In this article, I tackle an heretofore unnoticed difficulty with the application of Pyrrhonian scepticism to scientific definitions. Sceptics can suspend belief regarding a dogmatic proposition only by setting up opposing arguments or considerations for and against that proposition. Since Sextus provides arguments exclusively against particular geometrical definitions in Adversus MathematicosIII, commentators have argued that Sextus’ method is not scepticism, but negative dogmatism. However, commentators have overlooked the fact that arguments or considerations in favour of particular geometrical definitions were absent in ancient geometry, and hence unavailable to Sextus. While this might explain why they are also absent from Sextus’ text, I survey and evaluate various strategies to supply arguments in support of particular geometrical definitions.
I offer an examination of a core element in the reflectiveness of Heraclitus’ thought, namely, his rebuke of polymathy. In doing so, I provide a response to a recent claim that Heraclitus should not be considered to be a philosopher, by attending to his paradigmatically philosophical traits. Regarding Heraclitus’ attitude to that naïve form of ‘wisdom’, i.e., polymathy, I argue that he does not advise avoiding experience of many things, rather, he advises rejecting experience of things as merely many independent things in their manifoldness, and, instead, to understand their unity and thereby to unify our knowledge of them.
Pyrrhonian inquiry responds to the hope of intellectual tranquillity, and aims at the achievement and maintenance of said tranquillity. According to the Tranquillity Charge, philosophical inquiry aims at the truth; hence, insofar as Pyrrhonian inquiry aims at tranquillity, it does not qualify as philosophical inquiry. Furthermore, Pyrrhonian philanthropy rests on the Partisan Premise, i.e. the claim that all philosophers aim at the removal of psychological disturbance. I show that the origin-story of Pyrrhonism evades the Tranquillity Charge, and that the Partisan Premise is not as partisan as it seems. Unlike previous attempts, my reconstruction preserves all tranquillity-related features of Sextan Pyrrhonism.
Epictetus’ Enchiridion ends with a paradox—that the methods one learns to do philosophy have results contrary to one’s reasons to do philosophy. One comes to philosophy to improve one’s life, to live with wisdom. This requires that one find truths to live in light of, and in order to find those truths, one must perfect one’s reason. And to perfect one’s reason, one must attend to technical details of reasoning and metaphysics. The trouble is, in attending to these technical details, we develop the capacity for rationalization and find ways to prevent our journey to wisdom. Because we are not wise, we misuse the tools of wisdom. And so the Stoic methodological priority of learning logic first has a downstream consequence of standing in the way of what is of first importance for Stoic philosophy, the life of wisdom. The Enchiridion closes with the reminder that Stoic program must proceed in light of mitigating this conflict of methodological and valuational priority.
The aim of this paper is to show how Outlines of Pyrrhonism II constitutes an original, ambitious, and unified skeptical inquiry into logic. My thesis is that Sextus’ argument in Book II is meant to accomplish both its stated goal (to investigate the topics typically grouped together by dogmatists under the heading of “logic”) and an unstated goal. The unstated goal is, in my view, interesting in itself and sheds new light on Sextus’ methodology. The goal is: to suspend judgement on the effectiveness of dogmatic methodologies.
Aristotle tells us that the Nicomachean Ethics is an “inquiry” and an “investigation” (methodos and zētēsis). This paper focuses on an under-appreciated way that the work is investigative: its employment of an exploratory investigative strategy—that is, its frequent positing of, and later revision or even rejection of, merely preliminary positions. Though this may seem like a small point, this aspect of the work’s methodology has important consequences for how we should read it—specifically, we should be open to the possibility that some contradictions in the text are the result of his employment of this investigative strategy. In the paper, I describe this investigative strategy, discuss what motivates Aristotle to employ it in the work, and go through three contradictions that are plausibly identified as examples of its use—specifically, his claims that courageous people do and do not fear death, that friendship is and is not mutually recognized goodwill, and that virtuous people do and do not choose noble actions for their own sake.
What is the relation, in Plato, between the account of knowledge and the account of inquiry? Is the account of knowledge independent of the account of inquiry? These strike me as important, even pressing, questions. While so much work has been done on Plato’s account of knowledge, and quite a lot is being done on his account of inquiry, I know of only the odd critic who has considered the two together. It is remarkable that critics have generally treated of the two topics—Plato’s account of knowledge and his account of inquiry—as if they were separate. This suggests critics have been tacitly supposing that, for Plato, the account of knowledge is independent of the account of inquiry. In this paper, I pose these questions, and take them up for investigation. I argue that Plato’s account of knowledge is not independent of his account of inquiry; on the contrary, Plato’s account of knowledge cannot be understood if separated from his account of inquiry. I do so, in this paper, with reference to the Phaedo exclusively.
This article treats of whether scepticism, in particular Pyrrhonian scepticism, can be said to deploy a method of any kind. I begin by distinguishing various different notions of method, and their relations to the concept of expertise (section 1). I then (section 2) consider Sextus’s account, in the prologue to Outlines of Pyrrhonism, of the Pyrrhonist approach, and how it supposedly differs from those of other groups, sceptical and otherwise. In particular, I consider the central claim that the Pyrrhonist is a continuing investigator (section 3), who in spite of refusing to be satisfied with any answer (or none), none the less still achieves tranquillity, and whether this can avoid being presented as a method for so doing, and hence as compromising the purity of sceptical suspension of commitment (section 4). In doing so, I relate—and contrast—the Pyrrhonists’ account of their practice to the ‘Socratic Method’ (section 5), as well as to the argumentative practice of various Academics (section 6), and assess their claim in so doing to be offering a way of instruction (section 7). I conclude (section 8) that there is a consistent and interesting sense in which Pyrrhonian scepticism can be absolved of the charge that it incoherently, and crypto-dogmatically, presents itself as offering a method for achieving an intrinsically desirable goal.
I begin this paper with a puzzle: why is Plato’s Parmenides replete with references to Gorgias? While the Eleatic heritage and themes in the dialogue are clear, it is less clear what the point would be of alluding to a well-known sophist. I suggest that the answer has to do with the similarities in the underlying methods employed by both Plato and Gorgias. These similarities, as well as Plato’s recognition of them, suggest that he owes a more significant philosophical and methodological debt to sophists like Gorgias than is often assumed. Further evidence from Plato and Xenophon suggest that Socrates used this very same method, which I call ‘exploring both sides’. I distinguish this Socratic method and its sophistic counterpart in terms of structure, internal aim, and external aim. Doing so allows for a more nuanced understanding of their similarities and differences. It also challenges the outsized role that popular caricatures of philosophical and sophistic method have had on our understanding of their relationship.