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THE SKEPTICISM OF THE NEW ACADEMY: A WEAK FORM OF PLATONISM? - page 17 / 19

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fact that Arcesilaus’ desire to refute any possible dogmatic system, and Stoicism in particular, led him to propound only those features of Plato’s philosophy that he deemed useful in opposing all forms of dogmatism.

It is widely accepted today that Arcesilaus’ philosophic stance was constructed in opposition to Stoicism.  Yet, I also think it reasonable to affirm that alongside this clear aim to destroy Stoicism, there is a positive doctrine which is not wholly compatible with rigorous or radical Skepticism56, bestowing Arcesilaus’ doctrine with an unquestionable originality.

Following the studies by Coussin57, and later by Kramer58, it is accepted that the terminology employed by Arcesilaus proceeded from the doctrines of his adversaries. Given that the Stoics were an attractive target for the Skeptics, it follows that Arcesilaus’ terminology would, in turn, be wholly stoic.  Anna Maria Ioppolo59, however, questions this radical thesis in light of two postulates:

1.

Arcesilaus’ criticism is directed against Zeno and his disciples, but not against other members of the Stoa such as Chrysippus.  

2.

That the stoic terminology employed by Arcesilaus resembles Zeno’s concepts is due more to the fact they had shared the same teachers rather than the anti-stoic focus of his Academic philosophy60.

In effect, I have already stated that Arcesilaus’ philosophical thought cannot be limited to one or two factors alone. To reduce his stance to a deconstruction of Stoicism

56 In this same line, Burnyeat states that the problem with Skepticism is to maintain a position without upholding a dogma, “Can the Sceptic live his scepticism?” in Doubt and Dogmatism, Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology, Oxford, 1980, pp. 20-53, repr. in  The Skeptical Tradition. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, 1983.

57 Cf. Couissin, P., “Le stoïcisme de la nouvelle Académie”, art. cit., pp. 241-276, states that the Academics did not invent or teach any original theory of knowledge or action, but rather used the material of their adversaries for their contradictory discourses, see p. 242.

58 Cf. Krämer, H.J. Platonismus und Hellenistische Philosophie, BerlinNew York 1971, pp. 513.

59 Cf. Ioppolo, A. M., Opinione e Scienza. Op. cit., pp. 9-11, esp. note 3 and “Doxa ed epoché in Arcesilao”, art. cit., see pp. 317-320.

60 Cf. Numenius in Eusebius Praep. Evang. XIV 5,11, Cicero, Varro, 35, Strabo, XIII, 67, Augustine of Hipona, Against the Academics, III 17, 38. Diogenes Laertius reports that Zeno was acquainted with Diodorus, cf. D.L., VII, 25 and like Arcesilaus, studied dialectics with him. See Sextus P.H., I, 234 and D.L., IV, 33 (Giannntoni, G., Socraticorum Reliquiae, II F, 3 and 4). Recently, J. Glucker, Antiochus and the Late Academy, Gottingen 1978, p. 33 note 78 has reoriented the role that Stoicism was given in Arcesilaus’ philosophy, defending the hypothesis that concepts such as katalhpto/n, eu)/logon, kato/rqwma were habitual in Arcesilaus and Zeno as they had studied under the same teachers.

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