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Headword: Purrôneioi
Adler number: pi,3241
Translated headword: Pyrrhonists
Vetting Status: high
Those concurring in the [opinions] of Pyrrho out of choice were so called from their teacher,[1] [but they were also called] aporetics and skeptics, ephectics and zetetics; zetetics ['seekers'] from their always seeking the truth, skeptics ['examiners'] from their constant examining and never discovering, ephectics ['doubters'] from their state of mind after the search -- I mean of course suspension of judgement;[2] and aporetics ['perplexed'] from their positing puzzles [aporein] even to the dogmatists[3]. Theodosius in his Skeptic Treatises denies that the skeptic should be called a Pyrrhonist.[4] For if the motion of mind in either direction is ungraspable, we would not know Pyrrho's disposition; and if we did not know it, we could not be called Pyrrhonists. Besides, Pyrrho was not the first one to have discovered skepticism, nor did he hold any belief. But the way of life of this school could [still] be called Pyrrhonist. So Homer was the first founder of skepticism; for he does not hold beliefs definitively about the assertion [of something]. The Seven Sages are skeptics too: for instance, [consider the saying] "nothing in excess", and so forth. Even Archilochus and Euripides [can be so classified]. Archilochus says in a passage: "Intelligence in mortal men is like a day that Zeus sends to them".[5] And Euripides says: "why then do they say that miserable mortals think? For we depend upon you and do what you would wish to happen".[6]
Greek Original:
Purrôneioi: hoi ta tou Purrônos phronountes hairetikoi houtôs ekalounto apo tou didaskalou, aporêtikoi te kai skeptikoi, ephektikoi te kai zêtêtikoi. zêtêtikoi men apo tou pantote zêtein tên alêtheian, skeptikoi de apo tou skeptesthai aei kai mêdepote heuriskein, ephektikoi de apo tou meta tên zêtêsin pathous, legô dê tên epochên: aporêtikoi de apo tou tous dogmatikous aporein kai autous. Theodosios de en tois Skeptikois ou phêsi Purrôneion kaleisthai ton skeptikon: ei gar to kath' heteron kinêma tês dianoias alêpton estin, ouk eisometha tên Purrônos diathesin: mê eidotes de oude Purrôneioi kaloimeth' an. pros tôi mêde prôton heurêkenai tên skeptikên Purrôna mêde echein ti dogma. legoito d' an Purrôneios homotropos tautês tês haireseôs. katêrxen oun prôtos tês skeptikês Homêros: ou gar horistikôs dogmatizei peri tên apophasin. kai hoi z# de sophoi skeptikoi eisin: hoion to mêden agan, kai ta loipa. alla kai Archilochos kai Euripidês. en hois Archilochos phêsi: toios anthrôpois nous ginetai thnêtois, hokoiên Zeus hêmerên agei. kai Euripidês: ti dêta tous talaipôrous brotous phronein legousi: sou gar exêrtêmetha: drômen te toiauth' ha dê tunchaneis thelôn.
This entry is mostly taken from Diogenes Laertius 9.69-71 (from the life of Pyrrho: n. 1 below); see also Sextus Empiricus, PH 1.3. As usual, the Suda reproduces the text with minor modifications.
[1] Pyrrho(n) of Elis (c.365-275 BCE); see generally OCD4 p.1245 and pi 3238. Although he wrote nothing and founded no school, he is usually considered the founder of Skepticism. His life and philosophical indications are mainly transmitted by Diogenes Laertius (9.61-108).
[2] Suspension of judgement (epoche) is the means Pyrrhonists have to lead the person to a state of inner tranquility, the so-called 'peace-of-mind' or 'imperturbability' (ataraxia). Sextus Empiricus, the only Greek skeptic of whom we have complete works, writes that suspension of judgement is practiced by means of the 'Modes' or the 'Tropes' (PH 1.36-86). For the issue of suspension of judgement as well as the other characteristics of a Pyrrhonist (his inclination to puzzle, his disposition to inquire, etc.), see Mates (1996) 5-6, 30-32, 57-63. For the 'Modes' see epsilon 2824, omicron 802; Annas & Barnes (1985).
[3] i.e. those who systematically maintain positive theses on different topics. The Skeptics' main opponents were the Stoics, although any thinker formulating a positive thesis on something qualifies as a 'dogmatist' in so far as he 'holds a belief'.
[4] Theodosius fr. 308. (NB: Diogenes' text here has not to\n skeptiko/n but th\n skeptikh/n, i.e. 'denies that skepticism should be called Pyrrhonism'.)
[5] Archilochus fr. 131 West (68 Diehl). The Suda quotation differs slightly from the standard text, notably in having 'soul' (thymos), not 'intelligence'.
[6] Euripides, Supplices 734-736 (Adrastus addresses Zeus).
Annas, J. & Barnes, J. The Modes of Scepticism. Ancient Texts and Modern Interpretations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 1985
Mates, B. The Skeptic Way. Sextus Empiricus' Outlines of Pyrrhonism (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996)
Keywords: biography; dialects, grammar, and etymology; epic; philosophy; poetry; tragedy
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 4 November 2000@14:44:25.
Vetted by:
William Hutton (Cosmetics, Keywords) on 4 November 2000@17:21:15.
Marcelo Boeri (Cosmetics.) on 30 November 2000@08:37:18.
David Whitehead (added keywords; restorative and other cosmetics) on 18 June 2002@04:44:50.
David Whitehead (tweaks and cosmetics; raised status) on 24 October 2013@07:05:09.
David Whitehead on 10 August 2014@07:28:52.
Catharine Roth (cross-reference, coding) on 31 December 2021@00:26:01.


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