Thursday, December 9, 2010

Workshop on Ancient Skepticism

Josef Moural has organized a workshop on ancient skepticism which will be held in Prague on December 18th. Here is the program:

10 a.m.

Mauro Bonazzi (Università degli Studi di Milano): "Plutarch on the Difference between Academics and Pyrrhonists."

Markus Lammenranta (University of Helsinki): "Agrippa's Problem."

(12-13:30 lunch break)

Josef Moural (Universita J. E. Purkyně, Ústí nad Labem): "What Kind of Investigation the Pyrrhonist Continues to Pursue after the epochê."

Baptiste Bondu (Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre): "What Kind of Subjectivity Does the Sceptical phainomenon Involve in Sextus' Texts?" Update: the new title of this paper is: "What Kind of Experience Does Sextus Empiricus Accept for the Sceptic?"

The Workshop takes place in room 342 of the Celetná building of the Faculty of Philosophy, Charles University, Prague (Celetná 20, 110 00 Praha 1). Those interested in attending must contact Josef Moural at this address.


  1. “What Kind of Subjectivity Does the Sceptical phainomenon Involve in Sextus’ Texts?”

    Since in Sextus τὰ φαινόμενα are ‘those things that there manifestly are’ and not ‘those things that there apparently are’, fingers crossed his answer will be ‘none – no kind of subjectivity is involved’.

    I remember that last year, in Durham, I had an interesting conversation late at night at a pub with a couple of guys after delivering a paper on the Modes of Agrippa. One of them was an Italian graduate history student and the other had studied philosophy at Oxford in the eighties and was deeply influenced by Wittgenstein and (to a lesser degree) by Michael Frede’s “urbane” interpretation of Sextus’ Pyrrhonism.

    The urbane neo-Pyrrhonian Wittgensteinian would be me.

    ὅταν δὲ ζητῶμεν, εἰ τοιοῦτον ἔστι τὸ ὑποκείμενον ὁποῖον φαίνεται, τὸ μὲν ὅτι φαίνεται δίδομεν, ζητοῦμεν δ' οὐ περὶ τοῦ φαινομένου ἀλλὰ περὶ ἐκείνου ὃ λέγεται περὶ τοῦ φαινομένου· τοῦτο δὲ διαφέρει τοῦ ζητεῖν περὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ φαινομένου. [Πυῤῥώνειοι ὑποτύπωσεις αʹ. ιʹ εἰ ἀναιροῦσι τὰ φαινόμενα οἱ σκεπτικοί. (7.5-9=PH.]

    Es ist uns, als müßten wir die Erscheinungen durchschauen: unsere Untersuchung aber richtet sich nicht auf die Erscheinungen, sondern, wie man sagen könnte, auf die ›Möglichkeiten‹ der Erscheinungen. Wir besinnen uns, heißt das, auf die Art der Aussagen, die wir über die Erscheinungen machen. [Philosophische Untersuchungen. (1.90.1-4).]

  2. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for your comment. Regarding your urbane neo-Pyrrhonian Wittgensteinism (so to speak), I believe that the Sextan passage you quote doesn't support the Frede interpretation. I think (in agreement with Fine and Perin) that the Pyrrhonist only has beliefs (dogmata) about "the way he is appeared to", i.e., about his own phainomena: "This appears such and such to me now" or "I'm appeared to now in such and such a way". But none of this implies that he has ordinary beliefs about what is objectively the case.

    On a different note, the parallelism between the Sextan and the Wittgensteinian passages is remarkable. Do you know whether it has been discussed somewhere?

  3. Diego

    The Sextan text I quote may not of itself support an urbane reading, but then I think Frede’s urbane reading insufficiently urbane anyway. If I ever get round to it, I’ll develop this ultra-urbane reading, which I think both passages do (in part) support.

    I don’t recall having read any discussion of the similarities between the two, though on the off-chance Fogelin (1994) or his piece in Sinnott-Armstrong (2004) seem a likely first port of call.

    Looking forward to reading your forthcoming Springer and Brill volumes.


  4. Hi Mark,

    "Insufficiently urbane"... intriguing. I'll be interested in reading anything you write about this.

    I'll reread Hans Sluga's paper on Wittgenstein and Pyrrhonism in Sinnott-Armstrong (2004); perhaps he says something about that.