Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



Pyrrho (c.365–c.275 BC)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A101-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved September 24, 2020, from

Article Summary

The Greek philosopher Pyrrho of Elis gave his name first to the most influential version of ancient scepticism (Pyrrhonism), and later to scepticism as such (pyrrhonism). Like Socrates, he wrote nothing, despite which – or thanks to which – he too became one of the great figures of philosophy. Although he has vanished behind his own legend, he must have helped nurture that legend: his unique personality palpably exercised an unequalled fascination on his acquaintances, and through them, on many others. We possess, thanks especially to Sextus Empiricus, extensive documentation of what can be called ‘Neo-Pyrrhonian’ scepticism, because from the time of Aenesidemus (first century bc) it invoked Pyrrho as its patron saint. But Pyrrho’s own thought is hard to recover. The documentary evidence for him is mainly anecdotal, and the principal doxography is more or less directly dependent on his leading disciple Timon of Phlius, who managed to present himself as Pyrrho’s mere ‘spokesman’, but who was in fact perhaps rather more than that. The main question, which is still unanswered, is whether Pyrrho was primarily or even solely a moralist, the champion of an ethical outlook based on indifference and insensibility, or whether he had already explicitly set up the weaponry of the sceptical critique of knowledge which underlies the epistemological watchword ‘suspension of judgment’.

Citing this article:
Brunschwig, Jacques. Pyrrho (c.365–c.275 BC), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A101-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2020 Routledge.

Related Searches