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Timon is reported as telling us that in order to be happy, one must pay attentio

n to three connected questions: first, what are things like by nature? second, h
ow should we be disposed towards things (given our answer to the first question)
? and third, what will be the outcome for those who adopt the disposition recomm
ended in the answer to the second question? And the passage then gives us Pyrrho
's and Timon's answers to each of the three questions in order.
The answer to the question what are things like by nature? is given by a sequence
of three epithets; things are said to be adiaphora and astathmêta and anepikrita.
Taken by themselves, these epithets can be understood in two importantly differe
nt ways: they may be taken as characterizing how things are (by nature) in thems
elves, or they may be taken as commenting on human beings' lack (by our nature)
of cognitive access to things. Adiaphora is normally translated indifferent . But t
his might be taken as referring either to an intrinsic characteristic of things na
mely that, in themselves and by nature, they possess no differentiating features
or to our natural inability to discern any such features. In the latter case und
ifferentiable might be a more perspicuous translation. (Beckwith (2011) plausibly
connects the focus on differentiating features, or the lack of them, with the A
ristotelian notion of differentiae; on either of the readings to be explored, Ar
istotle's picture of the world and of our ability to understand it would indeed
be a prime example of the kind of view from which Pyrrho is anxious to distance
himself.) Similarly, astathmêta might mean unstable or unbalanced , describing an objec
tive property of things; or it might mean not subject to being placed on a balanc
e , and hence unmeasurable , which would again place the focus on our cognitive inabi
lities. And anepikrita might mean indeterminate , referring to an objective lack of
any definite features, or indeterminable , pointing to an inability on our part to
determine the features of things. The statement as a whole, then, is either ans
wering the question what are things like by nature? by stating that things are, in
their very nature, indefinite or indeterminate in various ways
the precise natu
re of the thesis would be a matter for further speculation or by stating that we h
uman beings are not in a position to pin down or determine the nature of things.
Let us call these the metaphysical and the epistemological interpretations resp
It is clear that the metaphysical interpretation gives us a Pyrrho who is not in
any recognizable sense a sceptic. Pyrrho, on this interpretation, is issuing a
declaration about the nature of things in themselves precisely what the later Pyrr
honists who called themselves sceptics were careful to avoid. On the epistemolog
ical interpretation, on the other hand, Pyrrho is very much closer to the tradit
ion that took his name. There is still some distance between them. To say that w
e cannot determine the nature of things as opposed to saying that we have so far
failed to determine the natural features of things is already a departure from th
e sceptical suspension of judgement promoted by Sextus Empiricus. And to put it,
as on this reading Pyrrho does put it, by saying that things are indeterminable
, is a further departure, in that it does attribute at least one feature to thin
gs in themselves namely, being such that humans cannot determine them. Neverthel
ess, the epistemological interpretation clearly portrays Pyrrho as a forerunner a
naive and unsophisticated forerunner, perhaps
of later Pyrrhonist scepticism, wh
ereas the metaphysical interpretation puts him in a substantially different ligh
The natural way to try to choose between these two interpretations is to see whi
ch of them fits best with the logic of the passage as a whole. But here we encou
nter a further complication. The text of the phrase that follows the words we ha
ve just been discussing is subject to dispute. According to the manuscripts this
phrase reads for this reason (dia touto) neither our sensations nor our opinions
tell the truth or lie . Now, if this reading is correct, the thought expressed se
ems to favor the metaphysical interpretation; the idea is that, since things are
in their real nature indeterminate, our sensations and opinions, which represen
t things as having certain determinate features, are neither true nor false. The

