Arcesilaus

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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.
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, 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.
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). 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.
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). 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.
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 and his school.

Bibliography

See A. A. Long, The Hellenistic Philosophers (2 vol. 1987).

References in periodicals archive ?
Ancient scepticism' is a term that standardly encompasses two philosophical traditions stretching from the third century BCE to approximately the second century CE: Pyrrhonism, named after its eponymous founder Pyrrho of Elis (360-270 BCE), and Academic scepticism, a sceptical movement which arose in the Platonic Academy around 268 BCE, when Arcesilaus of Pitane (316/5-241/0) became its head.