Michael Zeleny (larvatus) wrote,
Michael Zeleny

can the bullshitter live his bullshit?

Herewith a seminal passage in the tradition of repudiating all allegiance to dogma. It is offered in support of an ongoing conversation, reproduced in an old-fashioned English rendering, the original text, and the latest standard translation:
    Chapter VII. Does the Skeptic Dogmatize?
    (13) When we say that the skeptic refrains from dogmatizing we do not use the term “dogma,” as some do, in the broader sense of “approval of a thing” (for the skeptic gives assent to the feelings which are the necessary results of sense impressions, and he would not, for example, say when feeling hot or cold “I believe that I am not hot or cold”); but we say that “he does not dogmatize,” using “dogma” in the sense, which some give it, of “assent to one of the nonevident objects of scientific inquiry”; for the Pyrrhonean philosopher assents to nothing that is non-evident. (14) Moreover, even in the act of enunciating the skeptic formulae concerning things non-evident — such as the formula “No more (one thing or another),” or the formula “I determine nothing,” or any of the others which we shall presently mention, — he does not dogmatize. For whereas the dogmatizer posits the things about which he is said to be dogmatizing as really existent, the skeptic does not posit these formulae in any absolute sense; for he conceives that, just as the formula “All things are false” asserts the falsity of itself as well as of everything else, as does the formula “Nothing is true,” so also the formula “No more” asserts that itself, like all the rest, is “No more (this than that),” and thus cancels itself along with the rest. And of the other formulae we say the same. (15) If then, while the dogmatizer posits the matter of his dogma as substantial truth, the skeptic enunciates his formulae so that they are virtually cancelled by themselves, he should not be said to dogmatize in his enunciation of them. And, most important of all, in his enunciation of these formulae he states what appears to himself and announces his own impression in an undogmatic way, without making any positive assertion regarding the external realities.
    ― Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism: translated by R. G. Bury, Prometheus Books, 1990, pp. 19-20
    ζ´ Εἰ δογματίζει ὁ σκεπτικός
    I.7 (13) Λέγομεν δὲ μὴ δογματίζειν τὸν σκεπτικὸν οὐ κατ' ἐκεῖνο τὸ σημαινόμενον τοῦ δόγματος καθ' ὃ δόγμα εἶναί φασί τινες κοινότερον τὸ εὐδοκεῖν τινι πράγματι (τοῖς γὰρ κατὰ φαντασίαν κατηναγκασμένοις πάθεσι συγκατατίθεται ὁ σκεπτικός, οἷον οὐκ ἂν εἴποι θερμαινόμενος ἢ ψυχόμενος ὅτι δοκῶ μὴ θερμαίνεσθαι ἢ ψύχεσθαι), ἀλλὰ μὴ δογματίζειν λέγομεν καθ' ὃ δόγμα εἶναί φασί τινες τήν τινι πράγματι τῶν κατὰ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ζητουμένων ἀδήλων συγκατάθεσιν (οὐδενὶ γὰρ τῶν ἀδήλων συγκατατίθεται ὁ Πυῤῥώνειος). (14) ἀλλ' οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ προφέρεσθαι περὶ τῶν ἀδήλων τὰς σκεπτικὰς φωνάς, οἷον τὴν ‘οὐδὲν μᾶλλον’ ἢ τὴν ‘οὐδὲν ὁρίζω’ ἤ τινα τῶν ἄλλων περὶ ὧν ὕστερον λέξομεν δογματίζει. ὁ μὲν γὰρ δογματίζων ὡς ὑπάρχον τίθεται τὸ πρᾶγμα ἐκεῖνο ὃ λέγεται δογματίζειν, ὁ δὲ σκεπτικὸς τὰς φωνὰς τίθησι ταύτας οὐχ ὡς πάντως ὑπαρχούσας· ὑπολαμβάνει γὰρ ὅτι, ὥσπερ ἡ ‘πάντα ἐστὶ ψευδῆ’ φωνὴ μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων καὶ ἑαυτὴν ψευδῆ εἶναι λέγει, καὶ ἡ ‘οὐδέν ἐστιν ἀληθές’ ὁμοίως, οὕτως καὶ ἡ ‘οὐδὲν μᾶλλον’ μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων καὶ ἑαυτήν φησι μὴ μᾶλλον εἶναι καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τοῖς ἄλλοις ἑαυτὴν συμπεριγράφει. τὸ δ' αὐτὸ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων σκεπτικῶν φωνῶν λέγομεν. (15) πλὴν ἀλλ' εἰ ὁ δογματίζων τίθησιν ὡς ὑπάρχον τοῦτο ὃ δογματίζει, ὁ δὲ σκεπτικὸς τὰς φωνὰς αὑτοῦ προφέρεται ὡς δυνάμει ὑφ' ἑαυτῶν περιγράφεσθαι, οὐκ ἂν ἐν τῇ προφορᾷ τούτων δογματίζειν λεχθείη. τὸ δὲ μέγιστον, ἐν τῇ προφορᾷ τῶν φωνῶν τούτων τὸ ἑαυτῷ φαινόμενον λέγει καὶ τὸ πάθος ἀπαγγέλλει τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἀδοξάστως, μηδὲν περὶ τῶν ἔξωθεν ὑποκειμένων διαβεβαιούμενος.
    vii Do Sceptics hold beliefs?21
[13] When we say that Sceptics do not hold beliefs, we do not take ‘belief’ in the sense in which some say, quite generally, that belief is acquiescing in something; for Sceptics assent to the feelings forced upon them by appearances22 — for example, they would not say, when heated or chilled, ‘I think I am not heated (or: chilled)’. Rather, we say that they do not hold beliefs in the sense in which some say that belief is an assent to some unclear object of investigation in the sciences;23 for Pyrrhonists do not assent to anything unclear.
    [14] Not even in uttering the Sceptical phrases about unclear matters — for example, ‘In no way more’, or ‘I determine nothing’, or one of the other phrases which we shall later discuss24 — do they hold beliefs. For if you hold beliefs, then you posit as real the things you are said to hold beliefs about; but Sceptics posit these phrases not as necessarily being real. For they suppose that, just as the phrase ‘Everything is false’ says that it too, along with everything else, is false (and similarly for ‘Nothing is true’), so also ‘In no way more’ says that it too, along with everything else, is no more so than not so, and hence it cancels itself along with everything else. And we say the same of the other Sceptical phrases. [15] Thus, if people who hold beliefs posit as real the things they hold beliefs about, while Sceptics utter their own phrases in such a way that they are implicitly cancelled by themselves, then they cannot be said to hold beliefs in uttering them.25
    But the main point is this: in uttering these phrases they say what is apparent to themselves and report their own feelings without holding opinions, affirming nothing about external objects.26

