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Pyrrhonism

Updated on February 26, 2012

The founder of the philosophical school of Pyrrhonism and regarded as the father of Scepticism, Pyrrho (365-275 BC) was born in Elis, Greece. He was a pupil of Anaxarchus of Abdera and in about 330 began to teach philosophy in his native Elis.

He traveled widely and learned many different philosophic viewpoints, each one claiming to be the truth. Because they could not all be right, Pyrrho decided to suspend judgment about truth, right, and wrong.

He quickly established a far-reaching reputation among Greek philosophers of his day and although he produced no written works, his ideas were preserved in the poems of Timon of Phlius.

He asserted that Man must not reply on sense perceptions and must not make judgments. That our senses tell us only how things appear, not what they really are. Custom and convention, he felt, were the only guides to what is just or unjust.

He believed that Man needed to be indifferent to the changes of fortune and bear his troubles with fortitude. His teachings, which enshrined the principle of doubt, directly influenced the ancient sceptics and, later, philosophical thought in seventeenth century Europe.

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