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On Academic Scepticism [Reading] ➿ On Academic Scepticism By Marcus Tullius Cicero – Thomashillier.co.uk Charles Brittain's elegant new translation of Cicero's Academica makes available for the first time a readable and accurate translation into modern English of this complex yet crucial source of our kn Charles Brittain's elegant new translation of Cicero's Academica makes available for the first time a readable and accurate translation into modern English of this complex yet crucial source of our knowledge of the epistemological debates between the sceptical Academics and the StoicsBrittain's masterly Introduction generous notes English Latin Greek Glossary and Index further commend this edition to the On Academic PDF \ attention of students of Hellenistic philosophy at all levels.

  • Paperback
  • 224 pages
  • On Academic Scepticism
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • English
  • 15 February 2015
  • 9780872207745

8 thoughts on “On Academic Scepticism

  1. Steve Steve says:

    Most of Marcus Tullius Cicero's 106 43 BCE Academica has been lost to the winds of time He produced two editions of this work the first in two books of which we have only the second and the second edition in four books of which we have only portions of the first book And the bits of the latter we do have don't fit together very well with the former due to changes in the dramatis personae and dates This promises a field day for a philologist but for one interested in philosophy to find most of the beginning of an argument missing is somewhat disheartening During Cicero's time the intellectuals of the Roman empire were themselves Greek or bilingual Romans So philosophy was simply done in Greek by everybody Forced out of public life by Julius Caesar's dictatorship Cicero wanted to reach out to the non Greek reading Romans and in order to do so he had to invent a philosophical vocabulary in Latin Fortunately for the Romans Cicero was particularly well suited for this task The Romans accepted his neologisms and increasingly philosophized in Latin; for reasons well known to all they subseuently influenced philosophizing in most of the European languages as well I mention this because though he may not have been the most original philosopher of ancient times he was a particularly well informed one and because the book under review was part of his project to bring philosophy into the Latin languageThe book takes the form of a debate between a character who changed between the first and second editions for reasons I won't go into representing the position of the Stoics and one coincidentally named Cicero in both editions representing that of the so called Academic sceptics though there are subsidiary characters participating in the discussion Unlike many of Plato's dialogues Cicero's is an authentic exchange of views The Academica was written late in Cicero's life and by then and possibly much earlier but that is being argued by the experts he adhered to the positions and techniues then being taught at the Academy in Athens Briefly summarized they held that under close scrutiny almost all philosophical positions crumbled; that there are positions persuasive ie which crumble less swiftly than others but there are almost none that a rational person could accept as the Truth One of the techniues students of that school had to practice was to argue both sides of every uestion So when Cicero set out to present two distinct philosophical positions he earnestly made the argument on both sides in contrast to Plato As he had studied all of the major philosophical schools he correctly represented the position of the Stoics in this dialogue according to the expertsThe argument in the Academica is focused on epistemology ie on truth and knowledge What are they and can we attain them? Epistemology is still a central field of study in modern academic philosophy but the arguments have become very technical The basic positions argued in this dialogue are still in play today But be warned though the arguments in this book are less technical than those to be found in the modern literature they are still not easy reading for manySince much of the Stoic literature Cicero could pull out of his legendary library and unroll at his convenience has not survived a good portion of what we know about Hellenistic Stoicism has been gleaned second hand from Latin texts like this one Reading this book offers one of the few opportunities to catch a reliable glimpse into the thoughts of Chrysippus the third head of the Stoic school in Athens who had his works survived as Plato's and most of Aristotle's did could well be regarded as their eual now Philosophical Stoicism was essentially formed in the estimated 705 books Chrysippus wrote of which not a single manuscript has survived in than fragmentary fashion Ach wie man träumt By the time Cicero wrote this book the StoicAcademic debate about epistemology had already been underway for 250 years One of the great services of this edition translated and commented by Charles Brittain is that he provides an overview of what we know about the historical development of this 250 year old argument from this and other sources This eases the entry into the dialogue's topics but Brittain also analyzes how the different historical layers of the debate are reflected in Cicero's text and thus significantly aids understanding an incomplete text like this Even with these aids the usefulness and pleasure of reading this book are mitigated by its incompleteness Nonetheless the entire second book of the first edition is here and after making the necessary transition aided by Brittain's introduction and notes one is soon engaged in the very clear and interesting exchange of ideas that Cicero so deftly presents It then becomes a real pleasure How many philosophical books are written now with illustrative examples taken from mythology and literature? As for the remaining fragments of the first book of the second edition the first 20 pages are complete and then the text breaks off in mid sentence After that only pieces What a shameFor those who understand French I strongly recommend that you also read the fine review by Yann of a French edition of this book reviews supplement each other nicelyLet me close with Cicero's graceful wordsHowever I should come to a close Lucullus since it's time for me to sail as the west wind's whispers as well as the boatman's signals are telling me and since I have said uite enough I suspect that he did have such views much earlier because such a philosophical position would enable him to avoid the danger that his political and oratorical manipulations which were made with little regard for what was actually true would be inconsistent with his philosophy if we cannot unimpeachably know truth then one need not and cannot take it into account in one's actions But perhaps I have the cart before the horse

