This translation of the two books that make up Against the Logicians is a valuable addition to the ever-increasing literature on Pyrrhonism. The only previous complete English version of these two books is that of R. G. Bury, which appeared in 1935 in the Loeb Classical Library as the second volume of the four dedicated to Sextus Empiricus’ extant oeuvre.1 Although Bury’s translations of Sextus’ writings continue to be useful, particularly due to their facing Greek text and to the fact that they are still the only complete English versions of some of those writings,2 unfortunately they are dated and sometimes inaccurate or misleading. Hence Richard Bett’s new translation is most welcome.
The first part of the volume features a fine introduction, a useful chronological table, a select list of works for further reading,3 a note on the text and the translation, and a helpful outline of the argument that presents the complex structure of Against the Logicians. There follows the translation, which is conveniently labeled not solely according to the sporadic chapter headings present in the manuscripts but also according to the outline just mentioned. With a few exceptions, Bett follows H. Mutschmann’s standard edition of the Greek text.4 A general characteristic of the translation is the constant italicization of particular words in order to make clearer the point of a claim or an argument. The footnotes offer cross-references to other passages within Against the Logicians and provide references to other works by Sextus, other ancient texts, and secondary literature. They also record the departures from Mutschmann’s text, refer to the lacunae present in the manuscripts, explain the meaning of certain Greek terms or the sense of what Sextus is saying, and justify the choices of translation. The third part of the book includes an English-Greek and Greek-English glossary, which also indicates the differences between Bett’s choices of translation and those made by Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes in their version of PH published in the same Cambridge series.5 There are in addition a list of parallels between Against the Logicians and other writings by Sextus, a list of the historical persons and philosophical schools referred to — which serves as an index of names and provides a few lines of information about each of them — and a subject index.
Sextus’ Against the Logicians comprises the first two of the five extant books of his Adversus Dogmaticos ( AD). The other three are, in order, the two books Against the Physicists and the book Against the Ethicists. In AD
In his introduction, Bett offers a brief overview of both Sextus’ life and works and of Greek skepticism (both Pyrrhonian and Academic) before him. He also presents the general character of AD
In Bett’s view, the form of skepticism just outlined corresponds to the outlook adopted by Aenesidemus, and hence to an earlier phase of the history of Pyrrhonism. Now, Bett maintains that AD I-II seem to contain traces of this Aenesideman brand of Pyrrhonism, namely negative arguments purporting to establish that the Dogmatists’ views are wrong. However, unlike what happens in the first part of AD V, in AD I-II Sextus uses those arguments to counterbalance the positive arguments advanced by the Dogmatists so as to induce epochê as this notion is understood in most of his surviving writings.9 If one accepts Bett’s view, a question naturally arises: why does Sextus adopt one form of Pyrrhonism in AD I-IV and another in AD V? Bett does not answer this question in the present book, but refers the reader to the introduction to his translation of AD V, where he has assessed two competing explanations. One possible explanation is that the sources Sextus used for AD I-IV expounded a variety of Pyrrhonism distinct from that defended in the sources he used for AD V. If this is what happened, then in AD he failed to integrate the two incompatible forms of Pyrrhonism. Since accepting this hypothesis forces us to conclude that Sextus was an incompetent thinker, Bett inclines to another explanation: he supposes that Sextus considered ethical matters to differ from logical and physical matters in that the former are of such a nature that they make it feasible to make definite judgments about the nature of things, whereas the latter are not of such a nature.10
As to the relative chronology of Sextus’ extant works, Bett maintains that PH is later than AD because comparison of the parallel passages from AD I-II and PH II shows that the latter is the revised and cleaned-up version of the former. He has arrived at the same conclusion about the order of composition of AD and PH when comparing AD V with the ethical section of PH III.11 Let us note that, although what is considered the traditional view claims that PH is the earlier work, scholars have argued that AD predates PH for some time now.12
In what follows, I will make a few critical remarks about the introduction, the translation and the reading of the Greek text at AD I 158.
