Who is Carneades?June 25, 2021
Born in Kyrene, Karneades is the most famous of the New Scholars. He was a profound philosopher and an incomparable orator. When he was sent to Rome as an ambassador, he had the opportunity to discuss matters of philosophy in public; It is said that one day he praised justice, the next day he reproached it, but both times he rested with the same enthusiasm.
Karneades is the Middle Academy’s most famous director and thinker. We also see it in the pages of political history. At that time, a delegation was sent to Rome in order to reduce a heavy tax imposed on Athens. The delegation was made up of three philosophers by the Athenians: one was Carneades, one was Stoic, and the third was a Peripatotic philosopher. With this, the Athenians intended to exert a certain influence on Rome. These representatives were indeed influential in Rome. They succeeded in arousing positive enthusiasm in favor of Athens. However, this effect was to end with more or less negativity in terms of the duties of the representatives. Because Carneades, who had the opportunity to express his thoughts in Rome, gave two-day speeches on “justice”. Carneades, who proved that justice is a dominant principle in the universe on the first day, proved that the opposite of injustice is the dominant principle in the universe on the second day, and criticized the Romans by saying, “If the Romans were just, they would give back all the places they occupied”. This speech, which shocked the members of the Roman Senate, caused Carneades to be removed from Rome.
We know that it is a very strange phenomenon that skepticism reigned in Plato’s Academy. The skeptical Middle Academicians say that they rely more on Socrates than on the Platonists, and they find the foundations of skepticism in him. According to them, Socrates is the true master of “not knowing anything”. In fact, these views of the Middle Academicians should be justified in a way. On the other hand, these septic Academicians are especially against the Stoic school.
The disagreement between the two schools draws attention especially on “religion”. We know that the Stoics welcomed many beliefs of the folk religion, including prophecy and astrology. Septics strongly oppose these beliefs. According to the skeptics, most of the criticisms against folk religion can be traced back to Carneades. Karneades is strongly against astrology. He attacks the belief that the stars have an influence on human life with strong evidence and says that “if astrology were correct, then people born under the same star should all face the same endings.”
The Middle Academy, which was under the leadership of Archesilaos and then Carneades and followed a completely skeptical path, made its discussions and fights especially against the Stoic School, Stoic philosophy is “dogmatic”. This philosophy believes that it has an opinion about the universe that it argues is completely correct, and that it can be proven. The Stoics set out from the view that the common thoughts and beliefs found in all people and societies also carry the truth within them. Whereas the Septics are against the Stoics. They argue that there is no evidence to confirm this view of the universe. There are various thoughts and views about the universe. One of them may be true, and the other may be true. Also, any idea about the universe has spread among all people.
We witness the beginning of a new trend in Greek philosophy about a century before the birth of Jesus. Philosophy schools up to this date were clearly separated from each other. However, BC. In the 100 years, we see that schools that are against each other “come closer to each other, start to merge with each other”. For example, in the Stoic school, the movement of comparing the ideas of Plato and Aristotle with their own views begins, and from this the movement called “Middle Stoa” is born. The academy is losing its skeptical character. However, with this, skepticism did not disappear, it was displaced and re-emerged outside Athens.
Karneades is also the founder of probabilism. The purpose of his teaching was to refute the stoic sensibility, the theory of certainty, the existence of God, and the idea of supreme goodness. According to Karnaedes, imaginations are not a sound criterion, and reason cannot be considered a sound criterion. The only thing a wise man can do is to approve the vision that he finds most correct (with varying degrees of probability). But these choices do not contain any real opinion or approval.
In Carneades, rhetoric is an art of persuasion and distraction to this or that imagination. No written text survives from the Carneades; therefore, his views are known only through Clitomachus. Cicero and Sextus Empiricius made use of this source.
The epoch of skepticism made great progress in Carneades of Cyrene (214-129), who succeeded Archesilaos in the presidency of the Akademia.
He, like Archesilaus, argues with the principal Stoa; Archesilaos fought Zeno, while Carneades fights Chrysippus. The polemic opened by Archesilaos against the Stoa and the debate that started between these two eras began in the first century BC.