  2. Katie Katie says:

    I really loved this dialogue Cicero is growing on me and I enjoyed this one even than The Nature of the Gods It's a lovely translation as well very stirring and accompanied by very helpful yet unobtrusive notes Cicero's concern here is the uestion of knowledge particularly the parameters of its attainability Lucullus is the Stoic leaning member of the dialogue though if I remember correctly he's precisely attached to Antiochus of Ascalon's school and his speech comes first he puts forth the claim that the Stoic conception of knowledge based on kataleptic impressions sensory impressions that are received in manner than the recipient know that they must be true is true and the most beneficial to living a virtuous life His opponents the Academics he argues only serve to undermine the foundations of reason wisdom society and the virtuously lived life by their incessant uestioning of sensory perceptions and their ability to lead to definite knowledge If one follows the course of their logic society language and logic itself falls apart and the individual is left helpless and immobile “If these Academic views are true reason – the light and illumination of life as we might call it – is entirely done away with If all impressions were the way the Academics say they are so that they could just as well be false and no examination could discriminate them how could we say that anyone had proved anything or discovered anything? And since philosophy ought to be progress by arguments how will it get results? Indeed what will become of wisdom?” 226 27When Lucullus has made his case Cicero takes up the impassioned defense of his cause Here than De natura deorum you can see what a rhetorical powerhouse he must have been There are parts of this speech that are really beautiful and genuinely stirring Cicero's central argument here serves not only to uestion the Stoic ability to distinguish true and false impressions but also attacks what he perceives to be their intellectual arrogance He seems to find it genuinely stunning that the Stoics claim to possess an understanding of the universe one that they can declare with certainty This is what I can’t bear you forbid me to assent to anything unknown claiming that this is shameful and excessively rash and yet you take it upon yourself to expound a philosophical system expressing wisdom So you’re going to unveil the nature of the universe shape my character determine the ethical ends set out appropriate actions for me define the kind of life I should adopt – and you claim simultaneously teach me the criteria and methods of argument and understanding How are you going to manage it so that I never slip up never form an opinion while I’m taking on these countless doctrines? And then which philosophical system is it that you’re going to take me off to if you prise me from my own? I’m afraid you’ll be rather presumptuous if you say your own – and yet you must say thatImagine someone who is in the process of becoming wise but isn’t yet exactly which view or system will he choose? Whichever he chooses he will choose without wisdom” 2114 115 Cicero is vehemently against the idea of dogmatism not the idea of knowledge He forms opinions he possesses beliefs but refuses to assert them with certainty It's not epistemological pessimism though he seems rather to think that the dogmatic thinkers around simply aren't setting the bar high enough He seems genuinely startled when Lucullus asks him if he is not satisfied with the majesty of the senses and if he would demand that the gods provide him with 'I just wish he would ask so he could hear how badly he has done by usmy reply to that gods of yours would be impudent I am not at all happy with the eyes I haveDon’t you think that moles want the light? Though I wouldn’t complain to god that I can’t see far enough as much as I would that I can see what isn’t trueCicero's skepticism is one that strives that refuses to stop asking uestions because uestions and criticisms are what push knowledge closer to the truth bit by bit It's a lovely dialogue and I highly recommend it even if you don't have a background in philosophy

