Neo-Pyrrhonism a New Reading of Pyrrhonian Acceptance in the Light of the Contemporary Philosophy of Mind

Sképsis 13 (24):46-62 (2022)
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I argue for a new reading of Pyrrhonian beliefs inspired by representationalism (the content view) in recent philosophy of mind. I shall argue that there are two senses of acceptance or “acquiescence in something” (eudokein tini pragmati) rather than two senses of belief (doxa). For this reason, we can maintain along with Sextus that the Pyrrhonian skeptic behaves intentionally and can live his life in society adoxastôs without any proper beliefs whatsoever. However, the skeptical sense of acceptance is not the mere avowal of a feeling or a mere report or register of the way things appear to me. I want to suggest the following reading. Acceptance without belief is an anti-predicative passive and involuntary acceptance of content by means of an indicator function (pathos or phainomenon) in virtue of the past regular connection between the representational content and the indicator function. The pathos (as a present state of mind) or the phainomenon “means” (that is, indicates) passively and involuntarily a content in virtue of its regular connection with this content through time. For example, the Pyrrhonian’s acceptance of the content of the sentence “there is fire” is based on the fact that he here and now perceives smoke and that pathos passively and involuntarily means (represents) the content that there is fire. There is no judgment involved at all: even when the skeptic suspends his judgment (epochê) about whether there is fire, his pathos makes him involuntarily accept that there is fire. That is what Sextus, following the Stoic tradition, calls “commemorative signs” (hupomnêstikon) in opposition to the so-called “indicative signs” (endeiktikon), namely the “internal assertion” of the content as a belief (as a propositional attitude). As I do not believe that any reasonable reading of the skeptical acceptance may be defended only by means of philological analysis and by the research of the huge doxography, my arguments deliberately mix historical evidence with reasons of a systematic nature. In this way, the defense of my alternative reading is abductive, namely as the inference to the best explanation.

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Roberto Horácio De Pereira
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro


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