In fragments of the lost Protrepticus, preserved in Iamblichus, Aristotle responds to Isocrates’ worries about the excessive demandingness of theoretical philosophy. Contrary to Isocrates, Aristotle holds that such philosophy is generally feasible for human beings. In defense of this claim, Aristotle offers the progress argument, which appeals to early Greek philosophers’ rapid success in attaining exact understanding. In this paper, I explore and evaluate this argument. After making clarificatory exegetical points, I examine the argument’s premises in light of pressing worries that the argument reasonably faces in its immediate intellectual context, the dispute between Isocrates and Aristotle. I also relate the argument to modern concerns about philosophical progress. I contend that the argument withstands these worries, and thereby constitutes a reasonable Aristotelian response to the Isocratean challenge.
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.