Pyrrhonism, or the idea of doing good, is an important aspect of Greek philosophy. But what does it really mean? How do we define good and bad? How does this compare to other ideas? Let’s look at a few key concepts in Greek philosophy to answer that question. In the process, you’ll discover what Pyrrhonism is all about, and perhaps find a better understanding of yourself.
As a part of the Stoic school of philosophy, Pyrrhonism focused on the insufficiency of external object knowledge. Hence the term aporia to describe the unsolvable paradox of an argument. In a similar vein, skepticism about aristotle’s “knowledge of God” was also a part of Pyrrhonism.
Pyrrhonists view philosophy as a way of life and strive to reach a state of epoche. To achieve this, they gather arguments from both sides of an issue, all of which are equally strong. Once this is done, they conclude that there is no way to resolve the dispute. Eventually, they develop epoche as an habitual response to all disputes.
Although Pyrrhonism is an important aspect of Greek philosophy, the philosophy of Aristocles and his followers were not always in agreement with each other. Aristocles’ Peri philosophias (which has several chapters) appears in the Praeparatio evangelica of Eusebius. While Aristocles attacks philosophies that impugn the cognitive faculties of the human mind, he appears unaware of the Pyrrhonist tradition.
As an idea in ancient Greece, Pyrrhonism is an ideal of skeptical thinking. In ancient Greece, the skeptic is defined as a person who is willing to suspend judgment after investigating a philosophy but without committing to a position. Sextus Empiricus’ Outlines of Pyrrhonism provides an outline of the philosophical tradition that would later grow into skepticism.
One of the main reasons why people are interested in Pyrrhonism is that Pyrrhonism is one of four basic ideas of Greek philosophy. Sextus lists laws and customs as one of the four appearances, and argues that certain courses of action will appear desirable if the mores of the people around you approve of it. Nonetheless, Pyrrho’s life is unconventional in some aspects.
Sextus makes an argument that everything is apprehended through itself or through another thing. This argument is controversial and undermines Pyrrhonism, as it requires the justification of every action, and demands regress ad infinitum. Sextus’ argument ultimately undermines the argument. It also implies that everything is apprehended through its own virtue, so there can be no justification of what one is apprehending.
For example, if a human being believes in a god, that person would believe in it even though it has no physical reality. The search for truth is a fruitless task, and is impossible unless the human being is capable of suspending judgment about the reliability of sense perceptions. And if man is to enjoy happiness, he must suspend his judgments about whether or not his sense perceptions are reliable.
The doctrines of Pyrrhonism are difficult to trace, largely because of the lack of writings of the author. However, the influence of Pyrrhonism can be seen in the development of later Greek philosophical movements. In fact, the philosophy of Pyrrhonism was so influential that it inspired a later sceptical tradition. It is also associated with later Stoicism.
The first Greek skepticism is attributed to Pyrrho of Elis, though there are a few questions regarding his actual thinking. Pyrrhonism was short-lived. Yet, it did influence Arcesilaus of Pitane, the first skeptical head of Plato’s Academy. Although he didn’t directly claim to be the founder of Pyrrhonism, he acknowledged his influence.
In his book, Eusebius uses a Greek word that means “appearance.” In Pyrrhonic contexts, phantasia is an expression of phenomonon. Phantasia refers to a subjective perception of an object. As such, a person may have different impressions of a single object, or experience a variety of different perceptions of the same object. The same applies for perceptions of an object through other senses.
The first Pyrrhonian philosopher is Pyrrho. Though Pyrrhonism is obscure, its perspective can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Despite the vagueness of his views, Pyrrhonism suggests that philosophy is more than an epistemological conclusion. It proposes philosophy as a basis for contentment and tranquility. According to Pyrrho, a life of tranquility is desirable and a philosophy of peace will bring this to fruition.