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Hello MrP, how are you? I got the paper back with comments by a referee. So I changed a few things and I have some doubts:

1) “The Pyrrhonist’s ataraxia and philanthropia: On the Aim and Character of Sextus Empiricus’ Skepticism.”
Last time you told me that “end” was ambiguous, so I replaced it by “aim”. Also, is it ok to use capital letters after the colon?

2) “The analysis of these issues is important because by clearing them up we will gain a better understanding of the nature of the Pyrrhonist’s ethical stance, which in my view has been misinterpreted in several points, and will be able to assess its coherence.”

3) “In the last section, after summarizing the main results obtained in the previous discussions, I shall state more clearly what I consider to be the defining features of Pyrrhonism and respond to some objections that may be raised against my stance.”
Is it ok to say “an objection raised against…”?

4) “This idea appears to be explicitly stated in PH iii at the end of the discussion of whether there is anything good, bad or indifferent by nature.”
Is it grammatically correct to say “in PH iii at the end of”?

5) “In this section I shall consider some objections raised to Sextus’ description of the Pyrrhonist’s personal experience and to his intention to persuade others to adopt Skepticism by means of this description. This will permit us to get a more accurate picture of the Pyrrhonean outlook and to assess its plausibility.”

6) “John thinks that…. Mary, for her part, finds it hard to believe that the Skeptic is able to achieve happiness, since the state of unperturbedness reveals itself as deeply boring and unappealing, and she even doubts that the attainment of this mental state is psychologically possible”
Are “for her part” and “reveals itself” correct?

7) “I therefore think there are no grounds for considering Sextus’ account ridiculous or false, unless one believes that one is entitled to generalize one’s own experience, and then to dismiss a person’s report of his experience when it is radically different.”
Is it ok to put a comma before “and”?

8) “If I understand this passage correctly, the difference between the Skeptic and Arcesilaus with respect to the end they pursue gives no motive for not considering him a Skeptic. Rather, the only reason for this denial appears to be, as already noted, Arcesilaus’ assertion that suspension is good and assent bad. But even if we grant that it is both elements which determine that Arcesilaus is not a Skeptic, it is clear that…”

9) “Of course, this also shows that Pyrrhonism must not be considered an intrinsically individualistic stance either, as Floridi 2002, 32 thinks.”
Is it clear that Floridi thinks that Pyrrhonism is intrinsically individualistic?

10) “For, first, it is a fact that not all the members of a group, such as a family or a community, always obey the same norms and that they hardly ever have the same abilities.”
I don’t feel comfortable with this way of saying it.

11) “I hope that the previous account dissipates the confusion about what is intrinsic to the Pyrrhonist’s ethical outlook, and that it shows that his quest for ajtaraxiva and his filanqrwpiva do not threaten or compromise the coherence of his Skepticism.”

12) “I hope to have established that the Pyrrhonist’s philanthropic and therapeutic practice is not essential to his philosophy, since the Skeptics are not inevitably philanthropic and those who happen to be so could perfectly well stop acting and feeling in a philanthropic way and become more individualistic and uncaring, without this being an obstacle to their being full-blown Skeptics.”

13) “To conclude, I wish to take account of two objections that may be raised to my view. In the first place, it could be argued that the emphasis I put on the distinction between defining and non-defining characteristics of Pyrrhonism is itself foreign to the Pyrrhonean spirit, since the Skeptic would refrain from theorizing about the real nature of his outlook. However, I think this objection overlooks two facts. First, the first book of PH is devoted to an account of the Skeptical attitude. There Sextus carefully defines and describes the skeptsis, and emphasizes the differences between Pyrrhonism and its neighboring philosophies. Of course, this account should be interpreted as no more than a report of how things appear to Sextus at the moment he is describing them, but this does not make it less true that he gives a careful explanation of the nature of his Skepticism and makes it clear what his stance is not. Secondly, even if one accepted that from the Skeptic’s viewpoint this distinction is completely pointless, I do not think this prevents an interpreter interested in comprehending the Pyrrhonean outlook from trying to determine what defines it.”

14) “Though Bett does not think that Sextus’ stance can be taken as a form of realism according to his own conception of reality, he does maintain that the Skeptic of AD v asserts that things are good and bad in relation to specific persons and situations.”
Is it clear that “his” refers to “Sextus” and that “he” refers to “Bett”?

15) “Some peculiar interpretations of this passage have been put forward. It has been claimed that here Sextus is being ironic and a dilettante, and even that this final chapter of PH is not by Sextus. I cannot find anything in PH iii 280–281 that supports such bizarre interpretations.”
Can I use “ironic” and then “a dilettante”, that is, an adjective and then a noun?

