Saturday, May 9, 2009

17 Sextus Empiricus

It all looks such a clear development of mind....from the Greek till Marcus Aurelius, but they were always there too: the Skeptics,

the people that question all that socalled knowledge of all those philosophers, that so called certainty. And Sextus Empiricus, who lived between 100 and 200 AD was one of the last and best known because of his writings.

But 300 BC they were allready there alongside philosophers like Plato and Aristoteles. And they were attracted by the famous statement of Socrates: "all that I know is that I know nothing."

The skeptical tendencies had been there all the time; Heraclites (500 BC), who stated that there was nothing permanent, except change. Xenophanes (about 500 BC too) questioned the existence of any criterion of true knowledge in his observation and if, by chance, a man came across the truth, he would be unable to distinguish it from error.

The Skeptics would, and well formulated by Sextus Empiricus, would use the same argumentation. For instance, they attacked the claim of the Stoics, that in certain experiences we could see the truth by nature.

Animals perceive things differently; different man perceive things differently; man's senses perceive the same object in various ways; and also man's circumstances seem to alter what he perceives.

Have we any way of being sure that man, and not some other animal, perceive the world correctly?And have we any way of telling WHICH men, or which of ours senses or underwhat circumstances we are able to perceive correctly the TRUE nature of things?

And then that philosopher's claim to be able to gain knowledge of the naturally nonevident world....that is, of any reality that is not now being , and cannot at some time be, observed. Think of Plato's ideas, the atoms of Democritus....

The attacked philosophers all refer to reason as the source of these insights, but the Skeptics would challenge that reason the right tool to arrive at such knowledge...just tell us WHY?

And if you want to say YES reason is the right tool, then tell me, the Skeptic would ask, what criterion do you use to get to this conclusion?

But what was the point of all this skeptiscism? Not just to question everything because it is fun to question things. Sextus Empiricus had a sincere goal: peace of mind.

Instead of having all kinds of judgements about things, suspend all judgements. You might argue that this is a definite judgement, not skeptic at all. Sextus replied to that, that this attitude is like a purge that eliminates everything including itself.

But without judgements life would be impossible, could be an objection. No the Skeptics would reply, we donnot deny reality and nature as we perceive it in all its appearances.

Just follow the natural inclinations and experience and what it suggests in patterns and laws and customs of society. Just dont hold judgements of what is good or bad, true or false.

If the Skeptics hold that one statement cannot be more true than another, then does this apply to the Skeptic point of view too. It can be held true and false equally. The paradox here is, that even this seems to be an argument in favor of skepticism.

So we could come to the conclusion to follow their philosophy about how life should be: suspension of all judgements, which will bring peace of mind, just live the day as it comes to you.

