SEXTUS EMPIRICUS AND THE PERIPATETICS
Julia Annas
SEXTUS EMPIRICUS AND THE PERIPATETICS

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I

«Relations between the Sceptics and Peripatetics were definitely at

arm’s length. Sextus Empiricus mentions Aristotle and his followers

quite often and attributes an elaborate doctrine of the “criterion” of

knowledge to them, but his work shows no signs of a deep study of their

writings and his knowledge of them seems to come from handbooks. In

many places he writes as if their teaching hardly differed from that of

the Stoics, and when he does acknowledge a difference in order to exploit

the contradictions between dogmatic schools for his own ends, he tends

to state their position in a terminology strongly influenced by Stoicism».

Thus H.B. Gottschalk in his magisterial account of Aristotelian

philosophy in the Roman world1. And Gottschalk’s opinion is but-

tressed by Luciana Repici Cambiano, who points out that Sextus’ treat-

ment both of the Peripatetic school as a whole and of particular Peripatet-

ics is shaped by his tendency to play the different schools of dogmatists

off against one another, and in particular to play off other schools against

the Stoics, the school which most dominates his philosophical agenda2.

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With Sextus, however, things are rarely simple. For Sextus’ work,

dense and thorough as it is, is not intended to inform or to entertain us;

it is meant to turn us into sceptics. If we feel, as we likely do, safe

from this intended effect, it is tempting to explore Sextus’ work with

a view to the doxographical information which we can extract. But

this can be unsafe; Sextus’ work is always, even at its most tedious

and scholastic, driven by the desire to shape his material to the form

most likely to produce in the reader the reaction which the sceptic

aims at: reaching the position where arguments for and against pull

with equal force, and so finding oneself suspending judgement on the

subject3. Sextus’ strategies of opposing various schools and thinkers

to one another obviously derive from this drive. But they also, I think,

complicate the picture when it comes to his sources. In what follows

I shall set out the case for a more complex picture of Sextus’ relation

to the Peripatetic school.

As Sextus uses the phrase “Peripatetic”, it mostly serves to include,

rather than to exclude, the distinctive views of Aristotle, the school’s

founder and by far its most dominant figure. Thus he once refers to

«Aristotle the Peripatetic» (PH iii 31), and at M x 30-33 a beginning

reference to «the philosophers from the Peripatos» is shortly followed

by three explicit references to Aristotle, one to “Aristotle’s followers”

and another to “the Peripatetics”. Where Aristotle is played off against

other Peripatetics, such as Strato, this is clearly signalled. I shall, then,

proceed by first examining material which clearly relates to Aristotle

or to Peripatetic theses clearly deriving from Aristotle, and only then

turn to Sextus’ treatment of the distinctively different contributions of

other Peripatetics4.

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II

It is obvious that in some places in his treatment of Aristotle and

his school Sextus is drawing on sources quite distinct from their own

writings — on Hellenistic doxographies, which reshape Aristotle’s ideas

to fit a Hellenistic philosophical agenda, and which often recast them

in specifically Stoic terms. This is most obvious in the long account of

perception in M vii, but also seems to be the case in the ethical section.

Gottschalk and Moraux have stressed the continuing influence of such

Hellenistic doxographies even after the revival of Aristotelian textual

study initiated by Andronicus5.

Sextus’ references to Aristotle in the ethical sections of his work

are brief and glancing. At first sight they seem unexceptionable. He men-

tions at M xi 45 the view of «the Academics and the Peripatetics» that

there are three kinds of good, as opposed to the Stoic view, and this

certainly suggests that such views as he has about Aristotle’s ethics come,

not from Aristotle’s own ethical works, in which the distinction does

not play an important role6, but from the Hellenistic doxographical tra-

dition, in which “three kinds of good” is the slogan for the Peripatetic

view of our final end, by contrast with the Stoic view7. And this is

supported by M xi 51 and PH iii 180-181, where the Peripatetics are said

to hold that health is a good, though not the chief good.

However, although Sextus is to some degree drawing on the stan-

dard Hellenistic doxographical view of Aristotle’s ethics, there is a great

oddity at M xi 77, where Sextus is discussing disputes about what is really

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good. He compares Zeno, Epicurus and Aristotle as examples of dog-

matists who try to establish this by argument. Zeno argues that virtue

is good, Epicurus that pleasure is — and Aristotle, that health is! Sextus

has inserted two examples of final goods into a discussion of what is

good8. One hopes that we do not have to ascribe to Sextus the com-

mitted view that health had the role for Aristotle that virtue had for

Zeno and pleasure for Epicurus. This would be an unbelievably gross

error. But how do we explain the passage? It is not plausible to account

for it in terms of sceptical strategy — that is, of supposing that Sextus

assumes that his audience might make the mistaken assumption. Sextus

has no reason to suppose his audience capable of such an error. It simply

seems that Sextus has been careless; he is not paying proper attention

to the argument, because he does not have a serious interest in ethics9.

This is indeed, unfortunately, what PH iii and M xi confirm. Sextus just

shirks the task in ethics, analogous to that in the logical and physical

sections, of examining the major theories about major issues in ethics,

such as the nature of our final end. Instead he gives us a few general

arguments about ethics, and a few sets of arguments about Stoic and

Epicurean theses, most of which are not only feeble but go off into irrele-

vant non-ethical points. The ethical section is pathetic by comparison

with the long and knowledgeable sections on logic and physics10.

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Thus Sextus’ failure to consider Aristotle’s ethics with the care ac-

corded to the logic and physics seems to derive simply from a lack of

competence in ethics, and we cannot infer anything from it about the

nature of Sextus’ ethical sources. This is a major disappointment, con-

sidering the extent and richness of the Hellenistic sources for Peripatetic

ethics, and the importance here of Antiochus, whom Sextus ignores in

ethics11 although he seems to be using him as a main source in M vii

for epistemology. We must just accept that Sextus shows no knowledge

of Aristotle’s ethics other than slight acquaintance with some ethical dox-

ography. Moreover, he lacks interest to the point of being careless on

an important point.

III

Sextus’ account of Aristotle on perception is less depressing. The

account, in M vii 217-226, very clearly comes from a Hellenistic doxo-

graphy, probably Antiochus’ Canonica, as is suggested by the references

to Antiochus in this long stretch of M vii, though not in the Peripatetic

section itself12. «Aristotle, Theophrastus and the Peripatetics in general»,

Sextus informs us, have a twofold criterion, «perception for perceptible

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things and thinking (noesis) for thinkable things, and common to both,

as Theophrastus used to say, is the evident (to enarges)». It is obvious

at once that Hellenistic concern for “the criterion” has created a later

framework into which Aristotle’s concerns in the De anima and Parva

naturalia
have been forced to fit. There is of course nothing objectionable

in principle about writing history of philosophy from a thematic point of

view, and giving an account of past philosophers in terms of their contribu-

tion to the chosen philosophical theme; that is in fact what much doxo-

graphy consists of. The present passage, however, gives us an interesting

example of what happens when a theory is interpreted in terms of concerns

which are absent or peripheral in it. Thus, epistemological concern about

“the criterion” is read into Aristotle’s theory, in which epistemological

concerns are far less prominent than they become in the Hellenistic peri-

od13. The role of phantasia is greatly expanded, is made far more cen-

tral and is read into the account of perception itself. It is used as a basis

for giving Aristotle a theory of representation based on similarity (see

especially 220)14. Thus the Peripatetic school is given fashionable new

theories of representation and the criterion, and cast in the mould which

Sextus uses to put together all Dogmatic theories of perception before

producing his own systematic objections. It is interesting that, despite

the explicit reference to Theophrastus, the material used seems to come

from Aristotle15. We find use of the potentiality/actuality distinction

and an account of the genesis of techne and episteme that recalls

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Aristotelian texts16. In fr. 16 of Arius Didymus’ physical doxography

we find a short passage which seems to derive from the same source

as the Sextus passage, since it ascribes to Aristotle the “double criterion”,

and which repeats from the De anima the derivation of phantasia from

phaos17. Antiochus, if he is the source, is working from a knowledge of

the psychological works. He is producing a theory-driven account which

elevates phantasia and problems of representation from marginal and frag-

mentary status to centre stage, and frankly imports a concern with “the

criterion”. The account seems to owe nothing to Theophrastus except

the use of the phrase to enarges, which is employed to provide a link

between Aristotelian psychology and Hellenistic epistemology. As for the

later Peripatetics, their contribution to either is negligible, and Sextus

or his source presumably brings them in as merely carrying on Aristotle’s

ideas in this area18.

