Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Blog Post 1
No One Knows Anything
You may think that you know all kinds of things in life. For example, you’re reading this right now. Think about why it is that you know you are actually reading this right now and not just imagining or dreaming that you are. This is a small example of the kind of stance that sceptic philosophers took on life.
Everything can be questioned, everything doubted. The best thing for a person to do is to keep an open mind. Having an open mind and not committing to anything leaves you in the position to not be disappointed. This was the main purpose behind the teachings of Scepticism, a form of philosophy that was popular for centuries throughout Ancient Greece and Rome. The most famous and probably the most extreme sceptic of all time was Pyrrho.
Pyrrho led an odd life and was known for living out his skepticism in extraordinary ways. He approached life saying that we can’t completely trust our senses because sometimes they mislead us. They can mislead us by making us think we saw something in the dark when it turned out to be something completely different, or by making us believe that we heard something when it was just the wind blowing outside. It is because of this belief that Pyrrho decided to never trust his senses. He never completely ruled them out, but he was sure to always keep an open mind about them.
With his beliefs, one would think that he must’ve been extremely lucky to live as long as he did. Most people believe that he must have had a large group of friends, who were not sceptics, around to keep him from having any accidents. He was constantly challenging anything and everything around him. For example, if a pack of dogs were to be running towards him he would not be afraid. He would think that even though they were running straight for him, while barking and growling, that it wouldn’t necessarily mean they will attack him, and even if they do that it won’t necessarily hurt. It’s hard to imagine being friends with someone who would always face situations like this and be willing to always challenge them.
Pyrrho was similar to Socrates because he never wrote anything down. Most of what we know about him comes from other people that recorded his beliefs and life events centuries after his death. Some people argue that stories written about him were made up to mock his sceptic philosophy. One of the most notable stories involved him sailing through one of the worst storms anyone in that time period had ever witnessed. Everyone on board was completely terrified except for Pyrrho. Since he believed that appearances were often deceiving he wasn’t able to be completely sure that any harm would come of the storm. With this thought process he was able to remain completely calm throughout the entire storm. He believed that there was no reason to get worked up about anything because everything was just a matter of opinion.
Pyrrho was able to summarize his whole philosophy into three questions that anyone who wants to be happy should ask. “What are things really like?” “What attitude should we adopt to them?” “What will happen to someone who does adopt that attitude?” His own answers to those questions were first, we can’t ever know what the world is really like because it is beyond us. Second, we shouldn’t commit to any view because we can’t know anything for sure. We need to suspend all of our judgement and live our lives uncommitted. Third, if you follow his teachings you will start off speechless because you won’t know what to say, and eventually you will be free from any and all worry. That’s the best that anyone can hope for in life.