20 See I 202-5 (cf. I 18).
21 The Dogmatists alleged that the Sceptics did in fact hold beliefs: see e.g. Aristocles, apud Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica XIV xviii 9-12; Diogenes Laertius, Vitae Philosophorum IX 102-4 (cf. IX 68). — On the controversy surrounding the issues raised by this chapter see Michael Frede ‘Des Skeptikers Meinungen’, Neue Hefte Für Philosophie 15, 102-29 (reprinted in English translation in Michael Frede, Essays in Ancient Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987 and in M.F. Burnyeat and M. Frede (edd.), The Original Sceptics, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1997); M.F. Burnyeat, ‘Can the Sceptic live his Scepticism?’, in M. Schofield, M.F. Burnyeat and Jonathan Barnes (edd.), Doubt and Dogmatism, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, (reprinted in M.F. Burnyeat, The Skeptical Tradition, University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles, and in M.F. Burnyeat and M. Frede, eds, The Original Sceptics, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1997), M. Burnyeat, ‘The Sceptic in his time and Place’, in R. Rorty, J. Schneewind and Q. Skinner, Philosophy in History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984 (reprinted in M.F. Burnyeat and M. Frede (edd.), The Original Sceptics, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1997), Jonathan Barnes ‘La possibilità di una vita scettica’, Atti e Relazioni dell’Accademia Pugliese delle scienze 45, 1988, 1-30, ‘Pyrrhonism, belief and causation: observations on the scepticism of Sextus Empiricus’, in W Haase and H. Temporini (edd.), Aufstieg and Niedergang der römischen Welt, II 36.4, de Gruyter, Berlin/New York, 1990, pp. 2617-49 (reprinted in M.F. Burnyeat and M. Frede (edd.), The Original Sceptics, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1997).
22 Cf. I 29,193, 229-30; II 10.
23 Cf. I 16, 193, 197.
24 See I 187-208.
25 Cf. I 206.
26 Cf. I 208.
    ― as published by Ruslan Khazarzar     ― Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Scepticism [Pyrrōneioi hypotypōseis], edited by Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 6-7
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