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Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) Paperback – August 15, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0521778091 ISBN-10: 0521778093 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (August 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521778093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521778091
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Students and scholars have every reason to be grateful...." James Allen, The Philosophical Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Chris Sagers--Author on September 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a classic and priceless work. Along with the other extant works of S.E. it remains virtually the only surviving record of teachings attributed to the very influential 4th c. B.C.E. philosopher Pyrrho of Elis. As such, the book preserves a now largely forgotten body of thought that rivals anything produced in the same vein since. I think there is nothing -- except a lot of multisyllabic obfuscation -- in the works of the phenomenologists, the existentialists, or the usually uneducated and thoughtless so-called "postmodernists" that can't be found in ancient skepticism.
I think this particular translation is also the best for most readers. (If you are a serious scholar and can read the Greek yourself, then you are a better judge than I of whether it's a good translation. What I mean is that it is the most accessible for modern readers.) Numerous other translations are available and several are in print. Annas & Barnes, however, both noted classics scholars and both persons who deeply understand and seem sympathetic to the ancient skeptics, have set out a translation very accessible to modern English readers. They have also set out copious notes and cross references that are very useful to more serious readers.
The previous reviewer from Colorado, incidentally, is off the mark on a few things. First, I doubt that S.E. was really interested that much in "truth." Though he may sometimes say or imply that that is his aim, I think he does so in a catty or coy way. I think he never thought he was going to find the truth; rather, he knew before he started writing that the skeptic simply cannot be answered -- there is no argument the skeptic cannot pick apart. As S.E.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joe Rae on February 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Sextus Empiricus reveals the Sceptic m.o. of seeking opposing arguments with equal likelihood, resulting in tranquility of mind resting in indecision. Dogmatists, he states, are the ones who cannot live the blessed life; not finding equilibrium in indecision. Most readers will likely not buy that argument along with quite a few other opposing arguments presented as being equally likely. Empiricus still gives a lot of quality arguments from a unique perspective of thought. The book is a recommended read for its historical and novel thought process. The book is intellectually stimulating and at times even humorous - for example the time when a Cynic debates a Sceptic over motion:

"One of the Cynics, when the argument against motion was propounded [from a Sceptic], gave no answer but stood up and walked away, establishing by his action and evidently that motion is real."

Not being exposed previously to first hand Sceptic reasoning I was pleasantly surprised by its legitimate ideas and entertainment value. I believe those interested in history and philosophy will also feel the better for reading the book.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 1997
Format: Paperback
Many books have been written on skepticism. But this one is the best. The author not only outlines what skepticism is,but spares nothing from skepticism. This is a refreshing outlook from the skeptical books published recently that link skepticism and anti-god,psychic powers, and so forth. A skeptic is really a wise man who calls all claims into question including those of scientists and other skeptics. His only goal is truth. Something that the majority of so called "skeptics" today know very little about. This book is not biased, and clearly shows how a true skeptic thinks. Rather than being the kill joy of so many people, the book shows that the true skeptic is not a cynic, but rather a sincere individual who loves truth. This is why so many views on God, dogmatism, and so forth are attacked in the book. The skeptic is intrested in seeing how the claims to truth stand up to his attacks. This book focuses on dogmatism in many subjects. This is the center of the skeptics attacks. We see that many views do not hold up to the skeptics critiques, this includes ironically the views of scientists and other philosophers. This is a classic book and deserves every bit of praise. I loved it .
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nick on December 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As my title implies, I did not read this very book, but I did read Sextus Empiricus' text, only in a French edition and translation.

This text was very important in the history of philosophy and modern thought in that, I believe, it is one of the few "textbooks" of ancient skepticism.

Personally, of the three books that constitute the "outlines of Scepticism" (as this here edition has it "Pyrrhonian Outlines would be a better translation, but they have a point in that Pyrrho and the philosophy described by Sextus aren't quite as similar as one would be led to believe) I preferred the first; mainly because the second and third are redundant and not always very reader-friendly. Quite frankly, I spent quite a few pages reading and not understanding a single thing that was said. When Sextus goes on to explain how basically nothing can be despite obvious observations (acknowledged by skeptics), well, I'm not too convinced. But that is still way better than most ancient philosophy which were nice fantasies (sometimes) and which are attacked by Sextus; so I appreciated that.

Skepticism is a very interesting philosophical movement, and I wish Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus were as known as Socrates and Plato (in whose roles they perfectly fit: Pyrrho never wrote anything and Sextus is the one who writes it down in a book).

Recommend to anyone who is interested in getting to the texts themselves; but beware of the second and third books: you may want to stick to the first.
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