While in the ethics Sextus seemed to use doxographical accounts

merely out of lack of interest, in this section it is clear why he uses

a Hellenized version of Aristotle. For the Hellenistic perspective on is-

sues of perception and thinking was distinctively different from Aristo-

tle’s, in just the two respects in which we find Sextus’ Aristotle reshaped.

An account of perception had to include a response to the problem of

“the criterion”, and it had to have some account of phantasia and the

problem of representation. This is Sextus’ own perspective, and we can

readily see why he uses an account of Aristotle which slots him into place

in a familiar Problematik, rather than turning to the psychological works

themselves. From his perspective they would have seemed not only dif-

ficult but maddeningly elusive on the main issues. Even had Sextus had

the De anima and Parva naturalia handy on his shelves, he would have

had little reason to peruse them. To the extent that he could have real-

ized that what they contained was rather different from the Antiochean

account, Sextus would have found them marginal and irrelevant to what

he saw as the issues of philosophical importance in the area of perception.

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Should we fault Sextus all the same? It seems at least somewhat

lazy to assume that all philosophers are well represented by their contri-

butions to a single set of currently fashionable philosophical problems.

But here it is salutary to recollect Sextus’ sceptical perspective. The scep-

tic wants to free people of the dogmatic beliefs that they are unfortunate

enough to suffer from. Where philosophical beliefs are concerned, it is

likely that what is making most people suffer are beliefs formed in the con-

text of current philosophical debate; and this is what Sextus accordingly

concentrates his attention on. He is not obliged to hunt out exploded doc-

trines or to strive to recover outdated perspectives; this would be a waste

of time, since few or none are likely to be suffering from the effects

of belief in them, and thus the sceptic has no motive to argue against

them, and therefore no motive to disentangle them from later recasting 19.

IV

Sextus also clearly had access to another source of philosophical in-

formation about Aristotle apart from the school treatises, namely the “ex-

oteric” works, which continued to circulate even after Andronicus’ edi-

tions of the school works became widely available20.

In the second mode, for example, (PH i 84) Sextus says explicitly

that «Aristotle tells us about» a man from Thasos who continually saw

«an image of a person» going in front of him. Aristotle does discuss

the case, at Meteorologica, 373 a 35-b 10 — but without the detail that

the man came from Thasos. It is possible, of course, that this detail has

just dropped out of our text of the Meteorologica, or that Sextus or an

intermediary source has put it in. However, earlier in the paragraph

Sextus has described the case of the amazingly thirst-free Andron of

Argos, and, although he does not ascribe it to Aristotle, we know from

parallels that Aristotle mentioned this in his work On Drunkenness21.

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And one can readily imagine many contexts in a work on drunkenness

in which the man from Thasos could have figured in a less scientific

way than he does in the Meteorologica22. It seems reasonable to conclude

here, then, that Sextus had access to Aristotle’s work On Drunkenness.

Twice23. Sextus tells us explicitly that Aristotle held a certain view

as to how we come to conceive of the length without breadth that geome-

ters make use of. In the passages he makes use of some later terminology,

for example the term ennoia, but seems at any rate to be applying himself

closely to a particular passage of Aristotle. «He bases the argument on an

obvious and clear example» says Sextus at M iii 57, namely, that we can

grasp the length of a wall without thinking in addition of the breadth of

the wall. In the same passage he adds that we infer from this example to

the conceivability of length without breadth on the basis of the principle

that « apparent things are a glimpse (opsis) of what is not evident»; it is not

clear whether the use of this tag, and with it the inference, are to be

ascribed to Aristotle or not. (Sextus himself is quite partial to quoting it.)

In both passages Sextus adds his own criticism, namely that this shows

only that we can conceive of the length of the wall minus the breadth of

the wall
, not minus any breadth, which is what was required.

This passage is not to be found in any of Aristotle’s extant works,

and has no close analogue. At first sight it seems akin to the arguments

of Metaphysica, M 3, where mathematical objects are said to be “sepa-

rated in thought” from physical objects, and where Aristotle’s solution

to the problem of the status of mathematical objects is, roughly, that

mathematics studies physical objects, but not qua physical objects, rather,

qua length, breadths and so on. This is not a theory of “abstraction” if

such a theory implies that the existence of mathematical objects is in any

way dependent on the mental activity of mathematicians in mentally ab-

stracting lengths, breadths etc. from the objects whose lengths, breadths

etc. they are24. However, it does seem to commit Aristotle to some kind

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of psychological theory which explains how we can separate lengths,

breadths etc. in thought from the objects whose lengths, etc. they are.

This passage is a contribution to such a theory, as is De memoria,

449 b 31-450 all. Neither passage is very developed, although Aristotle

clearly needs some such theory to explain how it is that we can come

to consider physical objects but not qua physical.

As for the source of the passage Sextus has in mind, we have, as

far as I can see, absolutely nothing to go on. Ross assigns it as fr. 3

of On the Good, and this seems reasonable, supposing Aristotle’s account

of Plato’s lecture to have also included criticisms of it; On the Good

is the obvious place for discussions of mathematical matters. But it could

equally well come from On Philosophy25 or a discussion of thinking in

some other works. In any case, it clearly comes from one of the “exoteric”

works.

At the beginning of M vii 6-7, in the context of disagreements as

to the divisions of philosophy, Sextus comments that, «Aristotle says that

it was Empedocles who was the first to start up rhetoric, to which dia-

lectic is antistrophos, that is, isostrophos, since they are concerned with

(strephesthai) the same matter (just as Homer calls Odysseus antitheos,

which means isotheos). Parmenides would seem not to have no experience

of dialectic, since Aristotle again supposed his friend Zeno to be the lead-

er (archegos) in dialectic». This passage is intriguing. Some passages in

Diogenes Laertius26 tell us that in his dialogue The Sophist Aristotle

presented Empedocles as the discoverer of rhetoric and Zeno of dialectic.

It seems, then, that Sextus had access to this dialogue. But the Diogenes

passages say nothing about the celebrated contrast of rhetoric and dialec-

tic, familiar to us of course from the opening lines of the Rhetoric. Sextus

clearly wants to put this in, if only for the sake of adding his own expla-

nation of the difficult antistrophos. Was The Sophist the original home

of this contrast? Or is Sextus referring to the opening lines of the Rhe-

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toric? At M ii 8-9 Sextus mentions several definitions of rhetoric from

Aristotle «in the first book of his Rhetorical Technai». Sextus seems to

be like many since who show knowledge of the opening chapters of

Book i of the Rhetoric, but no knowledge of, or possibly no interest in,

the rest. An any rate, Sextus seems here to be acquainted with Aristotle’s

Sophist as well as the opening of the Rhetoric27.

At M ix 20-2228 Sextus tells us that Aristotle used to say that the

concept (ennoia) of the gods had two sources: from «what happens with

regard to the soul» and from the phenomena of the heavens. In states like

sleep the soul is “by itself” and takes “its own nature” and produces in-

spired states and prophecies. This happens also at death; witness the

prophetic last words of Patroclus and Hector in Homer. This leads people

to conceive of the existence of god as an intelligent being like the soul. Se-

condly, the orderliness of the progressions of the heavenly bodies leads

people to think of god as the cause of this orderly motion.