  3. Yann Yann says:

    Cet ouvrage est de Cicéron Le sujet en est l'épistémologie et plus particulièrement la uestion de la vérité et de la connaissance et ui est sans doute celle ui me passionne le plus Cicéron présente ici encore sous la forme d'un dialogue les théories de deux écoles importantes celle des Stoïciens et celle de la Nouvelle Académie de Platon pour la distinguer de l'ancienne ui interprétait dogmatiuement l'œuvre du fondateur d'où le titre de l'œuvre Académiues Cicéron fait un remaruable travail d'histoire de la philosophie en expliuant la genèse de ces différents mouvements de la pensée grecuePhilosophie un bien étrange mot uand on y pense car lier l'amour le plus inconstant et capricieux des sentiments la plus violente et la plus douce des passions celle dont ont dit u'elle rend aveugle l'amour donc avec la grave et prudente sagesse celle ui s'accorde bien avec la vieillesse et u'on représente plus avec une barbe et des sourcils froncés plutôt ue comme un Cupidon un Satyre ou une Vénus n'est ce pas marier des contraires ? Car amoureux c'est bien un ualificatif ue l'on pourrait donner à ces romains ui se piuent de philosophie et embrassent avec ardeur les uerelles des écoles et se chamaillent avec tout le cœur ue peut leur inspirer leur passion pour la vérité comme des prétendants rivaliseraient de jactance pour séduire une belle Mais il n'en va pas ainsi car le grec est moins avare ue le français pour rendre les degrés de l'amour en distinguant ἠ φίλια ὁ ἐρως ἡ ἀγάπη ue cet amour reste donc raisonnable puisue l'étymologie le permet Pour les Stoïciens défendus par Varron les Académiciens déraisonnent voilà u'ils refusent d'accorder u'aucune représentation ne puisse être déclarée vraie ou fausse Nos sens nous mentiraient C'est détruire le fondement même de la vérité S'il n'y a plus aucune certitude nous sommes réduits à l'impuissance n'étant plus capable de régler notre conduite sur rien de solide Non il faut se défier de leurs raisonnements captieux leur sorite ui consiste à travailler par degré à gagner l'acuiescement à une série de raisons et ui nous jette bientôt dans la perplexité Les sens ne nous mentent pas et le vrai sage n'embrasse jamais ue des opinions vraies nous ne nous tromperons jamais Belles paroles mais fausses rétoruent les Académiciens représentés par Cicéron Il s'en faut de beaucoup ue les sens ne nous trompent pas comme le montre l'image d'une rame brisée lorsu'elle est à moitié dans l'eau ou les rêves ou hallucinations ui peuvent nous abuser Et enfin pouruoi essayer vainement de nous effrayer en prétendant ue sans certitude rien ne puisse être décidé il nous suffit d'une probabilité ue rien de vient arrêter Enfin nous ne détruisons pas la vérité nous prétendons juste ue n'avons pas les moyens de la connaître Pouruoi vouloir nous faire embrasser de toutes forces vos vues ? Où est donc ce sage soi disant infaillible parmi tous ces grands hommes ui se sont contredits? En ne donnant prudemment notre assentiment à aucune proposition c'est nous ui ne nous tromperons jamais S'il y a par contre un point sur lesuelles nos deux amis se rejoignent c'est pour dénigrer Épicure Le seul fait de paraître embrasser une des opinions semble si embarrassant ue cela devient un puissant argument pour déstabiliser l'adversaire Les arguments ue Cicéron place dans ce dialogue sont pleins d'humour et d'ironie mais ils ne manuent pas non plus d'élouence de raison et d'érudition L'intérêt et le plaisir sont au rendez vousMais enfin pour donner mon opinion uoiue on aime la vérité c'est beaucoup de ne vouloir jamais se tromper beaucoup trop ambitieux et franchement déraisonnable D'un coté les Stoïciens ont raison la vérité a besoin d'un critère il faut donner un sens aux mots mais ils se fourvoient avec cette crainte excessive de l'erreur ui semblerait les réduire à l'impuissance tant ils croient à cet fable de l'infaillibilité du sage A l'inverse les Académiciens raisonnent bien en acceptant la probabilité mais ils renversent effectivement tout critère de vérité en détruisant la pertinence des sensations Mais aussi bien ue je reconnaisse ue cela soit utile et nécessaire je me demande aussi si ce n'est pas un peu facile de se contenter de prendre une attitude critiue de ne jamais prendre parti sans ne jamais rien construire c'est vivre au crochet d'autrui à peu de frais et sans grand risue se couvrir de gloire en se hissant sur le labeur des autres ue l'on essaie donc aussi un peu de voir en uoi tel système douteux pourrait être amélioré ue l'on essaie de mettre sa cervelle à l'alambic et de décrire le monde de manière cohérente ue l'on essaie de voir où nous mènent les probabilités ui par l'habitude nous mènent bientôt à des certitudes ui énervent notre prudenceu'en est il ? Le vrai ou le faux découlent d'un jugement de comparaison entre un modèle interprétatif subjectif ue nous conservons dans notre esprit et des sensations ui soit nous reviennent par la mémoire soient s'offrent à nous par la perception Les sens ne nous trompent pas plus u'ils n'auraient toujours raison Par contre notre mémoire peut nous trahir si on l'exerce trop peu En vérité c'est nous mêmes ui nous trompons en construisant un modèle interprétatif ui ne s'accorde pas avec la réalité ou en ne nous en souvenant ue mal ou partiellement Mais nous avons une telle répugnance de la culpabilité ou de l'erreur ue nous accusons nos malheureux organes dépourvus de toute capacité de jugement plutôt ue notre entendement ui seul comprend nos facultés de mémoire d'intelligence et de jugement A notre entendement la faute c'est à dire nous mêmes et pas un autre ou un autre dans nous mêmes ui voudrait sentirait penserait ou jugerait à notre place parfois pour nous tromper Soit nous ne nous apercevons pas de l'écart entre notre modèle interprétatif et nos sensations par manue d'analyse d'attention de méthode de mémoire soit cet écart devient manifeste et c'est alors la chose la plus heureuse ui puisse nous arriver Bien loin de la fuir nous devons au contraire rechercher nos erreurs avec bien plus d'ardeur ue la vérité non pas u'il soit glorieux de s'être trompé mais il est très heureux de se corriger Il faut donc bien adopter des opinions tout en gardant à l'esprit ue nous restons sujet à l'erreur et c'est l'opinion ue Cicéron donne enfin à Catulus disciple de Carnéade alors ue nos philosophes romains se séparent à l'épilogue de ce beau de ce très beau dialogue

