Pyrrho of Elis

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pyrrho of Elis


Born circa 360 B.C.; died circa 270 B.C. Greek philosopher; founder of skepticism (Pyrrhonism).

Pyrrho did not leave any writings. His views are known only through the notes of his pupils, especially Timon of Phlius, and through the account of Eusebius, who formulated Timon’s three basic questions: What is the nature of things? In what relation should we stand to things around us? and What should be the result of this relationship? Timon and Pyrrho answered the first question with the assertion that we know absolutely nothing about anything. To the second question they replied that we should abstain from making any judgment about things around us, since our judgments are purely subjective. In response to the third question, they declared that one must experience complete spiritual independence from all of one’s surroundings (imperturbability, ataraxy, and even complete impassivity, or apathy).

Aenesidemus was a follower of Pyrrhonism. The doctrine reached its peak under Sextus Empiricus in the second century A.D.


Richter, R. Skeptitsizm ν filosofii, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1910. Pages 60–75. (Translated from German.)
MacColl, N. The Greek Sceptics From Pyrrho to Sextus. London, 1869.
Waddington, C. Pyrrhon et el Pyrrhonisme. Paris, 1877.
Pappenheim, E. Die Troppen der griehischen Skeptiker. Berlin, 1885.
Caldi, G. Le scetticismo critico della scuola Pirroniana. Udine, 1896.
Robin, L. Pyrrhon et le scepticisme grec. Paris, 1944.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Since Pyrrho of Elis, skeptics have realised that they cannot know that everyone is ignorant, and it would decidedly awkward for them to claim that it is rational to believe that no rational beliefs are possible.
325 - c.235 ) was an acolyte of Skeptical philosopher Pyrrho of Elis (c.365-c.275) who had traveled with Alexander the Great.