The second of these grounds reminds us of a familiar passage in the

Metaphysics29; but the first is alien to anything in the school treatises, and

in particular to the kind of account that we find in the work on divination

in dreams in the Parva naturalia30. We need not suppose, of course, that

in what Sextus reports Aristotle was endorsing these reasons for coming

to conceive of god; he is presumably reporting endoxa, in his customary

way. However, we nowhere in the school treatises find him treating the

first kind of endoxon with such respect. We seem to find something at least

different from the school treatises, even though we should be cautious in

inferring that in the “exoteric” work Aristotle was committed to a

philosophically very different view from the one we find in the treatises.

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Sextus, then, appears to be acquainted with a selection of Aristotle’s

“exoteric” works. It is not plausible to suppose him acquainted only

with an intermediate source containing selections from The Sophist, On

Drunkenness
and On Philosophy. And I have hyper-cautiously stuck only

to contexts where Aristotle is explicitly named. Many think that a pas-

sage at M x 248-283 contains material from On the Good, and they are

probably right, although we should be cautious31. So Sextus has access

not just to doxographies, but also to the more popular sources for

Aristotelianism32.

V

What of passages which plausibly suggest that Sextus is using some

of the school treatises? He seems to know of them, since he characterizes

Aristotle as someone who uses rebarbative technical terms33, but does

he actually make use of them? Our best bet here is the “physical” divi-

sion of philosophy. For, while Aristotelian ideas do not dominate in dis-

cussions such as that of cause, and Aristotelian concepts such as nature

receive scant attention, we do find two striking things, which will be

discussed in this section and the next. One is that Sextus sometimes

makes what look like references to particular passages in Aristotle’s

Physics and Metaphysics.

At M ix 7-8, for example, Sextus in listing earlier proponents of

the view that there are “material” and “efficient” principles mentions

Anaxagoras’ Nous as an example of an efficient principle, and adds

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that Aristotle says that Hermotimus of Clazomenae and Parmenides

and much earlier Hesiod shared this view, since they all introduced

Love as a moving and uniting factor among the elements. He adds a

quotation from Parmenides and one from Hesiod, both introducing Eros

as a cosmic factor. This is a fairly close reference to Metaphysica, A

3-4. 984 b 15-31, where we find Anaxagoras mentioned as someone who

recognizes the importance of a kind of factor hitherto ignored, and

Hermotimus, Hesiod and Parmenides are cited as predecessors, with the

same two quotations.

We might wonder whether Sextus has actually read Aristotle when

we notice that in Aristotle this group of philosophers is mentioned as

introducing not the efficient cause, which has been already discussed,

but the final cause; what unites these philosophers from Aristotle’s point

of view is not their recognition of the need for something to get things

moving, but their recognition of a factor like cosmic Love, which aims

at something. Possibly, then, Sextus is citing Aristotle at second hand.

But would a doxographical summary include Hermotimus, a somewhat

pointless reference to those no longer familiar with his work? Would it

include the quotations from Hesiod and Parmenides? And we can easily

explain Sextus’ procedure another way. Sextus is reading Aristotle from

a perspective in which Aristotle’s four causes schema is out of date, and

in particular in which teleology is not seen as a problem of the form it

seems to be to Aristotle. Sextus begins M ix by dividing the archai of

the physicists into the drasterioi and the hulikai. In terms of this scheme,

Aristotle’s comments can reasonably be seen as falling under Sextus’

heading of drasterioi causes, even if their original home was in a more

fine-grained schema.

We may well object to this, of course, on grounds of historical inac-

curacy, or unfairness in argument. But Sextus, to repeat, is not concerned

with these matters. He is concerned to produce in the opponent a state

of equipollence, and thus epoche, in this case about physical principles.

This will be achieved only by attacking beliefs and attitudes which the

opponent is likely to hold. No purpose is served, indeed effort is wasted,

by digging up past issues and perspectives which are no longer found

current. Thus Sextus adapts Aristotle’s words to a current perspective

on the basis of “physics”, because that is the only way of making them

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relevant to his task in writing the book. Thus we do not have to sup-

pose an intermediate source which had already simplified or distorted

Aristotle’s original scheme. Sextus may just as well have read the

Metaphysics text for himself and adapted it to his own sceptical purposes.

There is another example at M x 45-46, the introductory discussion

of kinesis. In the corresponding passage PH iii 65 Sextus mentions Par-

menides and Melissus as philosophers who deny the existence of kinesis;

in the M passage he adds the point that Aristotle calls them stasiotai of

nature, from stasis, and aphusikoi, because nature is an arche of kinesis,

and by removing kinesis they abolish nature.

We turn at once to Physica, A 2-3, especially 184 b 15-185 a 20, the

passage where Aristotle gives three good reasons why the student of na-

ture need not bother with those whose arche is akineton, like Parmenides

and Melissus, before going on to argue against them anyway. It is striking

that Aristotle uses neither the term stasiotai nor aphusikoi there. Sextus

is correct in his main point, that Aristotle claims that these philosophers

are irrelevant to a study of nature, since by denying change and move-

ment they are attacking the first principles of the subject, and the practi-

tioners of a subject do not, as practitioners, have to refute attacks on

the first principles which establish their subject. Further, the point that

attacking kinesis abolishes nature is a peculiarly Aristotelian point, which

Sextus retails without his own strategy being committed to it; in general

he ignores nature as a basic concept in physical philosophy. Why,

however, has Sextus added the colourful terms? Perhaps, of course, he

may have found them in a work by Aristotle now lost, the contents of

which, minus the colourful terms, we now find in the Physics34. But

perhaps Sextus produced the colourful terms himself in order to sum up

Aristotle’s discussion.

In both these cases we have what looks rather like a citation from

a passage of Aristotle. In both cases it comes from very near the begin-

ning of the work; in neither case is it the kind of point which we would

expect to find in a doxographical summary. In both cases there is some

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distortion of the original intent of the passage; but both times this can

adequately be accounted for in terms of Sextus’ own sceptical purpose

in using these citations. This does not amount to a strong case that

Sextus had read the original; but likewise it does not straightforwardly

confirm the thought that he had not; we are given, I think, grounds

for equipollence and thus for epoche.

VI

We also find, in the physical sections of Sextus, long stretches of

argument which at least appear to derive from passages in Aristotle’s

Physics. The most striking are the discussions of place (topos) at

PH iii 119-135 and M x 6-3635.

Sextus mentions Aristotle and the Peripatetics in these sections, but

in the PH version he spends longer attacking the Stoics than the Peripa-

tetics, and he nowhere suggests that his whole approach derives from

the Aristotelian one. Still, this appears clearly to be the case.

The PH version opens with a distinction between a loose and an

exact usage of “place”. In the loose use, a thing’s place is just where

it is intuitively said to be, like “my city”; but in the exact use, it is the

thing’s “exact enclosure”. Sextus thus begins from the Aristotelian con-

ception of place as the limit of the surrounding body (Physica, Δ 4.

212 a 5-7). The distinction between the loose and the exact usage of

“place” does not itself bear any philosophical weight; in the discussions

of motion Sextus frustrates any attempt to evade problems about place

in the exact usage by appeal to the loose usage36. The distinction sim-

ply seems to establish the point that, while there are loose intuitive uses

of “place” in which someone’s place is «in Alexandria or in the gym-

nasium or in the school» (M x 15), the object of philosophical interest

is something more exact, and this Sextus simply identifies, in both ac-

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counts, with Aristotle’s account, produced at Physica, Δ 1-5 after discus-

sion, of place as the innermost boundary of what encloses the thing37.

