Philodoxy: Mere Opinion and the Question of History

Journal of the History of Philosophy 34 (1):117-132 (1996)
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Notes and Discussions Philodoxy: Mere Opinion and Question of History the "Philosophy as... rigorous science-- the dream is over." Edmund Husserl 1. MERE OPINION From the beginning philosophy has not only had a love affair with wisdom but also a special claim on truth and a concomitant contempt for mere opinion. Parmenides left a poem in which he contrasted the "way of truth," which was the path taken by Plato and his followers, with the "way of opinion," which was paved with falsehood and deceit.' Arcesilaus defended opinion in the sense that he refused to concede certain truth to any ideas2 On such grounds Cicero concluded that the wise man should hold no opinions.s In the self-constituting canon of philosophy "opinion" has always been a pejorative term, designating an inferior sort of knowledge based not on demon- stration but on belief and associated in particular with the much-maligned Sophists, who languished under a "dark shadow" for centu- ries.4 As Macrobius wrote: "Opinion is born of failure of memory," meaning the preexistent form of knowledge -- ideas -- which was Platonic recollection;5 and for Aquinas, "opinion is knowledge of those things about which we do not have certain knowledge. ''6 In general, questions of "opinion" or "prejudice" have seldom been posed by 'Jonathan Barnes, The Presocratic Philosophers, 156. See also T. Sprute, Der Begriff der doxa in der platonische...

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