I defend the view that Cicero writes the Academica from the perspective of an aspirationalist radical skeptic. In section 2 I examine the textual evidence regarding the nature of Cicero’s skeptical stance in the Academica. In section 3 I consider the textual evidence from the Academica for attributing aspirationalism to Cicero. Finally, in section 4 I argue that while aspirationalist radical skepticism is open to a number of philosophical objections, none of those objections is decisive.
According to Plato’s Apology of Socrates, a humanly wise person is distinguished by her ability to correctly assess the epistemic status and value of her beliefs. She knows when she has knowledge or has mere belief or is ignorant. She makes no unjustified knowledge claims and considers her knowledge to be limited in scope and value. This means: A humanly wise person is intellectually modest. However, when interpreted classically, Socratic wisdom cannot be modest. For in classical epistemic logic, modelling second-order knowledge of knowing something or not, i.e. positive and negative introspection, requires a degree of self-transparency that would at most be attributed to an omniscient and infallible agent. If intellectual modesty is part of Socratic wisdom, we have to look for another epistemic model. I will offer three proposals and argue that an intuitionist reading of the classical concept of knowledge is best suited for this purpose.