Pyrrhon of Elis (PIHR-ahn of EE-lihs), like Socrates, wrote nothing, and so information on his life must be gleaned from later sources. The founder of Greek Skepticism, he may have been influenced by Indian ascetics he encountered during Alexander the Great’s eastern campaigns. For Pyrrhon, the senses were unreliable and people’s beliefs neither true nor false. He recommended the simple life, free of beliefs, with a goal of mental and emotional tranquillity (ataraxia). The Skeptic should remain neutral with respect to things that cannot be known for certain and should avoid fruitless discussion about them. Pyrrhon made his daily life a demonstration of his Skeptical detachment and is said, for instance, to have displayed a legendary sangfroid during a storm at sea. Much of the biographical information recorded about him by Diogenes Laertius is, however, of dubious veracity.
Pyrrhon’s response to the problem of knowledge marks the beginning of Greek Skepticism. It was the object of attacks by early Christian writers such as Gregory of Nazianzus but then lay dormant until the publication of a Latin translation of Sextus Empiricus’s Pyrrōneiōn Hypotypōseōn (c. second century c.e., also known as Pyrrhoniarum hypotyposes; Outlines of Pyrrhonism, 1591) in France in 1562. From that time, Skepticism has strongly influenced the Western philosophical and...
(The entire section is 424 words.)