Thanks,

Sextus
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Hello Sextus

1) I think I’ll use “is in the end”. ] That should be ok. I was also pondering 'is at bottom', 'is essentially'.

2) I suppose I could also use “for, in the first place…” ] That would do it.

3) Perhaps: 'the way the Skeptics experienced the liberal arts was very similar to the way they experienced philosophy as a whole'.

4) Sounds a bit tricky. Could you transliterate the Greek?ou say in Spanish?

5) Yes, I think that would be ok.

6) Could you say 'one of his aims'?

7) Perhaps: “It is undeniable that when talking about ataraxia and tarache, and their relation to suspension of judgment and the holding of beliefs, Sextus expresses himself in an apparently dogmatic way”.


A few schools here still teach Greek, but they tend to be fee-paying schools. Latin is more common; but not very. A few years ago, there was a vogue for studying Latin in tandem with what was then called 'computer studies', from a belief that it would help with programming etc., but it died out eventually. Universities teach Latin and Greek, but the classes tend to be small, and the tutors make up their time by teaching 'classical studies' (i.e. classical texts in English). Generally, the numbers are decreasing.

On the other hand, Greek and Latin seem to have slightly gained in prestigiousness, over the last few years; perhaps because they're associated with fee-paying schools. Also, there's quite a lot of unofficial interest: you sometimes run into someone who has taught himself Greek or Latin and sees it as a hobby. I get the impression too that there are more original texts available than ever before; and then there are such unaccountable phenomena as the translation of the Harry Potter books into Latin and Greek.

Would you say you were the only serious student of Sextus in Argentina? Or are there others?

MrP
Hi MrP

1) “The purpose of the present paper is twofold. First, to examine whether there are any beliefs motivating the Skeptic’s search for unperturbedness and his philanthropic concern for the Dogmatist’s welfare. Second, to determine whether his quest for ataraxia and the philanthropia underlying his peculiar style of argumentation are inherent in Pyrrhonism.”

I finally chose "motivating" instead of "underpinning", because I think it gets the idea better.

2) “This will allow us to get a more accurate picture of the Pyrrhonean outlook and will help to assess its plausibility”.

I know you’ve already read this sentence, but I changed a couple of things, and I’m not sure whether I need “us” after “help”.

I'm still working on the translation of the Greek passage, so I'll refer to it later.

Regarding Sextus, of course I can’t say that I know every single person in Argentina, but I know almost everything that has so far been published on ancient skepticism, and a great deal of what has been published on modern and contemporary skepticism, and I can tell you that you’ll find almost nothing written by Spanish speakers. I don’t know why; it’s quite a peculiar phenomenon. You’ll find a couple of recent Spanish translations though. But, apart from this, there is no systematic study. It’s a pity and there are no grounds for not doing so, because it’s a most interesting philosophical current. There was a guy here, but he died in 1996 while I was in my second year at university, who wrote some papers, some of which are quite passable. But I didn’t even meet him. There are some scholars in Brazil who have studied mostly modern skepticism, but they’re not very good. Most of the things written about skepticism are in English, and then there are also in French, Italian and German.
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Intriguing. Do other currents in ancient philosophy attract more attention from Spanish speakers, I wonder – Heraclitus, or Parmenides, for instance.

1) Good idea. Perhaps 'that motivate'; or 'whether particular beliefs motivate...'

2) Yes, I'd insert 'us' here.

See you
MrP
Thanks for the answers. Here are some more questions:

1) The famous passage:
“with respect to the liberal studies the Skeptics experienced something almost similar to what they experienced with respect to the whole of philosophy. For just as they approached the latter with the desire of reaching the truth, but when confronted with an equipollent conflict and the anomaly of things suspended judgment, so too with respect to the liberal arts they set out to acquire them, seeking to learn the truth here as well, but discovering equal aporias, they did not hide .”
I offer now a couple of English translations I’ve found; maybe you’ll get the meaning of the passage in this way, though they don’t respect the Greek and overlooks the fact that the experience is “almost” or “more or less” the same:
“They had the same experience in the case of the liberal studies as they had with all of philosophy. For just as they approached philosophy wishing to get at the truth but when confronted with a battle of equals and the irregularity of things they suspended judgment, in the same way they set out to grasp the liberal studies and sought to learn the truth here as well and when they discovered equally difficult problems they did not hide them”.
“For just as they came to philosophy from a desire to light upon the truth but met with an equipollent conflict and anomaly in things and so suspended judgment, so too in the case of the mathemata they set out to acquire them, seeking to learn the truth here too, but did not disguise the fact that they discovered the same perplexities”.

