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Thursday, 29 November 2012

In defense of a Heraclitean Aenesidemus

I'm preparing the final version of my text on neopirrhonism and the ontology of doubts. In other words, about the whereabouts of Aenesidemus' thought. I guess there is a way to think about the epistemology of the polemos that makes it somehow less vulnerable to Sextus' charge of dogmatism (in PH 210-12). Such an epistemology of the polemos could start out with a new anarcheological fragment of Heraclitus (in my recent book Heráclito - Exercícios de Anarqueologia, São Paulo, Idéias e Letras, 2012). It reads more or less like this:
131. There is polemos where we don't expect, not only in weapons but also in the surprise produced by polemos itself, in the temptation for polemos and in the knowledge we acquire of it.
The message: knowledge of polemos is itself ridden with polemos. It is not that we are contemplating the workings of the doubts from outside, like a dogmatic who holds a conviction as something that stands beyond the waves of doubt. An ontology of doubt informed by 131 doesn't place doubt in a privileged ontological position which makes it invulnerable to doubt itself. On the other hand, such a position is better than sheer pirrhonism as we find in Sextus because it doesn't shy away from a speculative leap but rather engages in it while exorcising any commitment to convictions.

The move can be expressed as follows. The merit of an ontology of doubts is that of going beyond our doubts and suspension of judgement. The reverse image (an initial form of ontology of doubt) is to posit an absolute doubt - as opposed to doubts that are locked within a correlation. But absolute doubt is dogmatic - Sextus charge. The way out is to find a way to reach absolute doubt while avoiding this charge. If we put together the initial form of an ontology of doubts - the world is (also) made of doubts - with the pirrhonist stance concerning our knowledge we reach a position in which nothing - not even our knowledge of doubts - is doubt-free (our knowledge of polemos is itself polemos, as the 131 puts it). The stance of knowledge is not outside the scope of what there is and if what there is is doubts, there is no apophantic, dogmatic knowledge not even of doubts themselves.

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