By Philip Walsh (auth.)
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Extra resources for Skepticism, Modernity and Critical Theory
Arcesilaus’ tropes form the core of a skeptical doctrine that consistently stresses cultural differences over the nature of truth, justice and the good, pointing to divergences among geographically and historically separated peoples as the basis for maintaining a skeptical perspective. This perspective is characterized, above all, by a consistent rejection of beliefs as such. Cicero says of Arcesilaus: “it is possible for a man to hold no beliefs, and not just possible but actually essential to the wise man.
Pyrrho, in adopting and following this agoge therefore, lived ‘a life without belief’. He did not take disciples or formalize his teaching as a set of rules. His outlook was expressed in pithy phrases, such as ‘no more one than another’, or ‘I decide nothing’, or ‘everything is incomprehensible’, which may be understood as early formulations of the skeptical technique of epoch[ by which, in direct opposition to the Stoic idea of katalepsis, one ‘withholds assent’ from all appearances. The meaning and practice of epoch[ is subject to different interpretation by modern scholars; however, its distinction from the concepts of doubt and certainty Idealism, Metacritique and Ancient Skepticism 27 must here be emphasized, since this forms another principal site of the difference between ancient and modern skepticism.
It is the problem of understanding how it is possible to be nothing or what is not, how our minds can be exercised on falsehood, fictions and illusions. 1 For ancient skepticism, this worry narrows down to the problem of error, and how to develop the appropriate means of avoiding it. The fact that Cartesian doubt, unlike ancient skepticism, poses the external world as a problem registers the fact that world has to be explicitly objectified. 2 However, it can also be understood to point in the opposite direction, toward the increasing loss of the experience of the world, the problem of alienation as this was later made explicit by Hegel and Marx, and the concomitant sense, explored by Heidegger, that subjectivity has supervened over the priority of being.
Skepticism, Modernity and Critical Theory by Philip Walsh (auth.)