2) “This hypothesis seems to get some support from the fact that the two definitions of the telos given at PH i 25 are standard definitions accepted by Epicureans and Stoics.”
Is it ok to say in this context “get support”, or should I say “gain support” or something different?

3) “It is undeniable that when talking about ataraxia and tarache, and their relation to suspension of judgment and the holding of beliefs, in passages where he does not seem to be arguing dialectically, Sextus sometimes expresses himself in an apparently dogmatic way”.
I added here “in passages…dialectically”, but I don’t know if I rendered the whole sentence confusing.

4) I still have a problem with the expression “a part of the end” or “part of the end”. I thought I could use “aim” instead of “end”. I found in a book review this sentence: “Rubinstein acknowledges that a part of his aim is to reorient our understanding of Wittgenstein.” If you don’t think this would work, I thought of “component”. I take the freedom to quote all the passages where I use the expression:
“At PH i 25–26, where ataraxia in matters of opinion is said to be a part of the telos of Skepticism”
“There are other passages of PH that make reference to ataraxia as (a part of) the Skeptic’s end or as the reason why he does certain things”.
“The existence of these involuntary affections is the reason why Sextus says that moderation of affection in matters which are unavoidable is a part of the Skeptical end.”
“Contrary to this view, I believe that the Skeptic considers that the choice of unperturbedness in matters of belief as a part of his end rests upon fortuitous circumstances and factors”.
“If unperturbedness is a part of the Pyrrhonean end, then…”
“The first text is found at PH i 25, where Sextus remarks that up to now the Skeptics say that unperturbedness in matters of opinion is a part of their end.”
“Also, PH i 232 gives the impression that the Pyrrhonist too considers epoche to be a part of his end.”
“That suspension was considered by some Skeptics as a part of their end is confirmed by Sextus’ discussion of the Skeptical telos.”

5) I rewrote the first paragraph of the paper, and I would like to know your opinion mostly about the content:
“The purpose of the present paper is twofold. First, to examine whether there are any beliefs underlying the Skeptic’s search for unperturbedness and his philanthropic concern for the Dogmatist’s welfare. Second, to determine whether his quest for ataraxia and the philantropia are, as has been generally thought, essential aspects of his ethical stance. The analysis of these issues is important because by clearing them up we will gain a better understanding of the nature of this stance –which in my view has been misinterpreted in several points– and will be able to assess its coherence. This, I think, has not merely the value of a historico-critical study of the work of an ancient thinker, but, more importantly, the value of an attempt to reflect on the character of a philosophical stance that still nowadays may be found to be attractive and worth adopting.”

6) “First, ataraxia was, if we trust our sources, an important aspect of Pyrrho’s way of life and thought.”

What I mean is “way of life” and “way of thought”, but not to repeat “way”, I used it thus so as to make both works depend on one “way”.

Yes, indeed, there are other Greek thinkers that attract more attention. To limit myself to Argentina, there are some important scholars (internationally speaking) who study Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, or Plotinus. There are also people who study other Presocratics (I mean besides Parmenides), and hellenistic thinkers such as the Stoics and Philon of Alexandria.

By the way, at the risk of being too curious, what is your area of expertise? It is obvious that you have an extensive knowledge of grammar, literature, and, in general, a vast culture.

See you,

Sextus

Hello Sextus

1. Ah yes, that helps. What about:

“...with respect to the liberal arts, the Skeptics had more or less the same experience as they had with respect to the whole of philosophy. For just as they approached the latter with the desire of reaching the truth, but when confronted with an equipollent conflict and the anomaly of things suspended judgment, so too with respect to the liberal arts, they set out to acquire them, and to seek truth there as well; but when they met with similar aporias, they did not conceal them.”

(Though I prefer the 'they did not disguise the fact' of the 2nd translation, if you don't mind borrowing it.)

2) Perhaps: “This hypothesis seems to be supported by the fact that the two definitions of the telos given at PH i 25 are standard definitions accepted by Epicureans and Stoics.”

3) Slightly ambiguous – is this your meaning: “It is undeniable that when in passages where he does not seem to be arguing dialectically Sextus talks about ataraxia and tarache, and their relation to suspension of judgment and the holding of beliefs, he sometimes expresses himself in an apparently dogmatic way”.

4) Would 'one of (his) aims' meet the case?

