Radicalism and Moderation in the New Academy

In: Phronesis
James Allen Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto 7938 Toronto Canada

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A dispute in the form of rival interpretations of Carneades arose in the New Academy about whether the wise person is permitted to form (mere) opinions. One party rejected opinion; the other defended it. Because the terms enjoy a certain currency, the positions are here labelled ‘radical’ and ‘moderate’ respectively. This essay tackles the question whether and how they differed. It argues (a) that the disagreement was less about human epistemic capacities than about the standards and aspirations against which they should be measured and (b) that Cicero, our principal source, was a consistent adherent of the ‘radical’ party.

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