The School of Doubt

Skepticism, History and Politics in Cicero's Academica


The School of Doubt conducts a close philological and philosophical reading of Cicero’s Academica, a fragmentary work on sense-perception and Academic history written in the wake of Caesar’s victory in the civil wars (45 BCE). Focusing in turn on the author’s letters discussing the process of composition, the historiographical treatment of the Platonic tradition and the critical exploration of philosophical doubt, this volume presents Cicero as an original and sophisticated historian of philosophy and a radical figure in Western skeptical thought. Widely misconstrued as a technical treatise and a mere chronicle of the Greek debates on which it draws, the Academica here emerges as a key work in the evolution of Ciceronian philosophy and of ancient skepticism – and one that responds directly to the disintegration of Republican Rome.

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Orazio Cappello lives in London.


Part 1: Skepticism and Its Contexts. The Academica in Cicero’s Correspondence

1 The Shadows of Apography
 1.1 Introduction
 1.2 Stories from the Writer’s Desk: Documenting Cicero’s Writing of the Academica
 1.3 Revision, Distribution and Reception: Cicero and His Academica
2 Counter-Figuring Indifference: Varro and the Politics of Composition
 2.1 Epistolary Thresholds: The Letter in Its Context
 2.2 The Letter as Reluctant Agit-Prop: The Correspondence between Cicero and Varro
 2.3 The Dedication Letter: ad Familiares 9.8
3 Effecting Cicero: Fiction, Criticism and Subjectivity
 3.1 The Epistolary Cicero: Dialogue, Friendship and the Subject of the Letters
 3.2 On the Horizon: The Shrine to Tullia and Caesar’s Return
 3.3 Conclusion

Part 2: The Pedigree of Doubt: Ciceronian Essays in the Historiography of Philosophy

4 Historical Philosophy: Cicero and the Academica in Their Historiographical Contexts
 4.1 Program Notes
 4.2 Situating the Academica: The Corpus
 4.3 Situating the Academica: The Tradition
 4.4 Setting the Scene: Re-reading the Index
5 Philosophy’s Parallel Itineraries
 5.1 Where Philosophy Begins: Epistemology and Historiography in the Academica
 5.2 The Art of the Beginning: The Epistemological Foundation of Life
 5.3 The Beginning of the Story/The Story of the Beginning
6 Progress and Other Stories: Historical Models in Cicero’s Philosophy
 6.1 Revision, Imitation and Development in the Academica: The Alternative Paths of Philosophical History
 6.2 Embedded Narratives, Narrative Inconsistencies and the Inclusivity of Cicero’s History
 6.3 Organizing the Field: The Disagreement of Philosophers and the Carneadea Divisio
 6.4 Structure and Meaning: Hegel, Gueroult and Cicero
 6.5 Interpretation, Position and Segmentation: Arcesilaus and Carneades in the Lucullus
7 The Practice and Tradition of Philosophia: Debate, Critique and Community in the Academica
 7.1 The Academy as Theatre
 7.2 Critical Philosophy, or Philosophy at the Limit
 7.3 Community: Reason, Canon and Philosophy
 7.4 Conclusion

Part 3: Skeptical Strategies: Dialectic, Assimilation, Rhetoric

8 Re-Configuring Conflict: Looking for Philo and Antiochus
 8.1 Who Speaks in the Academica
 8.2 Framing the Dialogue: The Rhetoric of Philosophy
 8.3 Antiochus versus Philo: Fictionalizing the Drift
 8.4 Philo and Antiochus: Profiles in Conversation
 8.5 Parallel Trajectories and the Myth of Crisis
9 Dialectic and Self-Definition: The Sense of Arguing in Cicero’s Academica
 9.1 Debate and the Philosophical Tradition
 9.2 The Academy and the Stoa
10 Dialectical Trajectories of Ciceronian Skepticism
 10.1 Academic Skepticism in Cicero’s Academica
 10.2 Into Subjectivity: Doubt and/as Experience
 10.3 Conclusion

All interested in Cicero, Late Republican intellectual history and Roman philosophy, as well as students of ancient and modern skepticism and the relation between skepticism, historiography, and political thought.
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