First the introduction. Bett’s claim that two types of skepticism coexist in AD implies that, in the same work, Sextus used the key notion of epochê in two incompatible senses without any warning to the reader. To avoid ascribing such an unlikely oversight to Sextus, one could suppose that, in the lost part of AD, he cautioned the reader that he would use that notion in two different senses. This supposition, however, is highly problematic for several reasons. First, we know from AD V 144 that, in the portion of AD which is no longer extant, there was a chapter on the telos of skepticism in which it was claimed that the state of ataraxia is attained by suspending judgment about everything. Acceptance of the supposition that Sextus distinguished between two senses of the notion of epochê would commit one to assuming that, in that lost chapter, Sextus indicated that the state of ataraxia is reached in two different ways corresponding to two distinct forms of epochê : in the logical and physical parts of philosophy ataraxia is attained by adopting a kind of epochê which, insofar as it is universal, is incompatible with all types of assertions, whereas in the ethical part ataraxia is attained by adopting a kind of epochê which, although being universal, is compatible with certain types of assertions. In addition, from AD I 345 one may infer that, in the lost portion of AD, Sextus expounded the Ten Modes of Aenesidemus,13 which are arguments designed to induce epochê. One should then assume that, in that lost portion, Sextus made it clear that the mode which is especially concerned with ethics (see PH I 145) induces a kind of epochê different from that induced by the other nine modes. Finally, we know from AD I 1 that, in the lost part of AD, Sextus examined the differences between Pyrrhonism and its neighboring philosophies — as he does in the final chapters of PH I. Accepting the supposition that Sextus differentiated between two senses of epochê would commit one to assuming that he qualified his claims about the skeptical credentials of some of the philosophies that stand close to Pyrrhonism. For it is possible that some of the differences between Pyrrhonism and those philosophies apply as far as the skepticism adopted in AD I-IV is concerned, but not as far as the skepticism adopted in AD V is concerned. For instance, by comparison with PH, one may reasonably infer that, in the lost portion of AD, there was a chapter on the differences between the philosophy of Democritus and Pyrrhonism in which his use of the formula “not more” was contrasted with the Pyrrhonist’s. Now, Bett maintains that at AD V 118, where Sextus is describing the Pyrrhonist’s outlook, that formula is used in the sense according to which “not more A than B” is to be understood as meaning “neither A nor B”.14 In PH we are told that that is the sense in which “not more” was used by Democritus, whereas the Pyrrhonist uses it to express his ignorance about whether A, B, or neither is the case ( PH I 191, 213). When in AD II-IV Sextus employs the phrase “not more” to describe the Pyrrhonist’s outlook, this phrase is used in the specifically Pyrrhonian sense explained at PH 188-191 (see AD II 298, 328; III 50, 59, 195; IV 45, 49). Acceptance of the supposition that Sextus distinguished between two senses of epochê would then require one to assume that, in the lost portion of AD, he claimed that the Pyrrhonist does and does not differ from Democritus in his use of the formula “not more”, depending on the area of philosophy under consideration.
