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Inferential Modes of (Stoic) Apprehension in Sextus Empiricus

Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 3:40 pm – 5:20 pm

This colloquium talk is planned as an in-person event. Registration is only required for non-CEU members. Please check the COVID safety rules here to enter the building.



In his two compendia of arguments against various theories of knowledge (PH 2, M 7-8), the Pyrrhonist Sceptic Sextus Empiricus targets an epistemological framework that recognizes two sources of apprehension. On this view, opposed by Sextus, evident matters are known directly, primarily through veridical sense-perception, while non-evident matters are known, if at all, through inference from signs and through demonstrative argument, i.e., proof. 

In this paper, I shall focus on Sextus’ protracted case against inferential apprehension. After a brief outline of the taxonomy of states of affairs and types of inferential apprehension on which his discussion depends, I will go on to argue for three claims. First, that the Sextan material can contribute to a better understanding of how Stoics could account for apprehension of matters that are not directly accessible to sense-perception. Second, that Sextus’ core objection – namely, that evident items serving as the basis of revelatory inferences are subject to necessary but incompatible epistemic requirements – is dialectically powerful but ultimately suspect. Finally, that even if Sextus did at some point in his career attempt to incorporate a type of sign-inference into the Pyrrhonist outlook, doing so is incompatible with defending the least objectionable form of Pyrrhonism.


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