Sextus follows this with a list of arguments to establish the existence

of place. Place must exist if its parts do, these being right and left, up

and down, before and behind; we see one person coming into the place

that another has left; things have natural places, the naturally light going

up and the naturally heavy down; Hesiod, in saying that Chaos came

first, lends authority to the idea that things must have places to be in;

the existence of body presupposes the existence of place; if we give sense

to one thing’s coming about because of something, and one thing’s com-

ing from something, then we can give sense to one thing’s being in some-

thing. All but the last two of these points come straight from Physica,

Δ 1, where Aristotle is, as usual in the Physics, collecting reputable opin-

ions on the topic, and here collecting the endoxa which support the exis-

tence of place.

When it comes to the countering opinions, however, which suggest

that there is no such thing as place, Sextus does not follow the rest of

Physica, Δ 1 — unsurprisingly, since Aristotle is setting up the considera-

tions pro and con in a way which will lead to a positive solution, whereas

Sextus is concerned rather to have the two sets of general considerations

cancel each other out at the start, before going on to the specific argu-

ments. He therefore just tries to counter each of the considerations he

has mentioned (often rather feebly).

The specific arguments against the Peripatetic position are rather

brief and feeble (131-134). Sextus brings against the Aristotelian account

of place a set of arguments which do not rely on special features of that

account, but just recycle generic sceptical strategies. As far as PH is con-

cerned, we can see that Sextus knows the Aristotelian account, and that

he bases his own initial general arguments on it as well as arguing briefly

against it; but the only text which he seems to know well is one giving

the content of the first part of Physica, Δ 1.

The M account is fuller and more interesting — and it gives the

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impression that Sextus is working from the whole Aristotelian account

of place. He begins again by giving the considerations mentioned in

PH iii in favour of place; they are given more fully, and in a way which

refers more to the text of Physica, Δ 1. Thus the point about replacement,

illustrated both times by a non-Aristotelian example, is here illustrated

also by the example of water poured out of a jar, recalling Aristotle’s

own example38. The point about natural places is expanded by refer-

ence to fire being naturally light and water being naturally heavy; again,

though Aristotle mentions earth rather than water as an example of the

naturally heavy, the details seem plausibly lifted from the discussion in

Physica, Δ 1. Even the point about our making sense of various locutions

about “because of” and “from” something is expanded in an Aristotelian

way: the options are labelled as as matter (hule), cause (aition) and end

(telos)39.

As in PH, Sextus proceeds to counter the arguments we have seen,

as he did in PH and for the same reason. He then adds (19-23) a version

of the feeble arguments we have seen in PH. But from 24 to 36 we

get arguments that have no analogue in PH, but seem to draw from later

parts of Aristotle’s discussion. The argument at 24-29 starts by claiming

that if place contains body, then it must be one of four things: matter,

form, the extension between the body’s limits, and those limits them-

selves. Sextus claims at 29 that he has shown that it can be none of

these; therefore, there can be no such thing. Manifestly, Sextus has taken

over the schema of Physica, Δ4.211b5-212a30, where Aristotle gives

us exactly these four alternatives — except, of course, that Aristotle

argues for the fourth alternative whereas Sextus tries to knock it out

of the running also. Even though Sextus does not take over Aristotle’s

arguments for the first three cases, his objections seem to be based on

claims elsewhere in Aristotle’s discussion40; and the fact that he gives

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exactly the four Aristotelian alternatives suggests fairly close dependence

on Aristotle’s text.

And finally, from 30 to 36, Sextus again sets up the Aristotelian

definition (which he has just supposedly destroyed along with the other

three) and proceeds to use it to reduce to absurdity one of the main

conclusions of Physica, Δ 5, namely that the world as a whole is not

in place. Sextus brings three arguments against this. Two are not very

interesting (if the world is not in place, it is not anywhere; it is absurd

for the world to be its own place)41; but one (33) brings the Physics

conclusion into absurd collision with the Metaphysics conclusion that God

is outside the heavens. Sextus, of course, does not mention any of the

arguments about a first cause which give sense to the latter claim; he

just argues that God will have to fulfil the role of containing boundary

to the world, and thus be the world’s place42.

These two last stretches of argument, and the way the second con-

tinues from the first, strongly suggest that Sextus had access to what

we call chapters 4 and 5 of Aristotle’s discussion of place. Indeed, the

whole M discussion strongly suggests this also. Of course, this does not

amount to proof that Sextus had read a text of what we call Physica,

Δ. But, supposing him to have access only to an intermediary account,

this would have to be far different from the kind of doxographical ac-

count from which he derived the information that Aristotle thinks that

health is a good and that there is a double criterion. His supposed source

would have to contain something corresponding exactly not just to Aristo-

tle’s definition of place but to entire stretches of argument in what we

call chapters 1, 4 and 5 of the discussion. It is really more economical

to suppose that Sextus had read Physica, Δ 1-5 for himself43.

VII

221

Sextus’ apparent reliance on Aristotle’s actual text for the discussion

of place is even more striking when we bear in mind that he seems not

to have the same relation to the rest of Physica, Δ. There is no discussion

of the dogmatists on the void44, and when it comes to time, Sextus

treats it very differently from place. The discussions of time in both PH

and M show no special interest in Aristotle’s view; the Epicurean view

of Demetrius Lacon, and that of Aenesidemus, occupy more of Sextus’

attention. Further, at PH iii 136-137 we find, among the definitions of

time that Sextus lists, «Aristotle, or as some say Plato, [define it as]

the number of the before and after in movement, and Strato, or as some

say Aristotle, as the measure of movement and rest» (cfr. M x 228). On

the other hand, at M x 176-180 Sextus does not hesitate to ascribe to

Aristotle the definition of time as the number of the before and after

in movement; after bringing an objection to it he says that this is why

Strato rejected it and introduced the definition of time as the measure

of movement and rest. But later at 229 Sextus regards the two definition

as sufficiently similar to each other and to Plato’s to be lumped together

for purposes of argument.

It is possible to explain Sextus’ procedure here by genuine puzzle-

ment over Aristotle’s account of time in Physica, Δ 10-14. Aristotle does

call time the number of movement in respect of before and after (Physica,

Δ 11. 219 b 1-2), but he also calls time a measure of movement

(220 b 32-221 a 1); the idioms of number and measure are used confus-

ingly in the passage45, and one can take there to have been genuine

disagreements of interpretation, in the course of which it might seem

222

helpful to align one of Aristotle’s formulations with Plato and another

with Strato. So we do not have to assume that Sextus used a careless

or confused doxography. However, there is nothing on the other side

to compel us to assume that he was working from Aristotle’s actual text,

as in the case of place; conspicuously absent, for example, is any discussion

of the nun or “now”.

We get the same frustrating result from some of Sextus’ other refer-

ences to Aristotelian ideas in the discussion of “physics”. The discussions

of movement, for example, open with Aristotle’s classification of six

kinds of kinesis46, but after this Aristotle quietly drops from view;

none of his more interesting ideas about kinesis figure as Sextus’ targets,

for example the definition of kinesis as incomplete actuality, or Aristotle’s

views on the identity of kineseis. Sextus seems to have picked up the

idea as a handy way to begin his own discussion, but not to give it its

structure. It is the kind of capsule information that we would expect

handbooks to contain, and we need not suppose that he has read Physica,

Δ 2 or Categoriae, 14 for himself.

The same is true of Sextus’ report of Aristotle’s position as to

“material principles”: Aristotle holds, he says, that the elements are fire,

earth, air, water and to kuklophoretikon soma47. This is again capsule

information; and Aristotle’s views are not prominent, or dealt with in

detail, in the following discussion; nothing pushes us to assume that

Sextus had read the De caelo.

VIII

Sextus’ discussion of Aristotelian logic is short48 and problematic.