The Discussion

[13:09] herman Bergson: Ok...the Skeptics today...Sextus Empiricus
[13:09] Maphisto Mapholisto: lips firmly zipped
[13:09] herman Bergson smiles...
[13:20] herman Bergson: So far the opposition through the centuries till 300 AD
[13:20] herman Bergson: Interesting to see this skepticism never dominated the philosophy scene
[13:21] Ewa Aska: How come?
[13:21] herman Bergson: yet their criticism still stands
[13:21] Maphisto Mapholisto: dem Skeptics was one tough load of puppies
[13:21] herman Bergson: How come...yeah...?
[13:21] Ewa Aska: smile.
[13:22] herman Bergson: hard to tell
[13:22] herman Bergson: but you might interpret is politically....
[13:22] herman Bergson: if all citizens would be skeptics they would be hard to control
[13:23] Maphisto Mapholisto: or very easy
[13:23] Maphisto Mapholisto: they just go along with whatever - whatever
[13:23] herman Bergson: while most of the non skeptic philosophers propagated good and modest and controlled citizenship
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: How can you control the carefree?
[13:23] Maphisto Mapholisto: ah
[13:23] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:24] Maphisto Mapholisto: because they don't care when you control them
[13:24] herman Bergson: Education was supported by the rich....
[13:24] Rodney Handrick: education still is even today
[13:24] herman Bergson: they used the philosophers as teachers for their children
[13:25] herman Bergson: and a teacher that stimulates virtue is more attractive than one that questions everything
[13:25] Osrum Sands:good point H
[13:25] herman Bergson: denying the possibility of certainty of knowledge for instance
[13:25] Ewa Aska: aha yes true
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: A disservice to the childeren I think..
[13:26] herman Bergson: well..I dont know....
[13:26] herman Bergson: they were educated in socratic dialectics, logic, good reasoning, rethorics, mathematics
[13:27] Osrum Sands:or is being skeptical really just a low gear for tough thinking
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes but the limits on the childs mind by not questioning.
[13:27] Cailleach Shan thinks this would be a dull class if we were only allowed to sit and listen..
[13:27] herman Bergson: Indeed...a consequence of educational choices..:-)
[13:28] herman Bergson: sure Cailleach
[13:28] Rodney Handrick: interaction is key to understanding...
[13:28] herman Bergson: indeed Rodney
[13:28] Maphisto Mapholisto: and a good dictionary
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: I think I want a scientist to teach my child.
[13:29] Ewa Aska: lol
[13:29] Maphisto Mapholisto: teach what, Aristo - bomb making?
[13:29] herman Bergson: the Greek upperclass had the same wish Aristotle
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: Maybe Leonardo DaVinci.
[13:29] herman Bergson: Machiavelli maybe??
[13:29] Rodney Handrick: A scientist...true, but that only halve of the brain
[13:29] Ewa Aska: nooo Dante
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: I agree.
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: The arts are the other half.
[13:30] Rodney Handrick: that's the balance!
[13:30] Maphisto Mapholisto: ok, by a scientist who writes poetry
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: Would that I were so.
[13:30] herman Bergson: I think Hope isnt feeling well...:-)
[13:31] Maphisto Mapholisto: Hope springs eternal
[13:31] Ewa Aska: sorry i have to leave for Rl
[13:31] herman Bergson: But still the question stands......what is the criterion for certainty of knowledge
[13:31] Ewa Aska: ciao per ora....
[13:31] Osrum Sands:faith
[13:31] Maphisto Mapholisto: ciao ewa
[13:31] Osrum Sands:trust
[13:31] Osrum Sands:??
[13:32] Maphisto Mapholisto: good one, Os ... we live by belief
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: worse herman.. he is now a sceptic as far as internet connections are concerned lol
[13:32] Osrum Sands:all knowledge sits on shifting sand !
[13:32] herman Bergson: as the skeptics asked....why do you choose faith or do you know that THAT is the criterion?
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: The criterion.... that there is no certainty...
[13:32] Maphisto Mapholisto: we get socialised into belief
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: Of course you can only feel you are right.
[13:33] Maphisto Mapholisto: we don't get to choose
[13:33] hope63 Shepherd: Osram.. if you know how the sand shifts.. you are close to truth again..
[13:33] herman Bergson: Hold on....!
[13:33] oola Neruda: what about things you feel you can prove... like math
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: so skeptical
[13:33] hope63 Shepherd: herman.. what do you personaly think of the sceptic..
[13:33] Maphisto Mapholisto: i am a bit of septic myself, you know
[13:33] herman Bergson: First.”.there is no certainty”......a paradox......for I guess one feels cerain about this statement
[13:34] oola Neruda: skeptic.. for me it depends upon his motivation...
[13:34] herman Bergson: Feel what is right...the Stoic point of view
[13:34] Cailleach Shan knows for certain there is no certainty..... ah my head hurts again.
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: There is just 'what is' here and now in this moment....
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: The gift to pray for is discerment.
[13:35] herman Bergson: One remark on mathematics.....

[13:35] hope63 Shepherd: herman.. i lost whet has been said.. but : if reason is no way to come close to truth- reasoning is just for fun-- there is no reason to reason...
[13:35] herman Bergson: The Skeptics didnt question that
[13:36] Maphisto Mapholisto: reason is the enemy of living in the here and now, Hope
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: so.. what alternative do they think of..
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes hope.....that is the line of reasoning you get into when you follow the skeptics in their thoughts
[13:36] herman Bergson: thing is clear historically
[13:37] herman Bergson: After Sextus Empiricus the Skeptics didnt play any important role anymore...
[13:37] herman Bergson: the movement faded away.....
[13:37] herman Bergson: the reason for that was that man had found a criterion for certainty of knowledge
[13:38] Osrum Sands:or was it taken into main stream thinking as a tool
[13:38] herman Bergson: no.....
[13:38] oola Neruda: isn't skepticism built into reasoning... if you look at it carefully
[13:38] Maphisto Mapholisto: because they won the argument and there was nothing left to say! so everyone pretended they hadn't heard and continued the debate how many angels fit on the head of a pin

