Talk:Sextus Empiricus

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Does Sextus belong to the methodological tradition?[edit]

On what grounds is Sextus said to have belonged to the methodological school in medicine? To the contrary, his name would seem to indicate that he belonged to the empiric school. And indeed this is the conclusion of Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes in the introduction to their translation of the Outlines of Pyrrhonism (Cambridge UP, 2000), xii-xiii, as well as of Richard Bett in the introduction to his translation of and commentary on Against the Ethicists (Oxford UP, 1997), ix. Bett does refer to the passage in the Outlines (I.236-41), where Sextus would seem to imply that he belonged to the methodological tradition, and rejects the implication. (Annas and Barnes don't seem to even take the passage to imply that Sextus wasn't an empiric.) These scholars are some of the foremost authorities on Sextus today. So in light of what the foremost scholars agree on, shouldn't the article say that he belonged to the empiric tradition in medicine? -- 09:38, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

No, since other eminent scholars disagree (Frede, House, Mates), and, most importantly, Sextus himself (at the place you cite, I.236f.) says: "it would not befit a skeptic to take up that system [the empiric medical system]. He might better adopt the so-called Method, it seems to me, for it alone of the medical systems seems not to make precipitate assertions ... in accord with the skeptic practice." Annas, Barnes, and Bett have their arguments, but unless we want to expand the article to include the fine points, the safest route is to suspend judgment. After all, on what grounds is Sextus said to have belonged to the empiric school in medicine, aside from the name tradition attaches to him? 22:45, 23 April 2006 (UTC)
Hookway discusses this point at length in his Scepticism (Routledge, 1992) at Chapter 2 part 3. Hookway suggests that the stance Sextus took as a practicing doctor in relation to the Rationalist, Empiricist and Methodological schools of medicine gave primary impetus to his thinking on scepticism. That is to say, it is possible that neither his medical experience nor his thinking on scepticism were entirely formed at the time he was associated with the Empiricist school, and that it may be argued (by Hookway) that Sextus may have eventually developed a synthesis of Empirical and Methodological approaches that were consistent with a mature form of scepticism (or turning this 'on its head' say that he developed a sceptical approach that was consistent with his experience synthesising Empirical and Methodological approaches to medicine - and his rejection of the abstract theories of Rational medicine). I believe Annas and Barnes 'hang too much' on the Sextus being named Empiricus in defining him exclusively as an Empiricist, given that (a) the name may have been attached to him early in his career (perhaps as a student of that school) before he drifted away from Empirical orthodoxy, and (b) being named after something is not the same as having something named after you (the former suggests an 'association' the latter suggests 'encapsulation'(eg 100% similarity)). Galens observation that Sextus made a great contribution to Empiricism suggests Sextus valued that approach, but it does not prove that he held views entirely consistent with the central tenets of Empiricism (whatever they might be as defined from time to time). It seems to me that in the case where a chap 'founds' a school we might expect a very tight link between the chap's thinking and the philosophy of the school, but where someone like Sextus makes a substantial contribution to an existing school (which has a significant number of adherents) it seems to be a bit of a leap to assume that he must have been 100% in accord with every aspect of that school's philosophy or that that he would have recast that schools philosophy to be 100% in accord with his own. I suspect we may fall into the trap of seeing these chaps as nothing more than vessels carting about those fragments of their philosophies that luck has brought down to us, without any shades of grey and fully formed and absolutely rock solid consistent in their thinking from circa birth to circa death. How many I wonder said (unrecorded) on their death bed, "ah %#! it, it's all rubbish" and promptly expired. Tban (talk) 07:05, 26 October 2011 (UTC)


The article compares Sextus to 'the 1st century AD Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna'.

The Nagarjuna article puts him later. 11:52, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

I removed the sentence which compares Sextus and Nagarjuna since it is extremely misleading from what I could see in the article on Nagarjuna. --D. Webb 15:18, 1 December 2006 (UTC)


The school of empiricism is listed on this page but there is no discussion of the relation between Empiricus and empiricism. Could someone comment? Tkuvho (talk) 13:44, 5 October 2011 (UTC)

The link on the page should be to empiric school rather than empiricism. The latter is linked to Sextus through the former, but the former is the direct link to Sextus. The link between the Empiric School and Sextus is touched on above. I should have added that Galen's comment on Sextus contributing to the Empiric School is at Galen Med XIV p683 (so I'm told but I'll check later.) Tban (talk) 07:24, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Birth and death dates[edit]

The article gives definite years for Sextus's birth and death, but the actual dates are disputed by scholars. Where are these dates coming from?2601:B:C580:2D9:CAF7:33FF:FE77:D800 (talk) 21:38, 27 April 2015 (UTC)