The amount of attention that Sextus gives to Aristotelian logic is mi-

nuscule compared with the amount he devotes to Stoic logic; and, although

223

he twice makes references which imply that he is familiar with Peripatetic

terminology49, there are in fact strikingly few occurrences of charac-

teristically Aristotelian logical terms. Repici Cambiano accuses Sextus of

assimilating Aristotelian logic to Stoic50, and, although I take the pic-

ture to be more complex than this, we certainly do not find in Sextus

much independent interest in this aspect of Aristotle’s philosophy.

The passage PH ii 163-166 follows a discussion of the Stoic “in-

demonstrable” or anapodeiktoi, which Sextus has concluded by demon-

strating that all five of the Stoic indemonstrable argument forms (modus

ponens and so on) fall to a dilemma. In each case a premise is either

“evident” (prodelon) or “not-evident” (adelon). However, if the premise

is evident, it is redundant, and so the argument, though formally valid

(by our standard) will be asunaktos, that is “non-concludent”, since the

conclusion will not be inferred from all and only the relevant premises.

And if the premise is not-evident, it will not be granted, and so the

argument will still fail to be concludent, since it will fail the definition

of demonstration or apodeixis given earlier at 143: an argument which

“reveals” a non-evident conclusion from agreed premises51. Sextus’ ar-

guments against the Stoics are powerful and damaging, as Barnes has

pointed out. But when we turn to the Aristotelian section, we find some

things which are disconcerting.

Sextus gives us two examples. Firstly (163) we get the argument:

«The just is fine, the fine is good, therefore the just is good»; then (164)

«Socrates is human; every human is a living thing; therefore Socrates

is a living thing». In each case Sextus makes an objection to one premise.

In the first case he has to restate it before declaring his objection, putting

it in the form, «everything which is fine is good». In the second case

224

it is «every human is a living thing». In each case the objection is: Either

the premise in question is “not evident” (adelon, ou prodelon), in which

case it will not be granted, and the argument will not go through. Or,

it is “evident”; but if it is evident it is redundant, since the conclusion

will follow from the other two premises alone.

There are three obvious points to be made about this. Firstly,

neither of these examples looks like a standard Aristotelian syllogism.

The first example, interestingly enough, is found in Alexander in an. pr.

46, 17 ff., where he is commenting on Analytica priora, A 4, on the crucial

role of the middle term, in a part of the Prior Analytics in which general

issues are being debated before the characteristic forms of Aristotelian syl-

logism are brought in. The second example is not a regular syllogism be-

cause of the singular term “Socrates”52. It is not likely that Sextus in-

vented either examples, and they most likely come from a logic textbook.

But they are hardly the kind of example we expect in what is supposed to

be an attack on specifically Aristotelian forms of argument.

Secondly, Sextus merely repeats, against the Aristotelian arguments,

the dilemma he has already used against the Stoic anapodeiktoi. In each

case, he claims that a premise is either evident, in which case it is redun-

dant, or not-evident, in which case it will not be granted. Later (193)

he refers back to this passage and claims that he has shown systematically

that all the Stoic and Peripatetic apodeiktikoi logoi fail. But he fails to

consider that Aristotelian arguments are not meant to be measured

against the definition of Stoic apodeixis; Aristotle does not appeal to the

idea that proof starts from premises that are granted and “reveals” a

conclusion which is less evident than they are. Sextus fails to show that

these arguments are faulty by Aristotelian standards.

Thirdly, Sextus does, at 195-197, provide another argument against

the offending premise «Every human is a living thing», but he does so

in a way which is rather odd. He objects to the way it is established

by epagoge, raising the objection that establishing a generalization on the

basis of particular instances is circular, since it requires the assumption

225

of the truth of the very generalization in question53. This has, however,

nothing to do with Sextus’ “official” argument against epagoge at 204,

where the objection is different, and is based on the claim that either

such generalizations will be insecure, since established on the basis only

of some instances, or establishing them securely, on the basis of all in-

stances, will require completing an infinite review of them, which is of

course impossible.

Thus Sextus’ only foray against Peripatetic, as against Stoic logic

is disappointing; it displays only superficial konwledge, and it tries,

without success, to squeeze Aristotelian material into a sceptical argu-

ment designed for Stoic material.

It is certainly hard to believe that Sextus had any direct acquain-

tance with Aristotelian logic itself; but this is not very surprising. It is

quite standard to do logic out of the current logic textbook; indeed, there

is no strong reason for anyone, sceptical or otherwise, to do anything

else unless they are specializing in logic. What is more striking is that

Sextus gets so little even out of his textbooks on Aristotelian, as op-

posed to Stoic logic, and pays it so little careful attention. Presumably

in logic the main dogmatic challenge is taken to come from the Stoics,

and, while the sceptic needs to know that there is such a thing as

Peripatetic logic, he does not need to know much about it. Dogmatic

unhappiness, it appears, comes from prepositional rather than from predi-

cate logic54.

226

IX

When it comes to individual Peripatetics after Aristotle, I can be

brief, given the valuable work on this in the article by Repici Cam-

biano. Sextus mentions seven later Peripatetics55: Strato56, Dicaearchus57,

Heracleides58, Critolaus59, Ariston the younger60, Aristoxenos61, and the

obscure Ptolemy62.

None of these references suggest a deep or even extensive acquain-

tance with Peripatetic works. The reference to Aristoxenus merely refers

to him as one kind of “musician”, i.e. a student of musical theory63.

Ptolemy is mentioned as raising an objection to Dionysius Thrax on

defining grammar; the point most likely comes from a handbook on gram-

mar. Critolaus is twice cited for a view of general hostility to rhetoric,

and Ariston the younger for the stunning cliché that rhetoric aims at

securing persuasion; these are very general points about rhetoric, which

Sextus duly uses in piling up arguments against rhetoric and again most

plausibly come from a handbook on the subject in question.

Even the references to Strato, Dicaearchus and Heracleides, which

are strewn somewhat more thickly througout PH and the logical and

physical parts of M, do not amount to anything very impressive. The

two main references to Dicaearchus64 merely retail the point that he

227

denied the existence of the soul or identified it with a state of the body.

This is kind of capsule or slogan claim which recurs frequently about

Dicaearchus, with no supporting argument65. Sextus merely uses the

point in a mechanical way, as part of the arguments to shown that human

beings are not the criterion.

The references to Heracleides are likewise standard; in both cases he

is coupled with Asclepiades of Bithynia as holding a theory of anarmoi

onkoi, which differ from the atoms of the Atomists in being breakable.

Nothing more is said of Heracleides and nothing more is made of the con-

nexion; although Asclepiades is elsewhere referred to in Sextus fairly copi-

ously the theory of the curious onkoi is nowhere discussed in detail66.

The references to Strato are more copious and range wider. Three

of them (PH iii 137; M x 177, 288) we have already seen; “some people”

ascribe to Strato the Aristotelian definition of time as the measure of

movement and rest. The other references are varied; Strato made qualities

his elements (PH iii 33); he and Aenesidemus hold that the mind “looks

out of” the sense-organs (M vii 350); he and Epicurus deny the existence

of a third item, between the words and the world, to carry meaning (M

viii 12); he holds that there are time-atoms but infinite divisibility of mat-

ter and space (M x 155). It is notable how many of these references are

comparative: Strato and somebody, or Strato or somebody, holds such and

such a thesis. This is presumably what we would expect from a doxographi-

cal source listing philosophers by their contribution to some philosophical

problem.

