Friday, August 13, 2004

The Scatology of a Sceptic

Philip P. Hallie, in his "Polemical Introduction" to Sextus Empiricus (Hackett, 1985, p. 7) writes:

This special function of doubt [its "wiping off of the excrescences that befoul man's life and lead him into endless, bitter conflicts with his fellow men"] is well though not pleasingly expressed by Sextus in the metaphor of the laxative. Doubt washes itself away along with the dubious unprovable claims it works on, and it does so, according to our Sceptical physician, "just as aperient drugs do not merely eliminate the humours of the body, but also expel themselves along with the humours." The ultimate purpose of Scepticism is to make doubting unnecessary, to let the customs of our country, our needs for food and drink and so forth, and our plain everyday speech take over the direction of our thought and life after the doubting is done.