Why AenesidemusOZ?

Bust of Pyrrho
Pyrrho (360-270BC)

The only way to be truly happy is to not believe anything.

Believing anything requires assumptions that cannot be proven.

The inability to prove the assumptions at the base of every belief creates a deep dissonance that in turn creates unhappiness even if the believer is unaware.

The Man

Aenesidemus was a Greek philosopher, born in Knossos on the island of Crete. He lived in the 1st century BC, taught in Alexandria and flourished shortly after the life of Cicero.

The Philosophy

Aenesidemus was the founder of Pyrrhonian Skepticism.

Photius (c. 810/820 – 6 February 893) described the philosophy thus:
He who philosophises after the fashion of Pyrrho is happy not only in general but also, and especially, in the wisdom of knowing that he has firm cognition of nothing.
– Myriobiblos, 9th Century AD.

That’s Pyrrhonism in a nutshell: We can know nothing. Everything we think we know is based, at its root, on an assumption.

Pyrrho’s description of his philosophy was, naturally, more complicated:

As for matters of pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics): they are all adiaphora (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastous (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantous (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.

The Ten Tropes of Aenesidemus

  1. Different animals manifest different modes of perception;
  2. Similar differences are seen among individual men;
  3. For the same man, information perceived with the senses is self-contradictory
  4. Furthermore, it varies from time to time with physical changes
  5. In addition, this data differs according to local relations
  6. Objects are known only indirectly through the medium of air, moisture, etc.
  7. These objects are in a condition of perpetual change in colour, temperature, size and motion
  8. All perceptions are relative and interact one upon another
  9. Our impressions become less critical through repetition and custom
  10. All men are brought up with different beliefs, under different laws and social conditions.

Pyrrhonians (or Pyrrhonism) can be subdivided into those who are ephectic (a “suspension of judgment”), zetetic (“engaged in seeking”), or aporetic (“engaged in refutation”).