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""Pyrrho in Thomas Stanley History of Philosophy.jpg
Born c. 360 BC
"Elis, "Greece
Died c. 270 BC
Elis, Greece
Era "Ancient philosophy
Region "Western philosophy
"School "Pyrrhonism
Notable ideas

Pyrrho ("/ˈpɪr/; "Greek: Πύρρων Pyrrōn, c. 360 BC – c. 270 BC), also known as Pyrrho of Elis ("Greek: Πύρρων ὁ Ἠλεῖος),[1] was a Greek "philosopher of "Classical antiquity and is credited as being the first Greek "skeptic philosopher.



Pyrrho was from "Elis, on the "Ionian Sea. "Diogenes Laërtius, quoting from "Apollodorus of Athens, says that Pyrrho was at first a painter, and that pictures by him were exhibited in the gymnasium at Elis. Later he was diverted to philosophy by the works of "Democritus, and according to Diogenes Laertius became acquainted with the "Megarian dialectic through "Bryson, pupil of "Stilpo.

Diogenes reports further that Pyrrho, along with "Anaxarchus, travelled with "Alexander the Great on his exploration of the East, 'so that he even went as far as the "Gymnosophists in "India and the "Magi' in "Persia. This exposure to "Eastern philosophy seems to have inspired him to adopt a life of solitude; returning to Elis, he lived in poor circumstances, but was highly honored by the Elians and also by the Athenians, who conferred upon him the rights of citizenship.

Pyrrho wrote nothing. His doctrines were recorded in the writings of his pupil "Timon of Phlius. Unfortunately these works are mostly lost. Today Pyrrho's ideas are known mainly through the book Outlines of Pyrrhonism written by "Sextus Empiricus.


Pyrrho is renowned for creating the first formal approach to skepticism in "Western Philosophy: "Pyrrhonism.

A summary of Pyrrho's philosophy was preserved by "Eusebius, quoting "Aristocles, quoting "Timon, in what is known as the "Aristocles passage."

"Whoever wants to live well ("eudaimonia) must consider these three questions: First, how are pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics) by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?" Pyrrho's answer is that "As for pragmata they are all "adiaphora (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastous (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantous (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.[2]

The main principle of Pyrrho's thought is expressed by the word "acatalepsia, which connotes the ability to withhold assent from doctrines regarding the truth of "things in their own nature; against every statement its contradiction may be advanced with equal justification.

Pyrrhonians (or Pyrrhonism) can be subdivided into those who are "ephectic (a "suspension of judgment"), zetetic ("engaged in seeking"), or aporetic ("engaged in refutation").[3]

Indian influences on Pyrrho[edit]

Diogenes Laertius' biography of Pyrrho[4] reports that Pyrrho traveled with "Alexander the Great's army to India and based his philosophy on what he learned there:

...he even went as far as the Gymnosophists, in India, and the Magi. Owing to which circumstance, he seems to have taken a noble line in philosophy, introducing the doctrine of incomprehensibility, and of the necessity of suspending one's judgment....

The sources and the extent of the Indian influences on Pyrrho's philosophy, however, are disputed. Elements of "scepticism were already present in Greek philosophy, particularly in the "Democritean tradition in which Pyrrho had studied prior to visiting India. Pyrrhonism was a logical extension of these, requiring no exogenous influences. "Richard Bett heavily discounts any substantive Indian influences on Pyrrho, arguing that on the basis of testimony of "Onesicritus regarding how difficult it was to converse with the gymnosophists, as it required three translators, none of whom understood any philosophy, that it is highly improbable that Pyrrho could have been substantively influenced by any of the Indian philosophers.[5]

According to "Christopher I. Beckwith's analysis of the Aristocles Passage, adiaphora, astathmēta, and anepikrita are strikingly similar to the Buddhist "Three marks of existence,[6] indicating that Pyrrho's teaching is based on Buddhism. Beckwith disputes Bett's argument about the translators, as the other reports of using translators in India, involving "Alexander the Great and "Nearchus, say they needed only one interpreter, and Onesicritus was "criticized by other writers in antiquity for exaggerating. Besides, Pyrrho spent about 18 months in India, which is long enough to learn a foreign language.[7]

It has been hypothesized that the gymnosophists were "Jains, or "Ajnanins ,[8][9][10] and that these are likely influences on Pyrrho.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hugh Chisholm, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 696. 
  2. ^ Beckwith, Christopher I. (2015). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia (PDF). "Princeton University Press. pp. 22–23. "ISBN "9781400866328. 
  3. ^ Pulleyn, William (1830). The Etymological Compendium, Or, Portfolio of Origins and Inventions. T. Tegg. p. 353. 
  4. ^ "The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers". Peithô's Web. Retrieved March 23, 2016. 
  5. ^ Richard Bett, Pyrrho, His Antecedents and His Legacy, 2000, p177-8.
  6. ^ Beckwith, Christopher I. (2015). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia (PDF). "Princeton University Press. p. 28. "ISBN "9781400866328. 
  7. ^ Beckwith, Christopher I. (2015). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia. "Princeton University Press. p. 221. "ISBN "9781400866328. 
  8. ^ Barua 1921, p. 299.
  9. ^ Jayatilleke 1963, pp. 129-130.
  10. ^ Flintoff 1980.


External links[edit]

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