The Skeptic Way : Sextus Empiricus's Outlines of Pyrrhonism
The writings of Sextus Empiricus, and especially his Pyrrhonism, have played a remarkably influential role in the history of Western philosophy. Their rediscovery and publication in the sixteenth and seventeenth century led directly to the skepticism of Montaigne, Gassendi, Descartes, Bayle, and other major thinkers, and eventually to the preoccupation of modern philosophy with attempts to refute or otherwise combat philosophical skepticism. In recent years, however, it has become apparent that Pyrrhonism-the form of skepticism professed by Sextus-is in several important aspects different from the modern forms to which his writings have given rise. These differences are of particular philosophical interest since they seem to render this ancient form of skepticism immune to many of the standard counter-arguments to skepticism. Accordingly, Mates's book, which includes an analytic introduction, a modern translation, and an in-depth commentary, presents Pyrrhonism not merely as a historical curiosity, but as a philosophical position worthy of serious consideration.
- Paperback | 352 pages
- 155.4 x 233.7 x 25.9mm | 547.41g
- 04 Jan 1996
- Oxford University Press Inc
- New York, United States
Back cover copy
The Outlines of Pyrrhonism, by the 2nd century A.D. Greek physician Sextus Empiricus was immensely influential in the history of Western philosophy. The rediscovery and publication of this work in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led directly to the skepticism of Montaigne, Gassendi, Bayle, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, and others, and eventually to the preoccupation of modern philosophy with attempts to refute or otherwise combat philosophical skepticism. In recent years, however, it has become apparent that Pyrrhonism is in several important respects quite different from the modem forms of skpticism to which the writings of Sextus have given rise. Some of these differences are of particular philosophic interest because they seem to render the ancient form immune to many of the standard responses that are made to skepticism today. In this book, which incorporates a new translation of the Outlines in their entirety, Benson Mates presents Pyrrhonism not as a mere historical curiosity, as has often been done, but as a philosophical position eminently worthy of serious philosophical consideration here and now. His thorough introduction sets the stage by explaining what Pyrrhonism is and what it is not, and by contrasting it in the relevant respects with modern skepticism. He gives particular attention to explicating a number of quasi-technical terms that occur frequently in the Outlines and have decisive bearing on the philosophical content. By rendering these terms more accurately and uniformly in his translation, he seeks to make the essential features of Sextus's Pyrrhonism more evident to the reader. The latter part of the book consists of a detailed Commentary, which endeavors todiscuss and explain the work, section by section, from a philosophical (as contrasted with a philological) point of view.
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