[13:38] herman Bergson: but of course skepticism as such never disappears
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: The skeptics remind of the joke where a man is so not afraid of work that he can lay down beside it and easily sleep.
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:39] herman Bergson smiles
[13:39] Cailleach Shan laugh... I love that idea..
[13:39] herman Bergson: well my opion skepticism is built into philosophical thinking as such Oola
[13:40] oola Neruda: is that different from reasoning
[13:40] herman Bergson: but to ge t back to the criterion of certainty.....what is it?
[13:40] herman Bergson: you should know if you know history
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: The tasting of the pudding?
[13:40] herman Bergson: Let me give you a was St Augustine who came up with it
[13:41] herman Bergson: In fact it is an important historical move
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: augustine.. what a bastard..
[13:41] Maphisto Mapholisto: fair go hope - he was the first modern
[13:41] Osrum Sands:settle
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: what brought that on
[13:42] Maphisto Mapholisto: past unresolved pain, i expect
[13:42] herman Bergson: Ok....the word is: REVELATION....we know for certain by revelation
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. yes.. one could say that..
[13:42] oola Neruda: uh oh...that sounds... shaky
[13:42] herman Bergson: Historically this is about the time that religion took over control in Europe...
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: As in 'devine'?
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: omg
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: herman- you didn't answer my question.. what is your pwersonal opinion about skepticism..
[13:43] Maphisto Mapholisto: precisely, Aristo
[13:43] herman Bergson: Like some people say nowadays when you can you be so is in the bible
[13:43] Osrum Sands:surly to trust devine revelation requires a step of faith which is not logocal ?
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: a lot of that going on
[13:43] herman Bergson: I know Osrum....:-)
[13:44] herman Bergson: Let's stop here for a moment....
[13:44] Maphisto Mapholisto: i said way back we live by belief ... just a voice in the wilderness i guess, *sniff*
[13:44] herman Bergson: Two things to answer...
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: Me thinks that devine revelation is but a salve.
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: well maff.. believe it-or not- you'll still live..:)
[13:45] herman Bergson: first...the step of believe.....sure, but keep in m ind...we are following the historical development of the mind
[13:45] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:45] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:45] Maphisto Mapholisto: some life -0 a spook avatar!
[13:45] herman Bergson: so in those days and with the increasing power of the christain church
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes the path is amazing.
[13:45] herman Bergson: yes.....
[13:46] herman Bergson: about another 200 years....all education was under control of the christian church
[13:46] Cailleach Shan thinks .... we are still paying for that one.
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: Spiraling.
[13:47] herman Bergson: we should keep the historical context in mind here[
13:47] hope63 Shepherd: the power of the church-takes over AND FORCES FREE THINKING INTO THE SPANISHBOOTS..
[13:47] Maphisto Mapholisto: when augustine was writing, Rome was falling ... the church had the eductaion because it kept books safe from fires
[13:47] herman Bergson: Just a moment...not too fast....
[13:47] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:47] herman Bergson: there are pros and cons in all of this
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: (used by pirates to get the dough)
[13:48] herman Bergson: Right Maff!!!
[13:46] Cailleach Shan thinks .... we are still paying for that one.
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: Spiraling.
[13:47] herman Bergson: we should keep the historical context in mind here
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: the power of the church-takes over AND FORCES FREE THINKING INTO THE SPANISHBOOTS..
[13:47] Maphisto Mapholisto: when augustine was writing, Rome was falling ... the church had the eductaion because it kept books safe from fires
[13:47] herman Bergson: Just a moment...not too fast....
[13:47] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:47] herman Bergson: there are pros and cons in all of this
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: (used by pirates to get the dough)
[13:48] herman Bergson: Right Maff!!!
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: maff.. they burned already plenty of books...
[13:48] herman Bergson: So..keep the historical context in mind......keep in mind the relation between philosophical developments and political power
[13:49] herman Bergson: feelings about answer Hope's question
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: sigh.. i was asking that for the old greeks..
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: Truth and politics, kind of like oil and water.
[13:50] herman Bergson: We could discuss that statement for hours Aristotle...:-)
[13:50] Osrum Sands:Me's thinks Aristotle is a Skeptic
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes but who used who?
