Fall 2014 - Graduate Course Description
Park, Peter
Discipline and Number
HUHI 6325 Section 501
T Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
Skepticism Ancient & Modern

Description of Course:

The Outlines of Pyrrhonism (Pyrrôneioi hypotypôseis) 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 (agôgê) 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 tradition—specifically, the Mâdhyamaka Buddhist philosophy, which was founded by the Buddhist monk Nâgârjuna. After situating Mâdhyamaka in the traditions of Indian philosophy, we shall read Nâgârjuna’s great treatise, Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way (Mûlamadhyamakakârikâ) and then consider some scholars' claims that the philosophical outlook of the “Middle Way” is nearly identical to that of Pyrrhonism.

Required Texts:

Mates, Benson. The Skeptic Way: Sextus Empiricus’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, René. 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, José 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. Nagarjuna’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%)

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