5) Yes, I think that's fine. Here are one or two alternatives:

“The purpose of the present paper is twofold. First, to examine what beliefs, if any, underlie the Skeptic’s search for unperturbedness and his philanthropic concern for the Dogmatist’s welfare...This I believe to be valuable not merely in terms of the historico-critical study of the work of an ancient thinker, but, more importantly, as an attempt to reflect on the character of a philosophical stance that may still be found to be attractive and worth adopting.”

6) Tricky. Perhaps: “First, ataraxia was, if we can trust our sources, an important aspect of Pyrrho’s thought and way of life.”


As for my AofE...difficult. It's more of a case of 'area of least murkiness'. If you were to say, "I'll give you £1m if you answer 10 questions correctly – now choose your subject!", I would probably have to do something desperate like opt for 'English poetry', and leave it as vague as that. (Though sometimes English poets have that look of old school friends – slightly unsatisfactory, but you're stuck with them. Our C19 could have used a Baudelaire, for instance, or a Heine.)

MrP
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Sorry, I made a mistake. I'll post again.
Hello MrP. So, a poet! Poetry is an area regarding which I must acknowledge my complete ignorance. Of course, I can’t write anything of this kind, and I can only read with some enjoyment some things by Borges, Manrique and Prévert.

Thanks for your very useful suggestions. Here I’ve four more doubts:

1) “This shows that, contrary to what we were inclined to believe at the beginning of the previous section, it is not inevitable for the Pyrrhonist to take up a philanthropic attitude.”

2) “This I believe to be valuable not merely in terms of the historico-critical study of the work of an ancient thinker, but, more importantly, as an attempt to reflect on the character of a philosophy that may still be found to be attractive and worth adopting.”

Your suggestions improved very much my paragraph. I have just one question. You say “in terms of the” and then “as an”. What sounds strange to me is the use of the definite article and then the indefinite. The “the historico-critical study” seems to me to refer to the very activity of studying a subject, while “a historico-critical study” would refer to a particular investigation, done in a paper or article, as “an attempt” refers to a particular attempt to do something.

3) “I hope that the account of the Pyrrhonist’s outlook that I have offered in this paper will help to dispel the confusion about what is intrinsic to his ethical stance, and that it has shown that a Pyrrhonist can search for unperturbedness and adopt a philanthropic attitude, without this threatening or compromising the coherence of his Skepticism.”

I changed a couple of things because there were some errors. I’m not sure if the clause “without …Skepticism” sounds correct.

4) There’s a paragraph I added, I would appreciate if you could take a look at it:

“The second objection is that, even if we concede that the Pyrrhonist does not believe that his patients are objectively ill and that suspension is by nature a good, his philanthropic concern and therapeutic practice clearly show that he believes in the existence of the very people he wishes to persuade by means of ad hominem arguments. First of all, to pose a problem for the Skeptic, this objection must presuppose that the non-evident matters about which he claims to suspend judgment include the existence of other people. It is a vexed question whether or not Sextus’ Skepticism calls into doubt the existence of the ‘external world’, and this is not the place to examine such question or to attempt to adjudicate the debate (for discussion see e.g. Burnyeat 1982, sec. III, Everson 1991, Fine 2003). In any case, even if we grant that the Pyrrhonist does cast doubt on the existence of other people, the objection in question does not becomes unanswerable. For the Skeptic can argue that he is just following his appearances. That is, it appears to him that there are other human beings with whom he lives in a community with particular laws and customs, some of whom will instruct him in certain skills, and so on. The Pyrrhonist is aware that these appearances may be just pure fiction, with no objective validity whatsoever, but in his everyday life he thinks, feels and acts in accordance with them without holding opinions, for the simple reason that they impose themselves upon him and form part of the only criterion he possesses.”

Thanks and cheers,

Sextus
Spanish poetry I know very little about. Some pieces by Neruda, Borges, Lorca. I'd be interested to know whether Borges' poems seem to you as carefully written as his stories. His rhythms in prose seem more sophisticated, to my ears; but that may be because his prose often has an English sound to it, and so may simply feel more familiar.

Back to Empiricus:

1) For some reason, it feels more idiomatic here to say 'inevitable that....will/should take up'; though I don't see why 'inevitable' shouldn't take an infinitive.

2) “This I believe to be valuable not merely in terms of the historico-critical study of the work of an ancient thinker, but, more importantly, as an attempt to reflect on the character of a philosophy that may still be found to be attractive and worth adopting.”

I may have misunderstood your intention here: I thought you meant to relate the 'study' of an ancient thinker in general to a particular attempt. Let me know if this is an incorrect interpretation, and I'll reword it!

3) Yes, I think that sounds fine.

