Fall 2014 -
Graduate Course Description
Discipline and Number
7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
|Skepticism Ancient & Modern
Description of Course:
The Outlines of Pyrrhonism (PyrrÃ´neioi hypotypÃ´seis) by an obscure Greek physician named Sextus Empiricus (ca. 2nd century C.E.) provoked many of the most enduring themes of modern European thought since its rediscovery in the fifteenth century. Montaigne, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Kierkegaard, along with a host of non-canonical thinkers, were each confronted by skepticism and attempted to refute or combat it through their philosophical work. This course will introduce students to the skeptic way, which Sextus claimed was not a positive doctrine, but a way of life (agÃ´gÃª) or disposition (dumanis). The skeptics did however employ a battery of arguments and powerful dialectic, with great consequences for Western science and religion.
After we become reacquainted with the Western tradition of skepticism, we shall turn to the Indian traditionâ€”specifically, the MÃ¢dhyamaka Buddhist philosophy, which was founded by the Buddhist monk NÃ¢gÃ¢rjuna. After situating MÃ¢dhyamaka in the traditions of Indian philosophy, we shall read NÃ¢gÃ¢rjunaâ€™s great treatise, Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way (MÃ»lamadhyamakakÃ¢rikÃ¢) and then consider some scholars' claims that the philosophical outlook of the â€œMiddle Wayâ€ is nearly identical to that of Pyrrhonism.
Mates, Benson. The Skeptic Way: Sextus Empiricusâ€™s Outlines of Pyrrhonism. Oxford UP, 1996. ISBN 0195092139
Sextus Empiricus. Against the Logicians, trans. Richard Bett. Cambridge UP, 2005. [excerpt avail. on eLearning]
Descartes, RenÃ©. Meditations on First Philosophy, trans. Donald A. Cress. Hackett, 1993. ISBN 978-0-87220-192-7
Berkeley, George. Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. Hackett, 1979. ISBN 978-0915144617
Hume, David. Treatise of Human Nature, ed. Ernest C. Mossner. Penguin, 1986. ISBN 978-0140432442
Kant, Immanuel. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, rev. ed. by Gary Hatfield. Cambridge UP, 2004.
Maia Neto, JosÃ© Raimundo. The Christianization of Pyrrhonism: scepticism and faith in Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Shestov. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, c1995. Chapters 2 and 3 [eLearning].
Fogelin, Robert J. Wittgenstein, 2nd ed. Routledge, 1995.
Garfield, Jay L. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. Oxford UP, 1995. ISBN 978-0195093360
Westerhoff, Jan. Nagarjunaâ€™s Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction. Oxford UP, 2009. ISBN 978-0195384963
Kuzminski, Adrian. Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism. Lexington Books, 2008. ISBN 9780739125076
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
regular attendance and participation in discussion (25%) and ten short papers (75%)