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THE SKEPTICISM OF THE NEW ACADEMY: A WEAK FORM OF PLATONISM? - page 18 / 19

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would be to dismiss the importance it has in its own right. The Skepticism of Arcesilaus maintains a particular and original constructive position which weakens the strength of his philosophical views and, interestingly enough, would prompt Pyrrhonists such as Timon to criticize Arcesilaus’ outrageously irreconcilable dogmatic tendency with regard to Pyrrhonism.

Thus, although the theories of Arcesilaus’ expounded by Cicero share some similarities with those of Pyrrho, they are recognized to be a destructive element of his battle against dogmatism; false arguments that hide or disguise dogmatism.  For Timon, the renovation of the Academy not only furnishes a Socratic method which is very similar to Skepticism, but also a doctrinal dogmatism which is coherent with Academic practice. Timon is evidently more interested in the differences61 than the similarities, as he believes to have found in them the split between Pyrrhonism and the New Academy. In addition to Arcesilaus’ use of the dialectic and reasoning of the Eritrian school, the dialectic of Diodorus and the eristic tendencies of Menedemus, Diogenes Laertius acknowledged a fair amount of Pyrrho’s teachings in Arcesilaus; a fact that is supported by two of Timon’s verses which associate him with Pyrrho.  There are, then, three clearly differentiated philosophical components in Arcesilaus’ stance: Platonic, Pyrrhonean and Megarian. A verse by Aristo, which has been cited numerous times, sheds some light on the situation: “Plato in front, Pyrrho behind, Diodorus in the middle”62.  The same reference to this “philosophical melange” can be found in Sextus Empiricus who considered Arcesilaus and Pyhrro’s positions to be practically identical as they had many features in common with Pyrrhonean reasoning63. Initially, he

61 With a fair amount of sarcasm, Timon says: “Having spoken thus, he [Arcesilaus] plunged into the crowd of bystanders. And they like chaffinches round an owl gawped at him, showing up his vanity because he pandered to the mob. There’s nothing big in this, you miserable fellow. Why do you give yourself airs like a fool?”, D.L., IV, 42, Diels, Poet., 9 B 34: S.H., 808. Timon also speaks out against the Academics in general, cf. D.L., IV, 67: Diels, Poet., 9 B 35: S.H., 809.

62pro/sqe Pla/twn, o)/piqen [de\] Pu/rrwn, me/ssoj Dio/dwroj”, D.L., IV, 33: Diels, Poet., 9 B 31-32: Decleva Caizzi, 32. Aristo’s verse paraphrases Homer’s description of the Chimera “pro/sqe le/wn, o)/piqen de\ dra/kwn, me/ssh de\ xi/maira”, Homer, Iliad, VI, 181, Cf. also Hesiod, Theogony, 323 and Lucretius, De rerum natura, V, 905. See also Sextus, P.H.,I, 234, who cites this verse. For Sextus’ interpretation of this news (not as an affirmation of Arcesilaus’ stoic teachings, nor the recognition of Arcesilaus as a Pyrrhonist) in an attempt to demonstrate the affinities between both philosophies, cf. Ioppolo, A. M., “Sesto Empirico e l'Accademia scettica”, Elenchos, 13, (1992), pp. 171-199, esp. pp. 183-185.

63 Sextus, P. H., I, 232. This question is discussed in greater depth in my book El escepticismo antiguo. Op. cit., pp. 94-100. Bailey, A., Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism, Oxford, 2002, p. 43 shares this same opinion and firmly rejects the idea that Arcesilaus was a proto-Platonist who espoused the suspension of judgment as a mere dialectical strategy without foundation.

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