4) “The second objection is that, even if we concede that the Pyrrhonist does not believe that his patients are objectively ill and that suspension is by nature a good, his philanthropic concern and therapeutic practice clearly show that he believes in the existence of the very people he wishes to persuade by means of ad hominem arguments.

['believes in the existence of' sounds slightly odd here, because it presents an unusual attitude as something we would expect; should the content of the next sentence be incorporated earlier?]

It is a vexed question whether or not Sextus’ Skepticism calls into doubt the existence of the ‘external world’, and this is not the place to examine such question or to attempt to adjudicate the debate (for discussion see e.g. Burnyeat 1982, sec. III, Everson 1991, Fine 2003).
[Perhaps 'attempt to adjudicate in that debate'.]

In any case, even if we grant that the Pyrrhonist does cast doubt on the existence of other people, the objection in question does not becomes unanswerable. For the Skeptic can argue that he is just following his appearances.
[?'his appearances'; would 'acting in accordance with appearances' serve?]

The Pyrrhonist is aware that these appearances may be just pure fiction,
[probably 'just' isn't needed, if we have 'pure']

with no objective validity whatsoever, but in his everyday life he thinks, feels and acts in accordance with them without holding opinions,
[maybe 'without holding opinions about them'?]

for the simple reason that they impose themselves upon him

Bye! P.
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Hi, thanks for the answers.

1) “This I believe to be valuable not merely in terms of the historico-critical study of the work of an ancient thinker, but, more importantly, in terms of the reflection on a philosophy that may still be found attractive and worth adopting.”

I finally thought of this option: to use “the reflection” and also to repeat “in terms of”. What do you think of it?

2) “The future Skeptic’s search for unperturbedness is again referred to at PH i 25–26, where ataraxia in matters of opinion is said to be, along with metriopatheia, the telos of Skepticism”
“Sextus remarks that up to now the Skeptics consider that unperturbedness in matters of opinion is, along with moderation of affection in matters that are unavoidable, their end.”

I’m quite sure that this “along with” is ok, but just in case.

3) I rewrote the paragraph, taking into account your suggestions. Regarding what you say about changing the order of the sentences, the point is that any scholar familiar with ancient skepticism knows that the Pyrrhonist claims to eschews all beliefs, so that if I say that his philanthropy seems to commit him to the belief in the existence of other people, it is already seen that there appears to be a problem there.

“The second objection is that, even if we concede that the Pyrrhonist does not believe that his patients are objectively ill and that suspension is by nature good, his philanthropic concern and therapeutic practice clearly show that he believes in the existence of the very people he wishes to persuade by means of ad hominem arguments (see Bailey 2002, 232–233). First of all, to pose a problem for the Skeptic, this objection must presuppose that the non-evident matters about which he claims to suspend judgment include the existence of other people. It is a vexed question whether or not Sextus’ Skepticism calls into doubt the existence of the ‘external world’, and this is not the place to examine the matter (for discussion see e.g. Burnyeat 1982, sec. III, Everson 1991, Fine 2003). In any case, even if we grant that the Pyrrhonist does cast doubt on the existence of other people, the objection in question does not becomes unanswerable. For the Skeptic can argue that in his philanthropic therapy he does not go beyond the realm of his own appearances (see Annas 1993, 244). That is, it appears to him that there are other human beings with whom he lives in a community with particular laws and customs, some of whom will instruct him in certain skills, and so on. The Pyrrhonist is aware that these appearances may be pure fiction, with no objective validity whatsoever, but in his everyday life he thinks, feels and acts in accordance with them, for the simple reason that they are forced upon him and form part of the only criterion he possesses.”

I’m not the right person to talk about Borges’ poetry. I know almost nothing about it. When I was 20-21 (without much literary knowledge) I read his three first books of poems, and what I can remember (this was about seven years ago) is that they sounded like every other poet, with some intelligent remarks, though. I read some other things by him, written when he was older, and they’re much better, not only the form but especially the content. “El poema de los dones” or “El Golem”, for instance. As regards your first comment, yes, I think that he usually wrote very meticulously, either his prose or his poetry.
Regarding your second remark, I know that his father work as an English teacher and his grand-mother was English (I’m almost sure), and he had an English governess. I also know that he learned to read in English and then in Spanish. (The guy used to say that his English knowledge was kind of "anomalous", because at that time in Argentina French culture was predominant.) In the library of his father’s house he had an immense number of books in English, and he read them in his childhood. He read Twain, Stevenson, Kipling, Dickens, Wells (he also read the Spanish and Argentinean classics.) Well, the point is that the influence of English literature was very important, and this is probably why you notice the "English sound" in his poems.

Cheers,

Sextus
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