|Born||c. 360 BC
|Died||c. 270 BC
Pyrrho was from Elis, on the Ionian Sea. Diogenes Laertius, quoting from Apollodorus of Athens, says that Pyrrho was at first a painter, and that pictures by him were exhibited in the gymnasium at Elis. Later he was diverted to philosophy by the works of Democritus, and according to Diogenes Laertius became acquainted with the Megarian dialectic through Bryson, pupil of Stilpo.
Diogenes reports further that Pyrrho, along with Anaxarchus, travelled with Alexander the Great on his exploration of the East, 'so that he even went as far as the Gymnosophists in India and the Magi' in Persia. This exposure to Eastern philosophy seems to have inspired him to adopt a life of solitude; returning to Elis, he lived in poor circumstances, but was highly honored by the Elians and also by the Athenians, who conferred upon him the rights of citizenship.
Pyrrho wrote nothing. His doctrines were recorded in the writings of his pupil Timon of Phlius. Unfortunately these works are mostly lost. Today Pyrrho's ideas are known mainly through the book Outlines of Pyrrhonism written by the Greek physician Sextus Empiricus.
Pyrrho summarized his philosophy as follows: "Whoever wants to live well (eudaimonia) must consider these three questions: First, how are pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics) by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?" Pyrrho's answer is that "As for pragmata they are all adiaphora (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastous (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantous (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.
Adiaphora, astathmēta, and anepikrita are strikingly similar to the Buddhist Three marks of existence, suggesting that Pyrrho's teaching is based on what he learned in India, which is what Diogenes Laertius reported.
The main principle of Pyrrho's thought is expressed by the word acatalepsia, which connotes the ability to withhold assent from doctrines regarding the truth of things in their own nature; against every statement its contradiction may be advanced with equal justification.
- Diogenes' testimony is doubtful. See Bett (2000) 1.
- Beckwith, Christopher I. (2015). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia (PDF). Princeton University Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN 9781400866328.
- Beckwith, Christopher I. (2015). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia (PDF). Princeton University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9781400866328.
- "The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers". Peithô's Web. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Pulleyn, William (1830). The Etymological Compendium, Or, Portfolio of Origins and Inventions. T. Tegg. p. 353.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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- Beckwith, Christopher I., Greek Buddha. Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2015.
- Bett, Richard, "Aristocles on Timon on Pyrrho: The Text, Its Logic and its Credibility" Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 12, (1994): 137-181.
- Bett, Richard, "What did Pyrrho Think about the Nature of the Divine and the Good?" Phronesis 39, (1994): 303-337.
- Bett, Richard, Pyrrho, His Antecedents, and His Legacy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
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- Svavarsson, Svavar Hrafn, "Pyrrho’s undecidable nature", Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 27 (2004): 249-295.