As any specialist on Sextus knows, his association with the Empirical school of medicine is problematic. According to the pseudo-Galen ( Introductio seu medicus XIV 683 Kühn) and Diogenes Laertius (DL IX 116), Sextus was an Empirical doctor, thereby his sobriquet “Empiricus”. This external evidence, however, conflicts with the internal evidence. Indeed, in the chapter of PH I in which he addresses the question whether medical Empiricism is the same as skepticism, Sextus tells us that, despite what some claim, “it must be recognized that, if indeed that [form of] Empiricism makes assertions about the inapprehensibility of non-evident things, then it is not the same as skepticism, nor would it be appropriate for the skeptic to attach himself to that school” ( PH I 236). As a solution to this conundrum, Bett claims that the passage may be read “as expressing suspicion towards a certain specific form of Empiricism, rather than towards the school as a whole” (ix). Although Bett does not mention him, this reading has been defended particularly by Michael Frede,15 who has maintained that the form of Empiricism from which Sextus distanced himself was that of the early Empiricists and that he was one of the Pyrrhonists who radically transformed medical Empiricism.16 This interpretation, however, does not seem tenable, for, when at PH I 236 Sextus observes that the Empiricists assert that non-evident things are inapprehensible, he does not make any distinction whatsoever between different forms of Empiricism but attributes that assertion to the Empirical sect as a whole. Moreover, he also points out that the skeptic might rather adopt the stance of medical Methodism, because “it alone of the medical schools seems not to speak with rashness about non-evident things, presuming to say whether they are apprehensible or inapprehensible, but, following the things which appear, it gets from them what seems to be beneficial, in accord with the practice of the skeptics” ( PH I 237, emphasis added). There is another passage of Sextus’ extant writings that mentions a difference between Empiricism and Pyrrhonism, which is found in AD II. There Sextus points out that, concerning demonstration, “the dogmatic philosophers and the rationalist doctors posit it, the Empiricists do away with it, and perhaps also Democritus . . . and the skeptics have kept it in suspension of judgment, making use of the ‘no more’ formula” ( AD II 327-328). Here again Sextus does not distinguish between Pyrrhonism and a specific form of Empiricism since he ascribes the denial of the existence of demonstration to the Empiricists as a whole. Now, if Sextus’ criticism at PH I 236 were directed only against the type of Empiricism espoused by the early members of the Empirical school, it would not be at all clear why, in the passages in which he contrasts the Empirical and the Pyrrhonian outlooks, he does not discriminate between different forms of Empiricism and indicate that Pyrrhonism is incompatible only with one of those forms.17
A further remark concerns the conventional designation given to the five extant books of AD. They are conventionally referred to as AM VII-XI because in the manuscripts they are attached to the end of AM. Even though Bett observes that this designation is inaccurate and misleading, he nonetheless adopts it, apparently because it is conventional. I wonder whether it is not time scholars dropped an incorrect usage that may be misleading for the non-specialists.
Bett’s translation is both accurate and readable, and certainly an improvement on Bury’s. I agree in general with his word choices for terms with philosophical import, e.g., his rendering phainomenon as “apparent” and phantasia as “appearance”. To be sure, some scholars reject that translation of phantasia and prefer to render this word as “impression”, but Bett’s choice has the great advantage of keeping the linguistic connection between phainomenon and phantasia. I have, however, a few reservations about certain translations:
(1) The first case concerns Bett’s rendering of the technical terms hêgoumenon and lêgon, which are used in the discussion of conditionals. They are not rendered as “antecedent” and “consequent” — as generally done — but as “leader” and “finisher” respectively, so as to preserve the link with their corresponding verbs. This is important “especially since the verbs themselves regularly occur in logical contexts as well, and the connection with hêgoumenon and lêgon would have been natural and obvious to an ancient Greek reader” (xxxvi). Even though I entirely agree with the general policy of preserving the connection between Greek terms in the English version, in this specific case I find the resulting translations too awkward to be adopted.
(2) The term agôgê occurs only once in AD I-II: at AD I 29 Sextus indicates that he has examined the criterion of action
(3) Bett translates the word pathos as “effect” or “effect on us”. In my view, a better choice would have been “affection”, since, although in ordinary language this word does not have the meaning of “anything that happens to one”, it has become in the specialist literature a technical term to translate pathos.19 The advantage of that translation is that it reflects the connection of pathos with the verb paschô, which, as Bett indicates, means “be affected” (40 n. 80), and which he renders correspondingly.
(4) Another important term whose translation may be questioned is enargeia, which Bett renders as “plain experience”. Though unfortunately he does not explain this choice, possibly he thinks that translations such as “self-evidence” or “clearness” would sometimes sound awkward in English. In any case, I am not sure that “plain experience” is an adequate alternative translation of enargeia.
