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Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405139007.2010.x


A sceptical school in ancient Greek philosophy, which traced its origins to Pyrrho of Elis ( c .365–270 bc). Pyrrhonists together with Academic sceptics account for a strong tradition of scepticism in the Hellenistic period of Greek philosophy. Pyrrho himself wrote nothing, but through the satirical poetry of his pupil Timon of Phlius he became legendary for his disdainful attitude toward speculative philosophy and for the detachment and simplicity of his way of life. This anti-theoretical orientation, and the practical view of philosophy as a way of life leading to ataraxia ( see ATARAXIA ), became two important characteristics of Pyrrhonian scepticism. After the death of Timon, Pyrrho's sceptical ideas seem not to have been revived until the first century bc, when they were adopted by a radical sceptic from the Academy under Philo of Larissa. Aenesidemus, dissatisfied with the scepticism of the Fourth Academy, which had become increasingly dogmatic and influenced by Stoic views ( see STOIC EPISTEMOLOGY ), broke away from it to form his own school of scepticism, claiming Pyrrho as its founder. Aenesidemus built upon the anti-speculative foundation of Pyrrhonian scepticism by formulating arguments against all dogmatic philosophies, while giving particular attention to refuting the Stoics. He also compiled all the sceptical arguments known to Greek philosophers and grouped them ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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