On individual Peripatetics after Aristotle, then, we have no reason to

take Sextus to have access to any but standard doxographical sources, and

often he seems to be concerned with sources on the topic in question, rather

than with the Peripatos itself. And on references to “the Peripatetics” as

a school Repici Cambiano has also highlighted Sextus’ lack of specific in-

terest. The Peripatos is not stressed among the Dogmatic schools when

Sextus talks about them in general. And references to the school standardly

228

put them in contrast or comparison with other schools, particularly the

Stoics. Thus at M vii 388 the Peripatetics are put together with the Stoics

and Academics as schools which accept that some phantasiai are true and

others false, in contrast to the alleged extreme views of Protagoras (they

are all true) and Xeniades (they are all false)67. At M viii 185 we like-

wise find Stoics and Peripatetics put together as holding a more reasona-

ble, “middle” view, that not all perceptions are true, as opposed to the

extreme views of Democritus and Epicurus. These are clearly mechanical

comparisons, and their schematic nature is underlined by fact that when

the same contrast with Democritus and Epicurus crops up again at M

viii 355 the Peripatetics are omitted. It is clear that “the Peripatetics”

figure for Sextus as a school which fits into various of his argumentative

schemata, usually in terms of a contrast with other schools which is

drawn from his thematic concerns, not from a direct concern to under-

stand the Peripatetics in their own terms68.

X

Sextus, then, seems to draw on a wide variety of sources for his

treatment of Aristotle and the Peripatetics. As has always been clear,

he draws on doxographical accounts, particularly for ethics and psycholo-

gy. And he also has access to some at least of the more popular “exoter-

ic” works. Both of these types of sources continued in currency after the

revival of Aristotelian textual study initiated by Andronicus’ edition, so

we get no help here, unfortunately, towards narrowing down possibilities

for Sextus’ elusive dates. Given that the Peripatos is not a school which

sets Sextus’ philosophical agenda, it is tempting to conclude that Sextus

uses this type of source, so much less subtle and difficult than Aristotle’s

own texts, just because he is not particularly interested in the Peripatetics

in their own right, and so, when he brings them in, he just turns to

the easiest kind of source.

229

I have suggested, however, that matters are not quite so simple. For

there are some passages where Sextus at least seems to be referring to

a particular passage, or in one case to a quite extensive stretch of argu-

ment, in Aristotle’s school treatises, notably the Physics and Metaphysics.

It is true that in none of these cases do we have what amounts to demon-

strable proof that Sextus had a text of “our” Aristotle in front of him.

However, close consideration of the passages makes this quite likely, I

think, at least for the treatment of topos. In any case, even if Sextus

is not reading Aristotle first hand, he is, for these passages, using a

source which is very different from the kind of source he uses for the

ethics and psychology. His sources for the Physics and Metaphysics pas-

sages retail not just Aristotle’s definition of the topic in question, but

Aristotle’s distinctions and some of Aristotle’s arguments. And the topics

do not fit neatly into the standard Hellenistic schemata so marked in,

for example, Sextus’ account of “Aristotle on the criterion”. So at the

very least we have grounds for thinking that Sextus used a third, more

scholarly kind of source for Aristotle alongside his other two.

Why would Sextus proceed in such an uneconomical and confusing

way? His procedure, however, will seem uneconomical and confusing only

if we persist in thinking of him as concerned with historical accuracy,

and ignore his sceptical purpose, which I have claimed is ever-present.

If we bear in mind that the point of Sextus’ works is to turn us into

sceptics, then the variety of his procedures makes complete sense. Sextus

is arguing against the dogmatic beliefs which people have, which make

them unhappy. And (whether correctly or not we are not in a position

to say) he takes the Peripatetics not to be a school which is prominently

responsible for much unhappiness in this regard; he takes the Stoics to

be the real Dogmatic enemies. If Sextus is right about this, then there

is no need for him fo examine the Peripatetics closely in their own right.

For Aristotle’s views on the psychology of abstracting mathematical

objects, for example, it will suffice to mention a passage in an exoteric

work, rather than examine his philosophy of mathematics more carefully;

for the point about abstraction is just one point in a schema of argument

to which a full account of Aristotle’s views is not relevant. And, as we

have seen, Sextus can fit Aristotle into a general schema of “the

criterion” because he has arguments pro and con which fit current

230

philosophical interests, and a careful examination of the De anima could

show only that Aristotle did not fit into this schema; and all that this

could do would be to demonstrate Aristotle’s irrelevance for Sextus’

purposes.

So if we sometimes find Sextus paying attention to Aristotle’s own

texts, this is explained in exactly the same way. Sextus follows Aristotle

closely on place because he takes it that this is the account which the

sceptic needs to take seriously. On time, however, the details of Aristo-

tle’s account do not matter, because it is theories like those of Demetrius

Lacon which are taken more seriously and thus provide the real Dogmatic

problem, and which thus are the theories which the sceptic needs to

combat.

231

Sextus’ procedure is thus wholly pragmatic69. To remove Dogmatic

beliefs successfully, he needs to argue against the Dogmatic beliefs which

in fact bother people and have a hold on them. These, he takes it (and

we are not in a position to correct him) will very seldom be Aristotle’s

own theories in their original form. So mostly the Aristotle he needs

to argue against will have to be the up-dated, Hellenistic Aristotle he

finds in doxographical sources. But occasionally, as with place, Aristotle’s

is still the theory with a Dogmatic hold on people. And in such a case,

I have suggested, Sextus may quite well have read a scholarly edition

of the Physics. As often (and as is appropriate) with Sextus, we cannot

achieve certainty. But we can go some way, I think, towards making

sense of what he does70.

Sextus’ procedure is open to criticism even so. His most notable

failure is in the ethics section, where he fails to engage with, probably

because he fails to understand, the kind of Stoic-Peripatetic ethical

debate over our final end which is so marked in our Hellenistic sources.

This is simply part of his generally disappointing performance in ethics.

In general, however, his treatment of Aristotle and the Peripatetics shows

an intelligent use of the potentialities for sceptical attack. From our point

of view, of course, Sextus is a confusing source in the history of

philosophy. But, as I have stressed, this is not a failure on his part, for

he never aimed to inform us about the Peripatetics, but rather to loosen

the hold on us of any Peripatetic ideas which we might find ourselves

committed to71.

1.
H. B. Gottschalk, Aristotelian philosophy in the Roman world from the time

of Cicero to the end of the second century A.D.
, (“Aufstieg und Niedergang der

römischen Welt” ii, 36.2), Berlin 1987, pp. 1079-174.
2.
L. Repici Cambiano, Sesto Empirico e i Peripatetici, in Lo scetticismo antico (Atti

del Convegno organizzato dal Centro di Studio del Pensiero Antico del C.N.R., Roma

5-8 Nov. 1980) ed. by G. Giannantoni (“Elenchos” vi), Napoli 1981, pp. 689-711.
3.
There is an apparent problem, of course, in the sceptic’s self-conception both

as someone who has shed the beliefs which trouble other people and as a person

concerned to practice on others the therapy of ridding them of their beliefs. I shall

not pursue this question further here; for discussion see the chapters on the Sceptics,

especially in Part 4, in my forthcoming book on Greek ethics, The Morality of

Happiness
(Oxford).
4.
Janáček’s Indices reveal a wide variety of phrases: hoi peri (ton) Aristotelen,

hoi Aristotelikoi, hoi Peripatetikoi, hoi apo/ek tou Peripatou
.
5.
H. B. Gottschalk, op. cit., pp. 1172-4; P. Moraux, Diogène Laërce et le

Peripatos,
in Diogene Laerzio storico del pensiero antico, «Elenchos», vii (1986)

pp. 245-94.
6.
The distinction appears at Politica, H 1 as a generally accepted intuitive

view, and at eth. nic. A 8. 1098 b 12 ff. Aristotle claims that his own theory accounts

for this intuitive view, but it is not part of Aristotle’s own theoretical accounts,

though it seems to have become part of the Peripatetic ethical theory as early as

Theophrastus.
7.
We find this in the section on Peripatetic ethics in Arius Didymus ap.

