
  • 4: Epicurus 357
  • 5: Epictetus 363
  • 6: Sextus Empiricus 374
  • 7: Plotinus 391
  • Part Two - The Medieval Period 405
  • 8: Augustine 407
  • 9: Boethius 447
  • 10: Avicenna 455
  • 11: Anselm and Gaunilo 458
  • 12: Thomas Aquinas 462
  • 13: William of Ockham 486
  • Part Three - The Modern Period 493
  • 14: RenÉ Descartes 495
  • 15: Thomas Hobbes 525
  • 16: Blaise Pascal 566
  • 17: Baruch Spinoza 570
  • 18: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 618
  • 19: John Locke 652
  • 20: George Berkeley 690
  • 21: William Paley 723
  • 22: David Hume 726
  • 23: Immanuel Kant 819
  • 24: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 914
  • 25: SØren Kierkegaard 922
  • 26: Mary Wollstonecraft 935
  • 27: John Stuart Mill 942
  • 28: Friedrich Nietzsche 1030
  • Part Four - The Contemporary Period 1059
  • 29: W. K. Clifford 1061
  • 30: Charles Sanders Peirce 1066
  • 31: William James 1076
  • 32: Bertrand Russell 1100
  • 33: G. E. Moore 1142
  • 34: Ludwig Wittgenstein 1150
  • 35: Edmund Husserl 1168
  • 36: Martin Heidegger 1185
  • 37: Jean-Paul Sartre 1207
  • 38: A. J. Ayer 1225
  • 39: Thomas Nagel 1234
  • 40: Philippa Foot 1242
  • 41: Nelson Goodman 1249
  • 42: John Rawls 1254
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 1272

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.