(5) At AD I 276, Sextus speaks of
(6) Bett renders aporia as “impasse” and aporos as “intractable”. The translation of these terms is difficult, since there does not seem to be a word family in English capable of reflecting the obvious connection between them. But perhaps “X is aporos” could simply be translated as “X leads to an impasse”. I think that a note explaining the meaning of those terms and their connection would have been useful to the reader, taking also into account that the notion of aporia is crucial to Pyrrhonism. Moreover, the reader expects such an explanation, given that in the Acknowledgements Bett thanks Paul Woodruff for “forcefully reminding [him] of the true meaning of aporia” (vi).20
There is a point I would like to discuss at some length concerning the passage containing the exposition of Arcesilaus’ view on the criterion ( AD I 150-158). At AD I 158 the manuscripts read
This interpretation faces some problems. First of all, if Sextus’ intention were to criticize Arcesilaus on the grounds that, despite professing to suspend judgment about everything, he does not in fact do so because he adopts the reasonable as a criterion, then the manuscripts’ reading would have been different. As it stands, AD I 158 ascribes the claim that Arcesilaus does not adopt universal epochê to Arcesilaus himself. But it would be awkward if Sextus criticized Arcesilaus by attributing to Arcesilaus himself the recognition that his epochê is not universal. If Bett’s interpretation were correct, one would expect the Greek to read something like
Second, Bett’s interpretation seems to render Sextus inconsistent, since at the beginning of his exposition of Arcesilaus’ view on the criterion Sextus points out that “Arcesilaus and his circle did not, as their main goal, define any criterion; those of them who are thought to have defined one delivered this by way of a hostile response against the Stoics” ( AD I 150). Also, the passage AD I 151-157 seems to require the emendation that Bett does not adopt at AD I 158. For it is said there that “if everything is inapprehensible it will follow even according to the Stoics that the wise person suspends judgment” ( AD I 155), and that “the wise person will suspend judgment about everything” ( AD I 157). It is therefore natural to infer that AD I 158 continues to speak about the person who should suspend judgment about everything according to the Stoics’ own doctrine.21 Note that I am not denying that Arcesilaus suspended judgment himself — since there is strong evidence that he did22 — but only that at AD I 158 he does not seem to be speaking in propria persona, but only dialectically.23 There exists, however, a difficulty with the dialectical interpretation of to eulogon : at AD I 150 Sextus appears to be referring to the criterion of truth — since it is this criterion which is discussed in book one of AD (see AD I 29-34) — whereas to eulogon is a criterion of action. Against the dialectical interpretation it has also been argued that the vocabulary used in the argument at AD I 158 is not proper to the Stoics, or that its premises are not Stoic, or that the argument blurs the Stoic distinction between the kathekon and the katorthoma, or that this latter word was not part of the technical vocabulary of the Stoics contemporary with Arcesilaus.24 A couple of remarks are in order. First, if to eulogon is not the criterion alluded to at AD I 150, what is the criterion that Arcesilaus put forward as a dialectical maneuver against the Stoics? It seems unlikely that Sextus had merely alluded to that criterion without also naming it in the rest of the passage. But even if it is the case that AD I 150 and 158 are not speaking of the same criterion, this does not entail by itself that the criterion of to eulogon is not advanced dialectically. Second, the fact that the argument at AD I 158 is not ad hominem — designating by this an argument that works with premises borrowed exclusively from one’s rivals — does not imply that it is not dialectical — designating by this whichever argument that uses any premises that are functional solely for polemical purposes.
Although I have focused on several points over which I disagree with Bett, I must acknowledge that this is an excellent work. It is a valuable new tool for the study both of Sextan Pyrrhonism and of the logical and epistemological doctrines expounded in AD
1. R. G. Bury, Sextus Empiricus: Against the Logicians (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1935).
2. Such is the case with books III and IV of Adversus Dogmaticos and books II-V of Adversus Mathematicos (henceforth AM).
