For, on the one hand, he hoped to prevent a cult which might render him and his work useless, and on the other hand, he wanted to expound Plato’s work and establish its authority in the event of conflict. The change in the Academy of Arcesilaus should, then, be seen as a return to the traditional Socratic-Platonic values of the school – it is a revival and not a revolution of Academic forms53.
Clearly, there are differences with the so-called “Old” Academy of Plato. To view Arcesilaus exclusively in terms of his relationship with Socrates and Plato would be to simplify the historical and philosophical context in which the “New” Academy evolved. Furthermore, to ignore the philosophers who headed the Academy such as Speusippus, Xenocrates, Crantor or Polemo is to underestimate later developments that would bring about a maturity of the germinal ideas of skeptical Platonism; not spontaneously as Robin claims54, but as an essential element of the anti-Stoic dialectic. The recognition of the controversial and dialectical value of many of Arcesilaus’ and Carneades’ arguments as formulas55 reducto ad absurdum of the views of their Stoic adversaries is, without question, fundamental to interpreting the history of Academic Skepticism.
THE POSITIVE CONSTRUCTION OF ARCESILAUS’ PHILOSOPHICAL STANCE
I believe to have shown that the philosophical phenomenon that gave rise to the new orientation of the Platonic Academy cannot be explained by one or two factors alone. It is evident that Arcesilaus, scholarch of the Academy, held Plato, the founder of his school, in high regard. Nevertheless, we should not overlook the
53 A more moderate but identical opinion regarding his intentions can be found in Carlini, A., “Alcuni dialoghi pseudoplatonici e l'Accademia di Arcesilao”, Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, 1962, pp. 61-62, and Robin, L., Pyrrhon et le Scepticisme grec, Op. cit., pp. 42-48.
54 Robin, L., Op. cit., pp. 45 and ff., upholds the theory of “the spontaneous development of the germinal ideas of Skepticism”; seeds which were sterile in the Platonism of Arcesilaus’ time, but developed by him to turn a system of rigorously dogmatic doctrines into one which was both revolutionary and heretical. In his opinion, Pyrrhonism was responsible for the changes that transpired in the Academy. In the same way that Hume awakened Kant from his dogmatic dream state, Pyrhho awakened Arcesilaus. Mario Dal Pra, Lo scetticismo greco, Roma-Bari (2d), 1975, pp. 121-125 agrees and concludes that Pyrrhonism was secondary to Arcesialus’ philosophic position, which was primarily Platonic. Couissin, P., “L'origine et l'évolution de l’e)poxh/”, Revue des Études Grecques, 42, (1929), pp. 373-397 and Couissin, P., “Le stoïcisme de la nouvelle Académie”, Revue d'Histoire de la Philosophie, 3, (1929), pp. 241-276 has always firmly opposed the idea of a direct Pyrrhonean influence.
55 Anna Maria Ioppolo has attempted to demonstrate that suspension of judgment (e)poxh/) in Arcesilaus was not the result of a dialectical game, but a philosophical attitude, founded on the fact that Arcesilaus did not espouse any theory in the first person, cf. Ioppolo, A. M., Opinione e Scienza. Il dibattito tra Stoici e Accademici nel III e nel II secolo a. C., Napoli, 1986 and Ioppolo, A. M., “Dóxa ed epoché in Arcesilao”, Elenchos, 5, (1984), pp. 317-63, esp. 351-359.