73 - Healthy Skepticism: Sextus Empiricus

Posted on 25 March 2012

Sextus Empiricus, the last great ancient skeptic, expounds a radical branch of the tradition called Pyrrhonism. Peter raises some doubts about how to interpret him.

Further Reading

• J. Annas and J. Barnes (ed. and trans.), Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge: 2000).

• J. Barnes, The Toils of Scepticism (Cambridge: 1990).

• M.F. Burnyeat and M. Frede (eds), The Original Sceptics (Indianapolis: 1997).

• G. Striker, “The Ten Tropes of Aenesidemus,” in M.F. Burnyeat (ed.), The Skeptical Tradition (Berkeley: 1983), 95–115.

Stanford Encyclopedia: Ancient Skepticism


Well as I discussed in the episode Sextus' story is that he can just "follow the impressions" he has without actually endorsing them by assenting, and thus forming beliefs. So perhaps the idea is that, if he feels hungry he eats, without having any beliefs about whether this is a good thing to do or not, etc. There is a big debate in the secondary literature, which I also touched on, as to which beliefs exactly Sextus declines to form (all beliefs or only "philosophical" ones?).

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