Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Call for Papers

I've just received this information about a conference that will take place next year:

Papers are invited for presentation on the topic “Scepticism between Science, Literature and Philosophy”, for a one-day workshop in the frame of the 12th International Conference of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas (ISSEI).

The conference will be held at Çankaya University, Ankara, Turkey, on August 2-6, 2010.

Please submit an abstract (one page) by January 1st, 2010 to:

Sébastien Charles (Université de Sherbrooke, Canada):

Speakers will have 20 to 30 minutes to present their papers in English or French (exact time to be confirmed, depending of the number of papers accepted).

Presentation of the workshop:

The analysis of the revival of scepticism in early modern times, which was done notably by Richard Popkin, has shown the importance of the sceptic figure in order to better understand early modern philosophy. In particular, it has shown the real function of Cartesianism, which was the most prodigious war machine against sceptical philosophy. But the diffusion of scepticism at that time was larger than the philosophical field; it also touched literature and science, creating new problems and hypotheses. In fact, scepticism was one of the major problems and matters of interest of the République des lettres. Given these conditions, the way in which literature presented the sceptic figure still needs exploring. It is well-known, for instance, that Molière made comical use of the sceptic’s suspension of judgement. What other representations can we find of this figure in early modern literature? And how was scepticism addressed by a science that pretended to reach a universal truth? A specific focus on such major figures of scepticism in early modern times as Montaigne, Gassendi, Huet, La Mothe le Vayer, or Bayle, could help us answer these two questions and understand the nature and function of scepticism in regard to literature and science. For example, by insisting on the relativity of customs and habits, the sceptics have forced writers to take into account other cultures, and even to write in favour of them. And by evoking the difficulty to find the truth, even for modern scientists, they have encouraged scholars to adopt a probabilistic conception of science, which has some relation to later empiricism. In this perspective, scepticism is crucial to our comprehension of early modern times, and it is important to deal with other aspects than just the philosophical ones in order to better evaluate its impact on this time-period.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sextus's Adversus Dogmaticos III-IV

Back in BA; I hope some day I'll learn how to sleep on planes. Anyway, I think some of you might be interested to know that Richard Bett (Johns Hopkins) is working on a new English translation of Sextus Empiricus's Against the Physicists (=Adversus Dogmaticos III-IV or, as some prefer, Adversus Mathematicos IX-X). The book is under contract with Cambridge University Press, which already published Annas & Barnes' translation of the Pyrrhonian Outlines in 2000, and Bett's translation of Against the Logicians in 2005.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

'Dossier' on Skepticism

Last night I came back to Rome and tomorrow I'm leaving for BA. Rome really is a beautiful city; particularly its downtown is a place of great charm and the traffic is less messy than I expected. I should probably add that its women are almost as pretty as those from BA ;)

But since I don't want this blog to turn into a kind of insufferable diary of my trip and since it is supposed to provide information on skepticism, here is something I've found thanks to Thomas Bénatouïl's "liste de diffusion" on ancient philosophy. The last issue of the Revue des études anciennes features a 'dossier' on skepticism entitled "Une tradition sceptique: la réception des Academica de Cicéron dans l'antiquité".

- Valéry Laurand, "Énésidème et l'Académie: les pièges d'un langage sans horizon".

- Carlos Lévy, "Favorinus et les Academica".

- Sophie van der Meeren, "Lactance et les Academica de Cicéron: citations et polémiques".

- Emmanuel Bermon, "'Contra Academicos vel de Academicis' (Retract. I, 1): saint Augustin et les Academica de Cicéron".

- Anne-Isabelle Bouton, "Augustin lecteur de Cicéron dans le contra Academicos".

The table of contents can be found here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Durham 2

I gave my last talk here in Europe. I'm quite satisfied with the discussion because it allowed me to clarify some aspects of my interpretation of Agrippan Pyrrhonism and of ancient Pyrrhonism more generally. I also met some interesting people who know Sextus' texts quite well, who have studied other kinds of skepticism, and who have their own skeptical outlooks. We had the opportunity to have a vehement and enriching discussion over dinner. All in all, my trip has been a little exhausting but highly rewarding.