  4. Markus Markus says:

    CICERO 106 43ADACADEMICA – ‘Les Academiues’ is a bi lingual translation LatinFrenchA good translation but a subject not easy to read Mostly a matter for scholars in Ancient Philosophy For me of historical and intellectual interestThe work presented by Cicero in his usual style by conversations with friend Philosophers and Roman Intellectuals It is about the Schools of Philosophy in Ancient Greece the AcademiesSextus Empiricus in his writings tells us that there have been basically three Academies the oldest by Plato and his followers the second by Arcesilas student of Polémon the third the ‘new’ one by Carneades and Clitomaues some add a fourth by Philon and Charmidas and others a fifth by Antiochus and his followersThere is ample material for a book and even two books Cicero in his first book describes his conversation with his friends Atticus the Epicurean and Marcus Varron a well known Roman intellectual and follower of the Ancient Greek Philosophy by PlatoThey first come to discuss their ambitions of translating Ancient Greek writings into Latin but have to admit that vocabulary available in Latin would not suffice to translate all the deeper meanings of the Greek but then Cicero points out that the Greek language for Philosophy is different in many ways of the common language and that a translator into Latin would have to create similar special vocabulary to overcome the problem Then Varron comes to explain why he is a follower of Plato’s first Academy speaking of Ethics of Physics of Dialectics and Rhetorics and Cicero then explains why he is a follower of the ‘New Academy’ which he says is wrongly named because it relates directly to all of Plato’s teachingsThe second book is a conversation that takes place at the villa of Hortensius where Cicero Catullus and Lucullus meetLucullus a great statesman and Philosopher is now the spokesman to defend the so called ‘New Academy’ He will go over all the chapters like wisdom moral doubt memory dreams madness probability truth sensations virtues etcWhile reading you come to realize the problems they would have had due to insufficient clarity in vocabulary and language for one And that they could not distinctly separate mythology with gods and heroes of all kind as well as beliefs based on poetry and Greek Tragedies from reality and real historyThe last word in the book says “We have to adjourn “So we may conclude that they are still discussingI enjoyed reading this book than I had expected for it takes a while to get into the subject

  5. Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji says:

    Cicero on Academic Scepticism provides us with an insight into the Hellenistic philosophy in general and in particular Stoicism and Academic Scepticism The book is written in the form of a dialogue between Cicero Academic Scepticism and two Stoic interlocutors Lucullus and Varro This book was directly translated from Cicero's original Latin text I personally found it a bit hard to understand because the discussions assumes the reader has prior knowledge of the on going discussions I forgive Cicero for this oversight because the discussions were probably topical at the time when the text was written I probably need to read the book again perhaps a third time to fully grasp the whole debate That said I think it is a must read for those interested in Hellenistic philosophy

  6. Zachary Rudolph Zachary Rudolph says:

    “Nor is there any difference between us and those people who fancy that they know something except that they do not doubt at all that those doctrines which they uphold are the truth while we account many things as probable which we can adopt as our belief but can hardly positively affirm”

  7. Ethan Ethan says:

    This is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Academic Skepticism one of two forms of skepticism in Hellenistic philosophy the other being Pyrrhonism It should also appeal to people with interests in epistemology generally Those familiar with other forms of skepticism may find it interesting as a compare and contrast exercise The extent to which the Academics' arguments about the senses are a forerunner to the likes of Montaigne and Descartes is particularly interestingBrittain's translation is uite readable despite the incompleteness of the texts and Brittain's introduction footnotes and other supplementary material such as an analytical table of contents glossary of names and glossary of English Latin Greek terms are extremely helpful Cicero isn't always easy for a guy who doesn't know anything he sure seems to want to show off how much he's read but the dialogue format works well for injecting some life into subjects that can sometimes seem dry and lifeless at least for those without a previously awakened passion for epistemology andor the history of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy

  8. Alina Alina says:

    Very good exposition of Epircurean Stoic and the Academic Skeptic thought As can be expected Cicero's style is clear and appealing

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