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: aris.. plato was concerned with politics --like the others..
[13:51] herman Bergson: let's give hope his answer...:-)
[13:51] herman Bergson: I love the challenge of skepticism...
[13:52] herman Bergson: In their attitude I recognize mine too...
[13:52] herman Bergson: The call for certainty....certainty of knowledge..the claims of science...and so on..I keep on questioning all of this
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: I think most of us do
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: most of the time
[13:53] herman Bergson: and I try to understand the paradox that it is certain that there is no certainty..:-)
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: But a true skeptic, will he question for very long?
[13:54] Maphisto Mapholisto: the wise are silent
[13:54] herman Bergson: si tacuisses philosophus mansisses...
[13:54] Osrum Sands:?
[13:54] herman Bergson: which means...
[13:54] Maphisto Mapholisto: i think its a petit mal
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:55] herman Bergson: if you had keep your mouth shut, you would have stayed a philosopher
[13:55] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: :-))
[13:55] Cailleach Shan thinks the first question all children ask is 'why'
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: Eritis sicut Deus, scientes bonum et malum
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: cal.. and the first question of parents is how--- to explain lol
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: cal.. what oes that mean..
[13:56] herman Bergson: lol..indeed..
[13:56] Maphisto Mapholisto: nil illigitimus carbarundum
[13:57] Cailleach Shan: Will be as God, knowledge good and evil
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: I thnk philosopy is inherrent.
[13:57] Cailleach Shan: Will be as God, knowledge good and evil
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: I thnk philosopy is inherrent.
[13:57] herman Bergson: homework I giv you the assignment to google on Latin proverbs..:-)
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: lol..
[13:58] herman Bergson: we might find a motto for this class...:-)
[13:58] Cailleach Shan: Hahahaha.... what about Augtine quotes?
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: quod licet jovi-non licet bovi?
[13:58] Cailleach Shan: *Augustine
[13:58] herman Bergson: Yes..hope....only allowed to us..:-)
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd: lol..
[13:59] Maphisto Mapholisto: our hearts can have no rest until they rest in You (Augustine)
[13:59] Cailleach Shan: "Love the sinner .... not the sin" yuk!
[13:59] Osrum Sands:Hwe who considers more deeply knows that whatever his acts and judgements may be, he is always wrong" Nietzsche
14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: Keep on trucking?
[14:00] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[14:00] herman Bergson: I think this is a nice way of concluding our philosophical journey through the Hellenic and Roman history...
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: rofl.
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: unless you become der uebermensch osram..
[14:00] herman Bergson: Class is dismissed..:-)
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: Herman I cannot find the list of philosohers on Thought
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: May I say that the humor of this crown id wonderful.
[14:00] Maphisto Mapholisto: or ein untermensch like Adolf
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: crowd
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: is it thre?
[14:00] herman Bergson: out..>!!!
[14:01] hope63 Shepherd: you getting pesonal
[14:01] herman Bergson: I had the same problem...the first entry of our blog seemed to have disappeared...
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[14:01] herman Bergson: I send a mail to the caretaker of
[14:01] Osrum Sands:I had the same problem...the first entry of our blog seemed to have disappeared...
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[14:01] herman Bergson:I send a mail to the caretaker of
[14:01] herman Bergson: with in the hour I had an answer....
[14:02] Herman Bergson:they kep about 20 entries open...older ones are put in the archives
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: can we get there??
[14:02] Herman Bergson:they are on my homepage...
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: I will go there then
14:03] Herman Bergson:Maybe I'll put the list in my profile text
[14:04] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[14:04] Gemma Cleanslate: thank you
[14:04] Gemma Cleanslate: for a lively discussion everyone
[14:04] Gray Cardiff: bye herman one and all thank you
[14:04] Maphisto Mapholisto: yeh, i go with Arito and Gemma ... good fun, good discussion
[14:04] Cailleach Shan: Cheers herman..... today was definitely worth a donation...:)
[14:04] Herman Bergson:Bye gray thnx for your attention
[14:05] Herman Bergson:thnx cailleach
[14:05] Maphisto Mapholisto: bye herman .... bye all
[14:05] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Herman.
[14:05] Anna Parisi: bye herman...bye all
[14:05] Cailleach Shan: You've got your tip jar on the wrong side of the door Herman.
[14:05] Herman Bergson:Bye Anna thnx for coming
[14:05] herman Bergson smiles
Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-11-11 18:30:28

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