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New Academy

also called the Third Academy. The form which the Academic philosophy of Plato received at the hands of Carneades. (See Carneades.) It was largely skeptical in its teaching, denying the possibility of aiming at absolute truth or at any certain criterion of truth. Carneades argued that if there were any such criterion it must exist in reason (λόγος) or sensation (αἴσθησις) or conception (φαντασία); but as reason depends on conception and this in turn on sensation, and as we have no means of deciding whether our sensations really correspond to the objects that produce them, the basis of all knowledge is always uncertain. Hence, all that we can attain to is a high degree of probability, which we must accept as the nearest possible approximation to the truth. The New Academy teaching is in the nature of modern agnosticism, and represents the spirit of an age when religion was decaying, and philosophy itself, losing its earnest and serious spirit, was becoming merely a vehicle for rhetoric and dialectical ingenuity. Cicero's speculative philosophy was in the main in accord with the teachings of Carneades, looking rather to the probable (illud probabile) than to certain truth. See his Academica.

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