Durham 1

While in Cambridge I gave a talk on the principle of non-contradiction, yesterday in Durham I gave a talk on Pyrrhonian relativism (the same paper delivered in Rome several days ago). There was vigorous discussion with Luca Castagnoli and particularly with George Boys-Stones, which I enjoyed very much. Today I'll deliver a paper on Agrippan Pyrrhonism in which I also examine contemporary interpretations of the Five Modes. This will give me the opportunity to test the soundness of my arguments.

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.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I've been in Cambridge for three days now. It's a nice small city which seems ideal if one wants to do research, but I imagine that it must be a little difficult to live here if one comes from a big city. In a way, Cambridge reminds me of Fribourg in Switzerland.

Something that has called my attention is that there seem to be more Italians than British over here. Cambridge looks like an Italian colony.

I've had the chance to get my hands on a copy of a paper published some years ago, namely: Lorenzo Corti's "Scale pirroniane: ouden mallon in Sesto Empirico", Dianoia 7 (2002).

Finally, tomorrow I'll give a talk at the B Club (Cambridge's ancient philosophy society). It will be an interesting experience.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Forthcoming Book on Sextus

Lorenzo Corti's book Scepticisme et langage is forthcoming at Vrin next month. For information, go here.

Update: the link isn't working properly. I don't know why after a few seconds it redirects to another book which touches on skepticism. Anyway, if you write "lorenzo corti" on the search box, you'll find the book.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Italian Scholarship

Today I was lucky enough to get some scholarly books in Italian, two of which are key to the study of ancient skepticism, namely:

G. Giannantoni (ed.), Lo scetticismo antico (Atti del convegno organizzato dal Centro di studio del pensiero antico del C.N.R., Roma, 5-8 novembre 1980), 2 vols. Napoli: Bibliopolis, 1981.

E. Spinelli (trans.), Sesto Empirico: Contro gli astrologi. Napoli: Bibliopolis, 2000.

Probably some of you already know these books; those of you who don't and can find them in your university libraries, take a look at them. There are other books on ancient skepticism that have been published by Bibliopolis; you can find them here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sextus and Time

In the past couple of days, I had the opportunity to read two papers on Sextus' discussion of time written by Francesco Verde (Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza"), namely:

"Sul 'concetto' di tempo nella critica scettica", Paradigmi 2 (2009): 169-179.

"La 'sostanza' del tempo: linee di una polemica scettica antica", Bollettino della Società Filosofica Italiana 190 (2007): 21-34.

Conference - Day 2

The second day of the conference was very useful to me because Emidio Spinelli and I presented papers on Sextan Pyrrhonism and we had the opportunity to discuss them with other participants. So far my stay in Rome has been rewarding.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Roman Conference - Day 1

Yesterday we had the first day of the conference "Logos, episteme, praxis", which is taking place at the Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza". We heard six papers. Regarding skepticism, the last talk by Riccardo Chiaradonna gave us the opportunity to discuss some issues related to the problem of the criterion in Galen and Sextus. I'm writing this now because I'm still jet-lagged, but I hope I won't stay awake for the third night in a row.


In a post last April, I referred to the publication of Wilfried Kühn's Quel savoir après le scepticisme: Plotin et ses prédécesseurs sur la connaissance de soi (Vrin, 2009). A review of this book has just appeared in Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

Monday, October 5, 2009


On Wednesday, I'm leaving for Italy and then England, so I'm not sure how often I'll post on the blog. I'll present four papers on subjects I've been working on, which will give me to the opportunity to discuss with specialists and see if my papers stand up to scrutiny.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Review in Rhizai

The latest issue of the ancient philosophy journal Rhizai features Máté Veres' fine review of two books on skepticism published in 2008, namely: Carlos Lévy's Les scepticismes and Markus Gabriel's Antike und moderne Skepsis zur Einführung (Rhizai VI.1 (2009), 107-114). Unfortunately, the journal's web page is not updated.