‘To Every Argument there is a
Metochites’ Defence of
Scepticism (Semeiosis 61)
The ontological and epistemological framework of the cogitations set forth in Theodore Metochites’ Semeioseis gnomikai (c.1326)1 could be described as a rough-hewn Platonist torso with a somewhat mismatched Christian head. On the pattern of the simile of the Divided Line (in Plato’s Republic), spatiotemporal things are conceived of as somehow flawed representations of the entities of a higher order, which alone are really real and which alone can be truly known. I do not propose to discuss here the ontological status ascribed to these higher-order entities within this framework. What I wish to call attention to is the fact that Metochites, in a number of chapters of the
This chapter was written and first presented in autumn and winter 1997. Since then a major study of Sceptical and anti-Sceptical ideas in 14th-cent. Byzantium has appeared, by Demetracopoulos (1999a), including a new critical edn. of Nicholas Kabasilas Chamaetos’ On the Criterion. The conclusions arrived at by Demetracopoulos are in pretty close agreement with those argued here concerning most of those questions discussed in both places. Demetracopoulos’ work is, however, more extensive in bulk as well as in scope, and it contains detailed discussions of a good many points which are only briefly touched upon here. I have added references to some of those discussions in notes. I have also signalled one or two points of some importance where Demetracopoulos and I seem to take divergent views. I would like to express my sincere thanks to those who have read and commented on various drafts of this chapter: the Greek Seminar at Goteborg University in autumn 1997; Beata Agrell; Monika Asztalos; John Demetracopoulos; the anonymous reader of Oxford University Press; Karin Hult; Kimmo Järvinen.
1 Since the first (and so far only) printed edn., this work has commonly been referred to as the Miscellanea philosophica et historica. There are, however, good indications that the author himself entitled it. See edn. by Agapitos et al. (1996: 21 n. 46).