which is presumably reason enough for us not to trust th em. On the epistemological interp retation. we are being asked to use a manner of speaking that expresses our susp ension of judgement about how things are. and i ndeed the remainder of the evidence on Pyrrho in general. the significance of this is obvious. first. we are being asked to adopt a form of words that reflects the utter indefiniteness of the way things are. In this usage. We are told. The Aristocles passage continues with t he answer to the second question. opinion . the point about our sensations and opinions now be comes a reason for the point about the nature of things. However. The considerations for and against this proposal a re technical. And this. and the unopinionated attitude that is here recommended may be understood as one in which one refrains from positing any definite characteristics as inheren t in the nature of things given that their real nature is wholly indefinite. we should n ot say of anything that it is any particular way any more than that it is not th at way (with is being understood. it is clear that if one does make this small alteration to the text. in the view of these authors that take on trust a view of the world as conforming more o r less to the way it appears in ordinary experience. The remainder of the Aristocles passage. but should adopt an unopinionated attitu de. The idea would then be that. since that too would require that reality have certain det erminate features. not an inference from i t. it has been argued. false reports) about t he world around us. and debate has yielded no consensus on this question. On the epistemological reading. the claim th at reality is indefinite would not be a (mere) opinion. especia lly in Parmenides and Plato. . can be read so as to f it with either the metaphysical or the epistemological reading of his answer to the question about the nature of things. and that what the text should say is on account of the fact that (dia to) neith er our sensations nor our opinions tell the truth or lie . That claim would seem at most to license the very differ ent inference that we cannot tell whether they tell the truth or lie. for that matter. the direction of the inference is reversed. as shorthand fo r is F . since reality is not the way they present it as being. is regularly used in earlier Greek philosophy. By contrast.y are not true. too. as commonly in Greek philosophy. We are supposed to say about each single thing that it no more is than is not or both is and is not or neither is nor is not . to refer to those opinions misguided opinions. we have already been told that our sensations and opinions are not true. since our sensations and opinions fail to be co nsistent deliverers of true reports (or. But on the metaphysical reading.) The passage now introduces a certain form of speech that is supposed to reflect this unopinionated attitude. and especially about the role and signific ance of the both and neither components. There a re a number of intricate questions about the exact relations between the various parts of this complicated utterance. This is the crux on which the decision between the two main lines of interpretat ion of Pyrrho's philosophy turns. The change is justified on linguistic grounds. But some scholars have suggested that the manuscripts are in error at this point . there is no prospect of our being able to determine the natu re of things. points towards the epistemological interpretati on. but would be a statement of the truth. On the metaphysical interpretation. it may be replied that doxa. that we should not trust our sensations and opinions. namely features that are the negations of the ones that our s ensations and opinions portray it as having. But it is clear that this too is susceptibl e of being read along the lines of either of the two interpretations introduced above. (To t he objection that this thesis of indefiniteness is itself an opinion. it is alleged that the text in the manuscripts as they s tand is not acceptable Greek. but they are not false either. where F stands for any arbitrary predicate). it is quite unclear ho w the claim that the nature of things cannot be determined by us could be though t to license the inference for this reason neither our sensations nor our opinion s tell the truth or lie . namely the question of the attitude we should adopt given the answer to the first question.

this too.Finally. must be a matter for speculative reconstruction. But the decision between these two ways of understanding the term i s independent of the broader interpretive issues bearing upon the passage as a w hole. On the one hand. that things are in their real nature in definite or indeterminate. the lack of detail. two major possibilities. For some form of non-assertion is clearly licensed by either the metaphysica l or the epistemological interpretation. whereas a reference to aphasia would be unparal leled in the other evidence on Pyrrho. then. "lack of passion". and aphasia is a term in use in later Pyrrhonism. speechlessness . Beckwith (2011) actually argues that the transmitted text is erroneous. as in Sextus that is. Pyrrho can be read as declaring that the nature of things is inacc essible to us. and that we should instead read apatheia. The important point. Or. the connection between these two points align s Pyrrho with the later Pyrrhonists. However. as revelatory of the real nature of things) those myriad aspects of our ordinary experience that represent things as having certain definite features. But that is not in itself any reason for favoring this interpretation over the other. which could in turn be taken to be an initial reaction of stunned silence to the radical position w ith which one has been presented (an uncomfortable reaction that is subsequently replaced by ataraxia the passage does say that aphasia comes first and ataraxia c omes later). The fact that this later s ceptical tradition took Pyrrho as an inspiration is therefore readily understand able whichever of the two interpretations is correct (or whichever they thought was correct). would not be surprising. on th e other hand. As noted earlier. But Aristocles only purpor ts to be giving the key points of Timon's summary. is that ataraxia is the end result. This is an attract ive suggestion. we are told that the result for those who adopt the unopinionated attitude just recommended is first aphasia and then ataraxia. It is also true that. and to prom ise it as a result of a certain kind of withdrawal of trust in the veracity of o ur everyday impressions of things. it seems worth trying to elucidate it on the assumption that the transmitted text is correct. . and encouraging us to withdraw our trust (and to speak in such a way as to express our withdrawal of trust) in ordinary experience as a guide to the nature of things. We have. epistemological interpretati on makes Pyrrho's outlook a great deal closer to that of the later Pyrrhonists w ho took him as an inspiration. though di sappointing. metaphysical one. freedom from worry . t his is said by the later Pyrrhonists to be the result of the suspension of judge ment that they claimed to be able to induce. the second. or it might mean. The precise sense of aphasia is les s clear. apatheia is indeed a term used not infrequently of Pyrrho's untr oubled attitude (see section 5). the view proposed might indeed render someone (initially) uncomfortable to the point of sp eechlessness . an d this links back to the introductory remark to the effect that the train of tho ught to be summarized has the effect of making one happy. more literally. Pyrrho can be read as a dvancing a sweeping metaphysical thesis. though. and sets him apart from every other Greek p hilosophical movement that preceded later Pyrrhonism. is familiar to us from later Pyrrhonism. and encouraging us to embrace the consequences of tha t thesis by refusing to attribute any definite features to things (at least. For on either interpretat ion Pyrrho is said to promise ataraxia. and on either interpretation. a refusal to commit oneself to definite a lternatives. on the metaphysical interpretation of the pa ssage. Ataraxia. the later Pyrrhonists' goal. the grounds on which Pyrrho advanced his metaphysical thesis of indetermi nacy are never specified. It might mean non-assertion . in answer to the third question. as belonging to their real nature) and by refusing to accept at face value (again. the proposal is inevitably specu lative. like the precise character of the thesis its elf.