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Colotes


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Epicurus (341—270 bc) Greek philosopher, founder of Epicureanism

Arcesilaus (c. 316—242 bc)

Parmenides (b. c. 515 bc)

Empedocles (c. 492—432 bc) Greek philosopher

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Of Lampsacus (c.310–260bc), pupil and devoted follower of Epicurus. He countered Arcesilaus (Plut. Adversus Coloten 1121e, 1124b; Diog. Laert. 9. 44) and the sceptical New Academy with Epicurean materialism and atomism, and sought to discredit all thinkers who, as he or his opponents thought, had cast doubt on the plain evidence of the senses, among whom he included Democritus, Cyrenaics, Arcesilaus and his followers, Parmenides, Empedocles (against whom the Epicurean Hermarchus also wrote), Socrates, Melissus, Plato, and Stilpon. Several of his works are preserved among the fragments of the Epicurean library from Herculaneum: Against Plato's Lysis; Against the Euthydemus (both ed. W. Crönert in Kolotes und Menedemos, 1906); Against the Gorgias; Against the Republic, from which Proclus (in Platonis Rempublicam commentarii 2. 113. 12f., 116. 19–21 Kroll) preserves Colotes' extensive attacks on Plato's use of myths: about Er in the Republic, Colotes wondered how a dead man can come back to life. Macrobius (Commentarius Ex Cicerone in Somnium Scipioni 1. 9–2. 4) reports that Cicero in consequence preferred to have his tale related by one roused from a dream. Plutarch in Adversus Coloten gives a detailed if unfavourable report of Colotes' treatise with the ungainly long title, ‘On the Point that it is not Possible Even to Live According to the Doctrines of Other Philosophers’, in which he extended a refutation of the scepticism and suspension of belief in certain knowledge (epochē peri pantōn) promulgated by the contemporary Arcesilaus in the New Academy, to a claim that no theory of knowledge other than the empiricism of Epicurus affords a secure basis for practical life. Colotes uses an argument from apraxia, ‘inaction’, a version of which Epicurus had already used against the ethical determinist in On Nature and which reappears in Lucretius (4. 507–10, cf. Adversus Coloten 1122c), according to which to deny the truth of our impressions is to abolish knowledge, and without knowledge life itself becomes impossible. Thus he challenges the cognitive sceptic to show how suspension of belief is consistent with the requirements of life itself.

William Davis Ross; Dirk Obbink

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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