Pyrrho of Elis
, is the 'founder' of Pyrrhonism
, a branch of skepticism
. He lived from 360-270 BC - he was born born ~100 years after Socrates
was 60, and Aristotle
was 20. Pyrrho lived to see Plato and Aristotle both die. He saw the rise and fall of Alexander the Great
, and civil war
s. Platonism and Aristotelianism shattered into bickering schools. Pyrrho traveled to India
with the army and saw a great eastern empire, utterly different from Greece
, but equally civilized.
Some believe that the basis of Skepticism was on the disillusionment of philosophy and politics at the time. The old philosophies offered no help to the upheaval of the time. Chances are this is right, throughout history skepticism recurs at times of great upheaval and dissolution.
Pyrrho began his philosophic career as a student of the Stoics, who taught that peace of mind was the highest end of life and that knowledge of truth was required to attain and maintain it. While searching for the truth, Pyrro heard the Stoics say one thing as true, Pythagoreans say another, and the atomists another. He heard dozens of different versions of Plato's truths and Aristotle's. He saw the disagreements between disciples of Anaxagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, and Progagoras. For every question of interest, each the stoic doctrine was contradicted by other doctrines, and differences within those doctrines. To make matters worse, each philosophy had its reasons and evidence, and evidence to the contrary. To Pyrrho, it was a standoff, he admitted to himself that he could not decide between them and did not know what was true.
In this confession of ignorance, he found peace of mind. Ironically, he attained the goal of Stoicism by giving up and reversing it. He found tranquility in ignorance rather than knowledge. This tranquillity seemed as durable and serene as the Stoic peace of mind.