Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cambridge 2

Yesterday, I gave my talk at the B Club. The audience in general didn't seem persuaded by my arguments whereas a couple of people found that what I claimed was so obvious that there was no point in writing a paper :-D But all in all, the experience was positive (at least for me).

Today and tomorrow I'll deliver two papers at the Department of Classics and Ancient History of Durham University. I hope they won't find my skeptical outlook too odd.


  1. Hi Diego

    Thanks again for the paper. I think the deflationists wanted to say that something like the following is the obvious thing to think. Sextus (S.) should just be read as assuming something like the following.

    S: ‘(i) It appears to me that [PNC] and (ii) it appears to me that it appears to you that [PNC], (iii) so let’s get into a discussion of your unfortunate dogmatism.’

    Is that enough to allow all of what we find in Sextus?

    I think there might be two reasons to think not. First, you might think (i) needs to be stronger. What reason might S have for it merely appearing to him that PNC?

    Well, perhaps it is because in some cases (ii) does not hold, that is, in some cases it appears to him that it does not appear to his opponent that [PNC]. This might be the second reason to think that the opening phrase is not sufficient: sometimes he is discussing with people for whom it appears that it does not appear to them that [PNC].

    In both ways, I wonder if an Aristotle-like critic would argue that what emerges is that PNC must be presupposed.

    Even to suspend judgement on PNC I must accept that PNC applies to the pair of propositions: PNC and not-PNC. Perhaps S would say he will suspend judgment on the question whether (PNC or not-PNC) or (PNC and not-PNC). But to do that he must equally accept that PNC applies to the pair: ((PNC or not-PNC) and (PNC and not-PNC)). And so on…

    Anyway, I'm sure you've other things to think about. Glad to meet you properly at last.

  2. Hi James,

    Yes, indeed, it was a pleasure to finally meet in person. And yes, I did get the sense of both Schofield's and (especially) Burnyeat's remarks. But, as you yourself point out, there's much more to be said than that.

    First of all, quite a few people defend an epistemic or judgmental interpretation of a considerable number of the Pyrrhonit's appearance-claims.

    Second, one must offer a coherent account of both the Pyrrhonist's use of the Dogmatic versions of the PNC and of the sui generis way in which he may observe this principle. And particularly this second task is not an easy one, and that is what I tried to do in the paper.

    Finally, quite a few scholars have claimed that Pyrrhonits must at least endorse the PNC. I tried, first, to show that there is textual support for the claim that Sextus does not rule out the possibility that the PNC may be false. And, second, that the Pyrrhonist need not accept the PNC in order to maintain his suspension of judgment. In this respect, one has to offer an account that successfully answers the objection you raise in your comment.

    I don't know if I succeeded in my endeavor. But I'm quite sure that this topic needs careful consideration.