Self-Refutation and Ancient Skepticism Cover Image

Samorefutacja i starożytny sceptycyzm
Self-Refutation and Ancient Skepticism

Author(s): Renata Ziemińska
Subject(s): Philosophy
Published by: Uniwersytet Warszawski - Wydział Filozofii i Socjologii, Instytut Filozofii
Keywords: peritropé; self-refutation argument; pragmatic self-refutation; selfcancellation; non-assertion; Sextus Empiricus; Luca Castagnoli

Summary/Abstract: L. Castagnoli in his book Ancient Self-Refutation rightly observes that selfrefutation is not falsification; it overturns the act of assertion but does not prove that the content of the act is false. He argues against the widely spread belief that Sextus Empiricus accepted the self-refutation of his own expressions. Castagnoli also claims that Sextus was effective in answering to the self-refutation charge. The achievement of the book is discovery that in passages where Sextus seems to embrace the selfrefutation of his expressions (PH 1.14-15), he does not use the term peritropé, technical for self-refutation, but term perigrafé, which means self-bracketing. Selfbracketing is weakening one’s own thesis but not overturning it. Castagnoli claims that Sextus embraces the self-bracketing of his expressions but never accepts their self-refutation. However, Castagnoli is not right that self-refutation is shameful mistake for everybody. The mature skeptic cannot even think that self-refutation is wrong, because it would be a dogmatic view. Sextus seems accept the self-refutation at the end of Against Logicians where he presents the argument against proof and the metaphor of the ladder (M 8.480-1). Regardless of Sextus declarations, we have reasons to think that he does not avoid self-refutation in pragmatic sense. Selfbracketing of his position is not a consistent dialectical strategy, as Castagnoli writes, but the end of rational discussion. Sextus avoids absolute self-refutation (we cannot falsify what he suggests) but he is unable to avoid pragmatic self-refutation (there is no way to assert his position without contradiction). It is the case, even if Sextus refuses asserting his position.

  • Issue Year: 19/2011
  • Issue No: 3 (75)
  • Page Range: 151-159
  • Page Count: 9
  • Language: Polish