Who is Timon?June 26, 2021
Ancient Greece is a philosopher. He is one of the pioneers of the skepticism movement.
He argued that since the senses mislead people, it is not possible to obtain certain information. Born in Philonte, near the Peloponnese, about 320 or 325 BC, died in Athens in 230 or 235 BC.
He was a student and successor of the philosopher Pyrrhon, the founder of the skepticism movement. At first he joined a group of theater actors, then when he became interested in philosophy, he went to Megara and became a student of the philosopher Stilpon, and then of the skeptical sage Pyrrhon in Elis, where he went. Timon, who is also interested in medicine, worked for a while as a traveling teacher in the Anatolian Chalcedonian region, after making a big profit, he returned to Athens and entered Plato’s Academy. In a short time, he became one of the directors of the Academy, as well as enabling the adoption of the skeptical doctrine. Apart from philosophy, he wrote works dealing with poetry and plays, and expressed his thoughts on philosophy in the form of poetry. Most of his works are not found, his thoughts are learned from quotations from him. Among his works, Silies (“Satires”) is the most popular and the one that led him to be called a “satirist”.
Timon is considered important in the history of thought in two ways. One of these is the satirist’s success in making fun of those he argues with. His approach to these subjects, which he deals with in the language of poetry, is to criticize the other for his thoughts and to reveal his inconsistency. In particular, he argues with philosophers such as Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Melissos, Zeno of Elea, with a sarcastic language in hell. He says that they are inconsistent, liars, deceitful, unable to grasp the facts, and inadequate. According to him, Plato is a person who believes the lie he tells himself, Aristotle is smug, Xenophon is cruel, Pythagoras is disrespectful, Heraclitus is a clamorous person. Timon’s scathing language is meant to refute the views of unskeptical philosophers. In the other two parts of Silies, he blames Epicurus and Cleantes, admires Democritus and Parmenides, and praises Protagoras.
According to Timon, the task of philosophy is to put life in order and make the individual happy in proportion to his own ability. Because of this nature, philosophy is not theoretical but applied, it is in life. Anyone who wants to achieve happiness should ask himself three questions such as the quality of the objects, his attitudes and behaviors about the objects, and the result of them, and seek answers for them. Of these questions, the one about what the objects are cannot be resolved, because man cannot know the essence of the object. Although science claims that it has solved it, no definite results have been obtained. The divergence between solutions is proof of this. Man can only know the appearance of things, so things are not otherwise than they appear. All information cannot go beyond being transmissions based on habits and traditions. People can tell that they only see the object, not the real thing, but perceive it with the senses. The answer to the second and third questions is in the direction of the first. Knowing that people cannot know the truth in the face of objects, they should regulate their behavior and determine their attitude. This means avoiding all kinds of definitive judgments and not believing those who argue that science grasps the truth.
Timon’s thoughts on morality are also based on the Doctrine of Skepticism. The important thing for him is not to stick to rigid thoughts, to believe in immutability, to claim that there are generally valid rules, but to try to be as happy as possible in the flow of life.
Timon, the successor of Pyrrhon, is another septic philosopher. however, he offered some evidence of intelligence, from the point of view of Greek logic, that it was very difficult to respond. The only accepted logic in terms of facts was deductive. All deduction, like Euclid, had to start from general principles considered obvious.
Timon must accept the possibility of finding such principles. So everything can be documented with the help of something else. And all evidence will be either circular, or an endless chain hanging from nothing. In both cases, nothing can be detected. As far as we can see, this evidence uprooted the Aristotelian philosophy that dominated the middle ages.
Some forms of skepticism defended today by those who are not entirely skeptical, were not seen by the skeptics of ancient times. They were not skeptical of images or, in their opinion, only propositions that express our immediate knowledge of images.
Many of Timon’s works have disappeared. The two pieces we have will illustrate this point. One of them says that “the image is completely valid”, while the other reads: “I don’t say “honey is sweet”, “honey looks sweet”. “I remember suggesting that honey is sweet. I totally agree that she looks cute.”
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook