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Arcesilaus(ärsĕs'ĭlā`əs), c.316–c.241 B.C., Greek philosopher of Pitane in Aeolis. He was the principal figure of the Middle Academy. Despite his position in the AcademyAcademy,
school founded by Plato near Athens c.387 B.C. It took its name from the garden (named for the hero Academus) in which it was located. Plato's followers met there for nine centuries until, along with other pagan schools, it was closed by Emperor Justinian in A.D. 529.
..... Click the link for more information. , his teachings diverged from Platonic doctrine. By emphasizing the doubt expressed by Socrates as to the possibility of gaining knowledge, he took a position comparable to that of the Skeptics (see skepticismskepticism
[Gr.,=to reflect], philosophic position holding that the possibility of knowledge is limited either because of the limitations of the mind or because of the inaccessibility of its object. It is more loosely used to denote any questioning attitude.
..... Click the link for more information. ). He argued that knowledge and opinion could not be distinguished from each other, so that what anyone claims to know may be more or less probable but not certain. In denying the possibility of certainty he was a major opponent of the Stoics (see StoicismStoicism
, school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium (in Cyprus) c.300 B.C. The first Stoics were so called because they met in the Stoa Poecile [Gr.,=painted porch], at Athens, a colonnade near the Agora, to hear their master Zeno lecture.
..... Click the link for more information. ). Arcesilaus indirectly influenced CarneadesCarneades
, 213–129 B.C., Greek philosopher, b. Cyrene. He studied at Athens under Diogenes the Stoic, but reacted against Stoicism and joined the Academy, where he taught a skepticism similar to that of Arcesilaus.
..... Click the link for more information. and his school.
See A. A. Long, The Hellenistic Philosophers (2 vol. 1987).
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