Plutarch On The Difference Between The Pyrrhonists And The Academics

Mauro Bonazzi

in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 43

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199666164
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191751936 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Plutarch On The Difference Between The Pyrrhonists And The Academics

Show Summary Details


A clarification of Plutarch's attitude towards scepticism will help us to assess his Platonist stance. But his attitude is not clear and scholars diverge, ranging from the view that Plutarch was not interested at all in scepticism to the hypothesis that he might have had a sceptical phase or even that his entire philosophy was sceptical. A solution can be found if Plutarch's interpretation of the Hellenistic Academy is correctly reconstructed and if its difference from Pyrrhonism is considered. Plutarch claims that Pyrrhonism is nothing but the result of an empiricist ontology and epistemology, whereas what distinguishes Academic scepticism is an anti-empiricist stance. More precisely, an analysis of the treatise Against Colotes shows that Academic polemics against Epicurean empiricism involve the acknowledgment of the dualism between the sensible and the intelligible which is distinctive of all Platonist philosophy. If one considers only the senses and the sensible dimension life would be impossible; but the very fact that we live shows, according to Plutarch's interpretation of Arcesilaus, that something else, the intelligible, exists. By exploiting the so-called apraxia argument and by interpreting Arcesilaus' philosophy against the background of dualism, Plutarch can therefore claim that also the Hellenistic Academics can be regarded as loyal heirs of Plato.

Keywords: Plutarch of Chaeronea; Platonism; scepticism; Pyrrhonism; Epicureanism; Greek empiricism; Plato; Arcesilaus; apraxia argument; judgment

Chapter.  11706 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.