What is it about?

This paper aims to examine a specific passage of Sextus Empiricus’s work: the final section of the second book of the Outlines of Pyrrhonism (=ph ii, 229–259), about the question of the validity or invalidity and ‘pragmatic dissolution’ of sophisms.

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Why is it important?

I shall concentrate my attention on a very limited yet crucial topic, namely the question of the validity or invalidity and ‘pragmatic dis-solution’ of an allegedly strong tool such as sophisms and their dialectical structure. Such a theme is treated by Sextus in a very specific passage of his work, in the final section of the second book of the Outlines of Pyrrhonism (=PH II, 229-259) . And one should also always bear in mind that this is the only place where Sextus deals with sophisms; indeed, neither are there any parallel passages in the books Against the Logicians (M VII-VIII) nor any vague traces anywhere else in his rich corpus (although we parenthetically read in PH II 259: “However, we shall also discuss these matters later on”). Once granted that these chapters are a sort of conceptual 'hapax legomenon' , it seems evident that they acquire the role of a very valuable source for judging not only the dogmatic assumptions condemned by Sextus, but also (and especially) the Pyrrhonian ‘way out’ from the presumed impasse generated by sophisms.


I hope this article will be able to reinforce the general interest for Sextus Empiricus not only as a source, but as an original author, whose task is to 'destroy' the logical part of dogmatic philosophies, but at the same time to defend the Pyrrhonian, plain and efficacious, approach to everyday life.

Emidio Spinelli
Universita degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza

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This page is a summary of: Dialectic and Sophisms: The Sceptical Dissolution of Dogmatic Logic, Méthexis, March 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/24680974-34010006.
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