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THOSE whom we call the Pyrronian philosophers are designated by the Greek name σκεπτικοί, or “sceptics,” which means about the same as “inquirers” and “investigators.” For they decide nothing and determine nothing, but are always engaged in inquiring and considering what there is in all nature concerning which it is possible to decide and determine. And moreover they believe that they do not see or hear anything clearly, [p. 311] but that they undergo and experience something like seeing and hearing; but they are in doubt as to the nature and character of those very things which cause them those experiences, and they deliberate about them: and they declare that in everything assurance and absolute truth seem so beyond our grasp, owing to the mingling and confusing of the indications of truth and falsehood, that any man who is not rash and precipitate in his judgment ought to use the language which they say was used by Pyrro, the founder of that philosophy: “Does not this matter stand so, rather than so, or is it neither?” For they deny that proofs of anything and its real qualities can be known and understood, and they try in many ways to point this out and demonstrate it. On this subject Favorinus too with great keenness and subtlety has composed ten books, which he entitled πυρρωνεῖοι τρόποι, or The Pyrronian Principles. 1 It is besides a question of long standing, which has been discussed by many Greek writers, whether the Pyrronian and Academic philosophers differ at all, and to what extent. For both are called “sceptics, inquirers and doubters,” since both affirm nothing and believe that nothing is understood. But they say that appearances, which they call φαντασίαι, are produced from all objects, not according to the nature of the objects themselves, but according to the condition of mind or body of those to whom those appearances come. Therefore they call absolutely all things that affect men's senses τὰ πρός τι. 2 This expression means that there is nothing at all that is self-dependent or which has its own power and nature, but that absolutely all things have “reference [p. 313] to something else” and seem to be such as their appearance is while they are seen, and such as they are formed by our senses, to which they come, not by the things themselves, from which they have proceeded. But although the Pyrronians and the Academics express themselves very much alike about these matters, yet they are thought to differ from each other both in certain other respects and especially for this reason—because the Academics do, as it were, “comprehend” 3 the very fact that nothing can be comprehended, and, as it were, decide that nothing can be decided, while the Pyrronians assert that not even that can by any means be regarded as true, because nothing is regarded as true.
1 p. 88, Marres. Apparently a discussion of the arguments by which the Pyrronian philosophers supported their beliefs.
2 That is, “things relative to something else.”
3 Comprehendo is used in a technical sense; cf. Cic. Acad. Pr. ii. 47, cum plane compresserat (manum) pugnumque fecerat, comprehensionem illam esse dicebat; also Acad. Post. i. 11, where κατάληπτον is rendered by comprehensio, and κατάληψιν by rebus quae manu prenderentur.
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