Abstract: Pyrrhonism and Disagreement

Diego Machuca

Disagreement is a pervasive feature of human life, not only because people constantly disagree with each other over any possible issue but also because one tends to disagree with oneself over time. The existence of persistent and widespread disputes poses serious difficulties. For although the mere existence of a disagreement does not by itself entail that it is not possible to attain knowledge or justified belief about the disputed matter, one has to find an effective way of settling it. Unfortunately, we all know that in many cases this is not an easy task. The epistemic and practical implications of disagreement are a central topic of discussion in the extant works of Sextus Empiricus, our main source for Pyrrhonian skepticism. He constantly refers to both actual and possible disputes in any area of philosophy or ordinary life, and points out that, since the Pyrrhonist is unable to resolve such disagreements, he is compelled to suspend judgment. The key question is whether this means that he is rationally required to suspend judgment in the face of unresolvable disagreement or that he is psychologically compelled to do so. My aim is to answer this crucial question and to draw a comparison between the Pyrrhonist’s response to equipollent disagreement and current epistemological discussions of the significance of peer disagreement.

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