Stobaeus, as well as in the brief section on ethics in the Diogenes Laertius section

on Aristotle.
8.
Bury in the Loeb translation tries to save Sextus’ credit somewhat by insert-

ing a definite article into the translation, and so having Sextus recognize that for

Zeno virtue is the good; but there is nothing corresponding in the Greek.
9.
David Runia has suggested to me various points which may serve to mitigate

Sextus’ error somewhat. Sextus is here indicating ethical options, and his central

interest does not lie in getting the positions correctly attached to authors. His exam-

ples are given as examples of what is good, but in a way which suggests the final

good, not just good in general. Sextus thus simply appeals to Aristotle as an example

of someone for whom health is the chief good; he falls into this mistake because

he is thinking of a contrast to the Stoics, who hold that virtue is the good, but

health is not a good. Aristotle comes to mind as someone whose ethics contrasts

sharply with this in giving health a prominent place. This still, of course, leaves

Sextus making an error; the best we can do is to find a diagnosis of the error.
10.
The inadequacies of Sextus’ account of ethics are further discussed in my

Scepticism about Value (forthcoming in the Proceedings of Scepticism: A Pan-American

Dialogue,
a conference held at the Center for Ideas and Society, University of Cali-

fornia, Riverside, February 1991).
11.
Sextus couples the Peripatetics with the Academics in holding that there are

three kinds of good, suggesting the Antiochean conflation of ethical traditions.

However, he shows no awareness of the argument that the Stoic views are only ver-

bally distinct from the Peripatetic ones. Moreover, in drawing the contrast with the

Stoic view he seems to get the latter wrong (M xi 46, PH iii 181). There is nothing

to suggest that Sextus has seen the point of Antiochus’ procedure. Indeed at M

xi 173 Peripatetics, Stoics and Epicureans are said to have “different” accounts of

the "techne of life”. And at M xi 3 seems to accept the Antiochean conflation of

Academic, Peripatetic and Stoic theories, only to ascribe to this tradition a division

of good, bad and indifferent things — a division which makes scant sense for the

Peripatetics, and suggests again that Sextus has not understood his ethical theories.

As Jonathan Barnes has suggested to me, Sextus is temperamentally opposed to syn-

cretistic accounts such as Antiochus’, which downplay the differences between

philosophers of which Sextus makes so much.
12.
M vii 162, 201. But for arguments against finding Antiochus to be Sextus’

source here, see J. Barnes, Antiochus of Ascalon, in J. Barnes and M. Griffin (eds),

Philosophia Togata; Essays on Philosophy and Roman Society, Oxford 1989, pp. 51-96,

esp. pp. 64-8.
13.
See C. C. W. Taylor, Aristotle’s epistemology, in Epistemology Companions

to Ancient Thought,
ed. by S. Everson, Cambridge 1990, pp. 116-42.
14.
See D. Glidden, Aristotelian Perception and the Hellenistic Problem of

Representation,
«Ancient Philosophy», iv (1984) pp. 119-31. The perspective of An-

tiochus (if he is the source of this passage) is becoming newly fashionable; see S. Ever-

son,
Aristotle on Perception (forthcoming), especially chapters 3 and 4; V. Caston,

Aristotle on Mental Representation, forthcoming. And Alexander of Aphrodisias also

expands the role of phantasia in giving an account of the Aristotelian theory.
15.
This is the only mention of Theophrastus in Sextus, apart from a purely

historical reference in M i 248. However, see P. Huby, Theophrastus and the Criterion,

in P. Huby and G. Neal (eds), The Criterion of Truth, Essays written in honour

of G. Kerferd, Liverpool 1989,pp. 107-22 for a defence of the claim that the Sextus

passage derives largely from Theophrastus. She adduces interesting parallel The-

ophrastean material from Clement of Alexandria.
16.
Cfr. metaph. A, Analytica Priora, B 19.
17.
H. Diels, Doxographi Graeci, Berlin 1976 (repr.), p. 456, 5-12.
18.
On the paucity of later Peripatetic contributions to these problems, see my

Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind, Berkeley 1991, Part I.
19.
Note that what Sextus finds to be currently debatable is very different from

what we find in Alexander of Aphrodisias, for example. Sextus is writing for an

audience whose philosophical interests are determined not by Peripatetic specialists,

but by philosophical debates shaped by the earlier Hellenistic handbooks. The im-

portance of this point was emphasised to me by Jonathan Barnes.
20.
H. B. Gottschalk, op. cit., p. 1172.
21.
Fr. 4 of the Symposium, Ross.
22.
These points were made earlier in J. Annas and J. Barnes, The Modes of

Scepticism,
Cambridge 1985, in our treatment of the second mode, p. 61. It was

Jonathan Barnes who noticed the relevance of Andron of Argos.
23.
M iii 57-59; M ix 412-413.
24.
In my commentary on this chapter in J. Annas, Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’ M

and
N , Oxford 1976, I did make this claim. I defend the correct view in my Die

Gegenstände der Mathematik bei Aristoteles, in Mathematik und Metaphysik bei Aristo-

teles,
ed. by A. Graeser, Bern/Stuttgart 1987, pp. 131-47.
25.
See fr. 11 Ross for discussion there of philosophical problems about

mathematics. There was confusion between the two works in antiquity; see Simpl.

in de an. 28. 7-9 (fr. 11 Ross).
26.
Diog. Laert. viii 57, 63; ix 54.
27.
The point about dialectic and rhetoric seems to have become a common-

place; Alex., in top. 3, 25 ff. makes it, with an explanation of antistrophos similar

to Sextus’.
28.
Fr. 12 a of On Philosophy, Ross, who prints 26-27 as fr. 12 b, although

Aristotle is not named there.
29.
Metaph. A 8. 1074 a 38-1074 b 14. But Enrico Berti has pointed out that

Metaphysica A does not seem to have been well-known in antiquity, and this might

indicate that the reference is rather to On Philosophy.
30.
Carlo Natali has pointed out the relevance of the end of eth. eud. Θ 2; but

I do not think that the similarity is close enough to suggest that that passage is

the actual source of the reference.
31.
The Tübingen school of Plato interpretation takes this whole passage to be

a report of Plato’s lecture On the Good, mediated by Aristotle’s account. Thus it

figures in its entirety as Testimonium 32 in K. Gaiser, Platons Üngeschriebene Lehre,

Stuttgart 1968. Sextus is, however, explicitly talking about “the Pythagoreans”, and

at 258 there is an actual reference to Plato, making it in my view unlikely that the

whole passage goes back to a Platonic source via Aristotle. For a more cautious view,

which uses Sextus but relies more heavily for Aristotle’s On the Good on Alexander

of Aphrodisias, see the Introduction to my Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’ M and N, cit.
32.
It is probably in this context that we should mention that he has access also

to chatty gossip, such as that Pythias, Aristotle’s daughter, had three husbands

(M i 258).
33.
M i 315; his examples are entelecheia and to ti en einai.
34.
Bury ad loc. suggests that Aristotle derives the phrase stasiotai from Plato’s

Theaetetus, 181 a, where the Eleatics are called tou holou stasiotai. However, the

play on words is obvious enough to occur to a philosopher without benefit of the

Theaetetus, and in any case this explanation leaves aphusikoi unaccounted for.
35.
On these see M. Burnyeat, The sceptic in his place and time, in Philosophy

in History,
ed. by R. Rorty, J. B. Schneewind, Q. Skinner, Cambridge 1984, pp.