3. When Bett refers to the available English translations of Sextus’ works, he surprisingly omits to mention Benson Mates’ translation of the Pyrrôneioi Hypotypôseis ( PH): The Skeptic Way: Sextus Empiricus’s Outlines of Pyrrhonism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
4. H. Mutschmann, Sexti Empirici Opera, vol. 2 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1914).
5. J. Annas & J. Barnes, Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000 ).
6. K. Janácek, “Die Hauptschrift des Sextus Empiricus als Torso erhalten?”, Philologus 107 (1963): 271-277.
7. J. Blomqvist, “Die Skeptika des Sextus Empiricus”, Grazer Beiträge 2 (1974): 7-14.
8. Regarding these topics, see Bett, “Sextus’s Against the Ethicists : Scepticism, Relativism or Both?”, Apeiron 27 (1994): 123-161; Sextus Empiricus: Against the Ethicists (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), introduction and commentary; Pyrrho, his Antecedents, and his Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
9. It is worth noting that Bett has recently argued that traces of the earlier variety of Pyrrhonism present in AD can be detected in the six books of AM (“La double ‘schizophrénie’ de M. I-VI et ses origines historiques”, in J. Delattre (ed.), Sur le Contre les professeurs de Sextus Empiricus (Lille: Presses de l’Université de Charles-de-Gaulle-Lille 3, 2006), 17-34). In his view, the tensions found in AM are to be accounted for by Sextus’ failure to adapt fully earlier skeptical arguments to his own version of Pyrrhonism.
10. Sextus Empiricus: Against the Ethicists, xxx-xxxi; see also Pyrrho, his Antecedents, and his Legacy, 231 n. 87. Cf. “Sextus’s Against the Ethicists : Scepticism, Relativism or Both?”, 161 n. 63.
11. Sextus Empiricus: Against the Ethicists, xxiv-xxviii, 257-271, 274-276.
12. See D. Glidden, “Skeptic Semiotics”, Phronesis 28 (1983) 213-255, at 227, 246 n. 24, 253 n. 183; T. Ebert, “The Origin of the Stoic Theory of Signs in Sextus Empiricus”, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 5 (1987): 83-126, at 91-95, 97, 99-100, 118, 123; J. Brunschwig, “Le problème de l’héritage conceptuel dans le scepticisme: Sextus Empiricus et la notion de kritêrion“, in his Études sur les philosophies hellénistiques (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1995), 289-319, at 296 n. 1; G. Striker, ” Ataraxia : Happiness as Tranquillity”, in her Essays on Hellenistic Epistemology and Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 183-195, at 191; F. Decleva Caizzi, “Sesto e gli scettici”, Elenchos 13 (1992): 279-327, at 284 n. 11; P. Pellegrin (trans.), Sextus Empiricus: Esquisses Pyrrhoniennes (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1997), 12.
13. While at AD I 345 Sextus speaks of the “Ten Modes of Aenesidemus”, in the chapter of PH I in which he expounds those modes ( PH I 36-163) he ascribes them, not to Aenesidemus, but to “the older skeptics” ( PH I 36). One may therefore infer that, at AD I 345, Sextus is not referring to PH, but to an exposition of the Ten Modes made in the part of AD which is no longer extant. This hypothesis finds some support in the fact that, when Diogenes compares his list of the Ten Modes with those of Sextus, Aenesidemus, and Favorinus, he points out that the Ninth and the Tenth in his list are, in Sextus’ list, the Tenth and the Eighth respectively (DL IX 87). However, the Ninth Mode in Diogenes is actually the Ninth in Sextus, whereas the Tenth in Sextus corresponds to the Fifth in Diogenes. It has therefore been suggested that the order that Diogenes ascribes to Sextus may correspond to the order followed by Sextus in his exposition of the Ten Modes contained in the lost portion of AD. See J. Annas, J. Barnes, The Modes of Scepticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 29; and J. Barnes, “Diogenes Laertius IX 61-116: The Philosophy of Pyrrhonism”, in W. Haase (ed.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 36.6 (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1992), 4241-4301, at 4279.
