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  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: March 2008

7 - Introduction: the beginnings of Hellenistic epistemology

It is generally agreed that the Hellenistic period is the great age of ancient epistemology. Two philosophers of signal and symbolic importance had connections with Alexander. The first is Aristotle, and the second is second is Pyrrho, some twenty years younger than Aristotle. The widespread notion that the beginning of the Hellenistic period is marked by an epistemological turn rests on considerations both philosophical and historical. According to an ancient orthodoxy, promoted by the Neopyrrhonians, Pyrrho was above all an epistemologist: he was a thorough-going sceptic. Modern scholars who accept this orthodoxy rely primarily on a passage in Aristocles, which is unanimously and rightly held to be crucial to the interpretation of Pyrrho's thought. The sceptical Academy is not the only Hellenistic school to produce an epistemology which would later attract the Neopyrrhonians: the Cyrenaics did so too. The whole of Cyrenaic epistemology is contained in a phrase: feelings alone are apprehensible.
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The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053617
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M. F. Burnyeat (1980b) ‘Tranquillity without a stop: Timon, frag. 68’, CQ 30.

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G. Striker (1981) ‘Über den Unterschied zwischen den Pyrrhoneern und den Akademikern’, Phronesis 26 ; English version in Striker (1996).