Longer 10 Modes of Skepticism

(i) the opposing perceptions and views of the world which characterize different species: “For how could one say, with regard to touch [for example], that animals are similarly affected whether their surfaces consist of shell, flesh, needles, feathers or scales? And, as regards hearing, how could one say that perceptions are alike in animals with a very narrow auditory canal and in those with a very wide one, or in those with hairy ears and those with ears that are hairless… [P]erfume seems very pleasant to human beings but intolerable to dung beetles and bees, and the application of olive oil is beneficial to human beings but kills wasps and bees.” (PH 1.50, 55, Mates) (ii) the opposing perceptions and views of the world which characterize different individuals: “…the greatest indication of the vast and limitless difference in the intellect of human beings is the inconsistency of the various statements of the Dogmatists concerning what may be appropriately chosen, what avoided, and so on.” (PH 1.85-86, Mates)

(iii) the opposing perceptions and views of the world which characterize different sense organs: “Pictures seem to the sense of sight to have concavities and convexities,” for example, “but not to the touch,” and “Let us imagine someone who from birth has …lacked hearing and sight. He will start out believing in the existence of nothing visible or audible, but only of the three kinds of quality he can register. It is therefore a possibility that we too, having only our five senses, only register from the qualities belonging to the apple those which we are capable of registering. But it may be that there objectively exist other qualities” (PH 1.92, 96-7, Mates).

(iv) the opposing perceptions and views of the world which characterize different circumstances: “Thus, things affect us in dissimilar ways depending on whether we are in a natural or unnatural condition, as when people who are delirious or possessed by a god seem to hear spirits but we do not…. And the same water that seems to us to be lukewarm seems boiling hot when poured on an inflamed place…. Further, if someone says that an intermingling of certain humors produces, in persons who are in an unnatural condition, odd phantasiai [impressions] of the external objects, it must be replied that since healthy people, too, have intermingled humors, it is possible that the external objects are in nature such as they appear to those persons who are said to be in an unnatural state, but that these humors are making the external objects appear to the healthy in a natural people other than they are. (PH 1.101-2, Mates).

(v) the opposing perceptions and views of the world that characterize different positions and distances and places: for example, “lamplight appears dim in sunlight but bright in the dark. The same oar appears bent in water but straight when out of it” (PH 1.119, Mates).

(vi) the opposing perceptions and views of the world that characterize mixtures: “[W]e deduce that since no object strikes us entirely by itself, but along with something, it may perhaps be possible to say what the mixture compounded out of the external object and the thing perceived with it is like, but we would not be able to say what the external object is like by itself… The same sound appears one way when accompanied by a rarefied atmosphere, another way when accompanied by a dense atmosphere” (PH 1.124, 125, Mates).

(vii) the opposing perceptions and views of the world due to different quantities and structures: “[I]ndividual filings of a piece of silver appear black, but when united with the whole they affect us as white… And wine, when drunk in moderation, strengthens us, but when taken in excess, disables the body…” (PH 1.129, 131, Mates).

(viii) the opposing views possible because of the relativity of all things: “…since all things are relative, we will suspend judgment about what things exist absolutely and in nature… This has two senses. One is in relation to the judging subject [different subjects perceiving differently]… The other in relation to the conceptions perceived with it…” (PH 1.135, Mates).

(ix) the opposing perceptions and views of the world due to constancy or rarity of occurrence: “The sun is certainly a much more marvelous thing than a comet. But since we see the sun all the time but the comet only infrequently, we marvel at the comet so much as even to suppose it a divine portent, but we do nothing like that for the sun. If, however, we thought of the sun as appearing infrequently and setting infrequently, and as illuminating everything all at once and then suddenly being eclipsed, we sould find much to marvel at in the matter.” (PH 1.141, Mates). And

(x) the opposing perceptions and views of what is right and wrong which characterize different ways of life, laws, myths and “dogmatic suppositions”: “among the Persians sodomy is customary but among the Romans it is prohibited by law; and with us adultery is prohibited, but among the Massagetae it is by custom treated as a matter of indifference, as Eudoxus of Cnidos reports… and with us it is forbidden to have intercourse with one’s mother, whereas with the Persians this sort of marriage is very much the custom. And among the Egyptians men marry their sisters, which for us is prohibited by law. (PH 1.152, Mates).

Long, A.A. & D. N. Sedley. The Hellenistic Philosophers. 2 Vols. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Mates, Benson. The Skeptic Way: Sextus Empricus’s Outlines of Pyrrhonism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Shorter 10 modes of skepticism

Modes of Skepticism are supposed to force you to suspend judgement because you cannot know or cannot be certain.

These are variations on Pyrrhonism:

  1. based on the variety in animals;
  2. on the differences in human beings;
  3. on the different structures of the organs of sense;
  4. on the circumstantial conditions;
  5. on positions and intervals and locations;
  6. on intermixtures;
  7. on the quantities and formations of the underlying objects;
  8. on the fact of relativity;
  9. on the frequency or rarity of occurrence;
  10. on the disciplines and customs and laws, the legendary beliefs and the dogmatic convictions.

These are fromĀ Aenesidemus:

  1. The feelings and perceptions of all living beings differ.
  2. People have physical and mental differences, which make things appear different to them.
  3. The different senses give different impressions of things.
  4. Our perceptions depend on our physical and intellectual conditions at the time of perception.
  5. Things appear different in different positions, and at different distances.
  6. Perception is never direct, but always through a medium. For example, we see things through the air.
  7. Things appear different according to variations in their quantity, color, motion, and temperature.
  8. A thing impresses us differently when it is familiar and when it is unfamiliar.
  9. All supposed knowledge is predication. All predicates give us only the relation of things to other things or to ourselves; they never tell us what the thing in itself is.
  10. The opinions and customs of people are different in different countries.