14. Sextus Empiricus: Against the Ethicists, 140-141.
15. Bett does refer to Frede in Sextus Empiricus: Against the Ethicists, ix n. 2.
16. See M. Frede, “The Ancient Empiricists”, in his Essays in Ancient Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 234-260, at 251-252, 256-257; “The Empiricist Attitude towards Reason and Theory”, in R. J. Hankinson (ed.), Method, Metaphysics and Medicine: Studies in the Philosophy of Ancient Medicine (Edmonton: Academic Printing and Publishing, 1988), 79-97, at 95-96; “An Empiricist View of Knowledge: Memorism”, in S. Everson (ed.), Companions to Ancient Thought I: Epistemology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 225-250, at 250.
17. For Sextus’ relationship with the medical sects, see D. K. House, “The Life of Sextus Empiricus”, The Classical Quarterly 30 (1980): 227-238, at 234-238; and D. E. Machuca, “Sextus Empiricus: His Outlook, Works, and Legacy”, Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie 55 (2008), section 2 (forthcoming).
18. PH I 4, 6, 7, 11, 21, 22, 25, 210, 212, 213; AD V 257.
19. Among those who use “affection” are C. Stough, “Sextus Empiricus on Non-Assertion”, [Phronesis] 29 (1984): 137-164; G. Fine, “Sceptical Dogmata: Outlines of Pyrrhonism I 13″, Méthexis 13 (2000): 81-105; and R. J. Hankinson, The Sceptics (London/New York: Routledge, 1998 ). Bury, too, sometimes renders pathos as “affection”.
20. For Woodruff’s interpretation of the notion of aporia, see his “Aporetic Pyrrhonism”, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 6 (1988): 139-168.
21. Cf. M. R. Stopper, “Schizzi Pirroniani”, Phronesis 28 (1983): 265-297, at 277.
22. Cicero, Academica I 45, II 59; PH I 232; DL IV 32; Plutarch, Adversus Colotem 1120c.
23. For the dialectical interpretation of to eulogon, see P. Couissin, “The Stoicism of the New Academy”, in M. Burnyeat (ed.), The Skeptical Tradition (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1983), 31-63, at 35-42; G. Striker, “Sceptical Strategies”, in her Essays on Hellenistic Epistemology and Ethics, 92-115, at 101-102; Stopper, “Schizzi Pirroniani”, 275-278; T. Brennan, Review of The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, BMCR 2000.09.11; A. Bailey, Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhonean Scepticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), 49-54; C. Brittain, ” Arcesilaus“, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, section V.
24. For the non-dialectical interpretation of the criterion of to eulogon, see A. M. Ioppolo, “Il concetto di ‘eulogon’ nella filosofia di Arcesilao”, in Giannantoni, Lo scetticismo antico, 143-161; “Su alcune recenti interpretazioni dello scetticismo dell’Academia. Plutarch. Adv. Col. 26, 1121F-1122F: una testimonianza su Arcesilao”, Elenchos 21 (2000): 333-360, at 351-357; J. Annas, “The Heirs of Socrates”, Phronesis 33 (1988): 100-112, at 108-110; R. Bett, “Carneades’ pithanon : A Reappraisal of its Role and Status”, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 7 (1989): 59-94, at 62-68; Hankinson, The Sceptics, 86-91; M. Schofield, “Academic Epistemology”, in K. Algra, J. Barnes, J. Mansfeld, and M. Schofield (eds.), The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005 ), 323-351, at 332-334; H. Thorsrud, “Cicero on his Academic Predecessors: the Fallibilism of Arcesilaus and Carneades”, Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 (2002): 1-18, at 2-4.