Who is Arkesilaos?November 30, 2020
Arkesilaos or Arkesilas (316-241). He was born in Pitane in the Aeolia region. First, he was a student of Aristotle’s closest friend, colleague and successor Theophrastos, and then he entered Akademia. Pyrrhon was very influenced. He is renowned as a sharp, sarcastic orator.
Adopting Pyrrhon’s doctrine completely without changing it, Arkesilaos, as an Akademian, emphasizes Platonic philosophy and tries to indicate the skeptical aspects of this philosophy, especially Socrates’ method.
Socrates always claimed that he did not know anything: he did not make any arguments in his speeches, he had them speak; Then he would make him confess that he didn’t know anything with a series of questions and objections.
This method, which we find in Plato’s youth dialogues, is, according to Arkesilaos, an expression of the skeptical principle that “we can support every argument with equally strong evidence for and against this”. As a matter of fact, Arkesilaos himself used this method of Socrates in his discussions. Alone; Like Socrates, he used this method not to force the other to think about himself, to make him find the consequences, but to put him on a skeptical view. Arkesilaos’ understanding of knowledge gained its main character in his fight with his main opponent, stoa, more precisely with Zenon. According to Stoa, our knowledge of reality is based on sensory perceptions, this is the source of this information.
Not all sensory imaginations alone, but cataleptic visions, provide truth, but the imagination that is “grasped”, “concealed” by taking firm root in our souls is (without catalep) pure, self-evident, hence certain, unshakable; It is the measure of accurate information without catalep. Arkesilaos criticizes this understanding of Stoa as follows: There is no such measure of accuracy that can confidently tell us whether a vision is true or false, that is, whether this imagination is related to something that exists or does not exist. In sensory errors, dreams, and madness, too, imagination is an absolute self-evident, and they force us to affirm themselves, whereas these are false imaginations. This shows that we can never know if our imagination is wrong or right.
So my criterion of stoic accuracy is not a useful measure. Arkesilaos’ theory of knowledge almost ends in this critique of the Stoa, the chief representative of dogmatism.
After Krates’ death, the Greek thinker who took over the Academy opposed both Stoicism and Epicureanism. He has adopted skepticism that is not as radical as Pyrrhon’s.
Arkesilaos has a more positive view in moral teaching. Here, as it is based on the Socrates-Platon tradition, it does not show complete indifference to behavior in practical life like Pyrrhon, who advises avoiding judgment and action (epokhe); epokhe is a value, but not the highest value; man must also act. Here, the question arises: Can the aims and principles take action without being clearly known? Since Arkesilaos does not want to be content with the mere perception and habit based on it, he suggests “phronesis” and “enlogia” as a guide to action.