225-54. Burnyeat is concerned with the philosophical status of Sextus’ arguments,

but his discussion brings out how closely these depend on Aristotelian arguments.
36.
PH iii 75-76; M x 95-96, answered at 108-110.
37.
I agree with Burnyeat (note 15) that Aristotle’s addition at 212 a 20-21 of

the point that the boundary must be static is not problematic (contra E. Hussey,

Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, Books III and IV, Oxford 1983, pp. 117-8).
38.
M x 8; Physica, Δ 1. 208 b 1-8. The example is not exactly the same;

Aristotle says that water goes out “as if” from a jar, and is replaced by air; Sextus

uses a simplified example of liquid poured out of a jar and replaced by other liquid.
39.
At 12 Sextus adds another point which is not in Aristotle: we can imagine

away body, but not the place that the body is in.
40.
Perhaps Aristotle’s own arguments seemed too tied to Aristotle’s own dis-

cussion, and insufficiently compelling as independent arguments. Sextus ignores

Aristotle’s argument that matter, but not place, is inseparable from the object

(211b 36-212 a 2; cfr. earlier, 209 b 22-24), but he does argue that form cannot be

place because it is inseparable from matter (26).
41.
The objection at 34 just repeats a point already made about any place: there

is an alleged absurdity whether it is body or non-bodily. This does not seem to belong

particularly well here.
42.
I think that this stretch of argument is Sextus’ reason for saying in the

ethical section (PH iii 218) that Aristotle’s god is bodiless and is the peras tou

ouranou
, rather than reliance on a lost source or, as Bury suggests, over-interpretation

of De caelo, A 9.
43.
Keimpe Algra has suggested that at M x 28 Sextus seems to miscontrue the

Aristotelian account, suggesting that he might be dependent on a handbook rather

than the original text. However, I think that it is also possible that Sextus’ miscon-

strual may be quite deliberate, intended to facilitate criticism; he does not, after

all, accept the account himself.
44.
The void turns up in Sextus’ discussion of the Stoics on place, in PH

iii 124-130, a passage to which nothing corresponds in the M version. Sextus con-

trasts Peripatetics, as rejecters of a void, with Epicurus at M viii 332, but says

nothing as to their reasons for rejecting it.
45.
See my Aristotle, Number and Time, «Philosophical Quarterly», xxv (1975)

pp. 97-113, for some discussion of this.
46.
Ascribed to Aristotle at M x 37, and at PH iii 64 to «those who have made

a quite complete distinction among kinesis». In M the division is itself the subject

of some discussion.
47.
PH iii 31; M x 316, where Aristotle is said to share this view with Ocellus

Lucanus, and it is made clear that the “fifth element” explains the constitution of

the heavenly bodies.
48.
PH ii 163-166, 193-198, 204; nothing corresponds in M.
49.
PH ii 163, 198.
50.
L. Repici Cambiano, op. cit., p. 693. She takes Sextus to be attributing to

the Peripatetics a theory of the conditional (on the basis of M viii 329 ff.) and of

the anapodeiktoi (on the basis of PH ii 198). For the latter see note 54 below. M

viii 329 ff., however, does not ascribe to the Peripatetics any interest in the form

of the conditional itself, merely a set of beliefs which will lead them to allot a certain

set of truth values to the conditional that Sextus is currently discussing.
51.
The entire passage, and the issues it raises, are discussed by J. Barnes,

Proof Destroyed, in M. Schofield, M. Burnyeat, J. Barnes (eds), Doubt and Dog-

matism,
Oxford 1980, pp. 161-81.
52.
Aristotle does have some examples of syllogisms containing singular terms;

see G. Patzig, Aristotle’s Theory of the Syllogism, Reidel 1968, pp. 4-8. The point

was drawn to my attention by Jonathan Barnes.
53.
Sextus gives, as an example of an exception to an apparent generalization,

the fact that only the crocodile moves its upper jaw; all other animals with jaws

move the lower one. The example comes from Aristotle’s hist. an. 516 a 23-25, but

it is a standard example, and Sextus probably got it from a logic textbook, rather

than from the Aristotle’s text, which uses different vocabulary.
54.
Presumably Sextus takes his reference to Peripatetic terminology («what are

called categorical syllogisms» at 163 and «what are called anapodeiktoi by the Peripa-

tetics» at 198) from some logic textbook. (Although the term anapodeiktoi is not

Aristotelian, it may be that the textbook Sextus is drawing on made a connexion

between the function of the Stoic anapodeiktoi and Aristotelian “perfect” syllogisms:

both stand in no need of demonstration, and have a role in other demonstrations.

I am grateful for this point to Vincenza Celluprica, who has also made other helpful

suggestions about the logic section.)
55.
Theophrastus gets a couple of incidental mentions (see above, note 15), but

Sextus does not retail any of his ideas.
56.
PH iii 33 = fr. 43 Wehrli; PH iii 137 = fr. 79 b; M vii 350 = fr. 109; M

viii 12 = fr. 115; M x 155 = fr. 82; M x 177 = fr. 79 a; M x 228 = fr. 79 c.
57.
PH iii 31 = fr. 8 b Wehrli; M vii 349 = fr. 8 a; M iii 3 = fr. 78.
58.
PH iii 32 = fr. 119 b Wehrli; M x 318 = fr. 120.
59.
M ii 12 = fr. 32 Wehrli; M ii 20 = fr. 34.
60.
M ii 61 = fr. 2 Wehrli.
61.
M vi 1; not in Wehrli.
62.
M i 60-61; see L. Repici Cambiano, op. cit., pp. 697-8 note 26.
63.
Possibly this comes from the source from which Sextus gets the information

that “the Peripatetics” have many arguments to show that phone is not physical

(M vi 54).
64.
The reference at M iii 3 merely notes that, in a sense of hypothesis irrelevant

to the argument, Dicaearchus collected hypotheses (plot summaries) of Euripides and

Sophocles.
65.
The eleven passages collected by Wehrli as fr. 8 all show this feature: we

are given a simple slogan, but no grounds for holding it to be true.
66.
For the theory see J. T. Vallance, The Lost Theory of Asclepiades of Bithynia,

Oxford 1990.
67.
Cfr. also M vii 369.
68.
Cfr. also H. B. Gottschalk, op. cit., pp. 1139-40.
69.
Sextus’ knowledge of and attitude to Aristotle can usefully be compared

with that of Hippolytus; see C. Osborne, Rethinking Early Greek Philosophy, London

1987, pp. 35-67. Osborne stresses that Hippolytus’ treatment of Aristotle is heavily

informed by his polemical purposes in confuting heresy, and also that he uses both

handbook accounts and closer study of the texts where each is appropriate. In the

case of Sextus, however, his sceptical purpose provides a further and stronger basis

for his pragmatic attitude to his sources.
70.
At the conference, Jacques Brunschwig objected that my view of Sextus’

procedure is unfalsifiable: there is no systematic access to the philosophical profiles

of Sextus’ dogmatic patients which is independent of Sextus’ own priorities. David

Sedley, on the other hand, objected that it is in fact falsifiable; independently of

Sextus, we do know that the Aristotelian account of topos was uninfluential, and

Aristotelian logic influential, in the period when Sextus is most plausibly to be

located. My thesis is not, however, that from Sextus’ priorities we can reconstruct

a comprehensive view of the philosophical scene contemporary with him. Sextus’

own philosophical selections and emphases have seemed to many to be those of

Hellenistic handbooks probably much earlier than Sextus himself. What I claim is

that Sextus attacks only ideas which, whether currently fashionable or not, could

plausibly have an intellectual hold on his contemporaries. Even this attitude is very

different from interest in history of philosophy for its own sake. (Think of the promi-

nence of Hume in contemporary analytical philosophical debates, and the very remote

relationship that this bears to genuine historical interest in Hume.)
71.
I am extremely grateful to Jonathan Barnes for helpful comments. In section

VIII he has saved me from gross errors about ancient logic, and his criticisms have

greatly improved the paper as a whole. I am also grateful to members of the confer-

ence for discussion and questions, particularly Vincenza Celluprica and David Runia

for written comments, and also Keimpe Algra, Jacques Brunschwig, David Sedley,

Malcolm Schofield, Carlo Natali, Enrico Berti, Walter Leszl and Cristina Rossitto.


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