The Cyrenaics vs. the Pyrrhonists on knowledge of appearances

In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), New Essays on Ancient Pyrrhonism. Brill. pp. 27-40 (2011)
Authors
Tim O'Keefe
Georgia State University
Abstract
In Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Sextus Empiricus takes pains to differentiate the skeptical way of life from other positions with which it is often confused, and in the course of this discussion he briefly explains how skepticism differs from Cyrenaicism. Surprisingly, Sextus does not mention an important apparent difference between the two. The Cyrenaics have a positive epistemic commitment--that we can apprehend our own feelings. Although we cannot know whether the honey is really sweet, we can know infallibly that right now we are being sweetened. By contrast, Sextus says explicitly that, as skeptics, Pyrrhonists apprehend nothing whatsoever. A case can (and has) been made that Sextus does not mention this difference because, on this matter, there really isn't an important difference between the two: the skeptic is perfectly able to report how things appear to him, e.g., that the honey seems sweet, and it is crucial for the skeptic that he not abolish the appearances. But, I argue, what the skeptics are doing when they report how things appear to do is importantly different from the sort of immediate, infallible apprehension of one's own feelings claimed by the Cyrenaics, as the latter involves theoretical commitments to the nature of one's feelings that the skeptic eschews
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