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Antique Skepticism: The most vicious philosophical thoughts

Updated on June 8, 2012
Sextus Empiricus
Sextus Empiricus | Source

Antique skepticism is a branch of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, popularized by Roman physician and philosopher, Sextus Empiricus. Its followers honestly believed that since each of us as individuals has very different impressions of the world, we can't be sure that the world exists at all. So they gave up making judgements and categorizations. They simply said, "I can't decide if what I see actually exists, so I won't make any judgments about it."

This kind of solipsism (an idea in philosophy that makes some people believe nothing exists outside of them - "there are no others, only I am for real") was most eminent in the thinking of an excellent individual we know as Pyrrh, the founding father of the antique skepicist school of thought. The young Pyrrh's passion for travelling and curiosity for the new took him far and wide across the globe. When he visited China, he was deeply impressed by the thoughts of Daoist masters who taught him to flow like the river and flutter in the wind like a bird.

When he returned to Hellas, his mind was set: because I don't know if anything I see is real, therefore nothing is apart from me. This attitude inspired him to do the infamous deeds he became known for in later centuries. It is rumoured that at one time he noticed that one of his friends got caught in the mire and was being dragged down by it. He stopped for a mere second to ponder if it was a reality, but because he couldn't decide for sure he gave up making judgements about it and left. His friend drowned, of course.

Jang Tzu, a very early daoist master was aware of the teachings of Mo Ti, a fellow philosopher who preached unconditional love for all living things. However, Jang Tzu had a better idea, - he said, everyone for themselves. His infamous quote: "Should the survival of mankind depend on it, still I wouldn't sacrifice a single hair of mine own." And if you think about it, even if it's vicious, this statement is absolutely beautiful. Just read it and pay attention to what you feel. Is it not a kind of relief, a kind of positive amazement?

Of course, this doesn't mean cruel selfishness is any good. I don't agree with the statement of Jang Tzu or even believe that he meant it that way. It just amazes me is a strange way. In a rare way.

Jang Tzu could've said, "I am willing to sacrifice a hair of mine for the survival of mankind, but nothing more." its still would have the same effect on me.


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    • Valarie King profile image

      Valarie King 8 years ago from California

      What Sextus believed is very interesting...harsh, yet, interesting. I have wondered myself if the things around me are real, or if I'm even real. Perhaps people, and the matter around us is nothing more than tiny molecules spinning around at amazing speeds to give the illusion that we are solid objects. Just a thought. Great hub!

    • Haunty profile image

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      Thanks. I knew what you meant by the first line. :)

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      thumbs up (or should that be down? -- on the philosophers, I hasten to add, not your hub.)

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      Cheers me dear!

    • Haunty profile image

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

      Of course! :)

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      This has really grabbed my attention, would like to know more, Any Chance!?