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THE Sceptical Philosophy of the Ancients has been no less misrepresented than the Epicurean. Pyrrho may perhaps have carried it to rather an irrational excess; — but we must not believe, with Beattie, all the absurdities imputed to this philosopher; and it appears to me that the doctrines of the school, as explained by Sextus Empiricus,* are far more suited to the wants and infirmities of human reason, as well as more conducive to the mild virtues of humility and patience, than any of those systems of philosophy which preceded the introduction of Christianity. The Sceptics may be said to have held a middle path between the Dogmatists and Academicians; the former of whom boasted that they had attained the truth, while the latter denied that any attainable 'truth existed. The Sceptics, however, without either asserting or denying its existence, professed to be modestly and anxiously in search of it; or, as St. Augustine expresses it, in his liberal tract against the Manichæans, “nemo nos
* Pyrrh. Hypoth.— The reader may find a tolerably clear abstract of this work of Sextus Empiricus in La Vérité des Sciences, by Mercenne, liv. i. chap. ii. etc.
trum dicat jam se invenisse veritatem ; sic eam quæramus quasi ab utrisque nesciatur.” * From this habit of impartial investigation, and the necessity which it imposed upon them, of studying not only every system of philosophy, but every art and science, which professed to lay its basis in truth, they necessarily took a wider range of erudition, and were far more travelled in the regions of philosophy than those whom conviction or bigotry had domesticated in any particular system. It required all the learning of dogmatism to overthrow the dogmatism of learning; and the Sceptics may be said to resemble, in this respect, that ancient incendiary, who stole from the altar the fire with which he destroyed the temple. This advantage over all the other sects is allowed to them even by Lipsius, whose treatise on the miracles of the Virgo Hallensis will sufficiently save him from all suspicion of scepticism. “ Labore, ingenio, memoria,” he says, “supra omnes pene philosophos fuisse. — Quid nonne omnia aliorum secta tenere debuerunt et inquirere, si poterunt refellere? res dicit. Nonne orationes varias, raras, subtiles inveniri ad tam receptas, claras, certas (ut videbatur) sententias evertendas ? ” etc. etc.f - Manuduct. ad Philosoph. Stoic. Dissert. 4.
* Lib. contra Epist. Manichæi quam vocant Fundamenti, Op. Paris. tom. vi.
† See Martin. Schoockius de Scepticismo, who endeavours, -weakly, I think, — to refute this opinion of Lipsius.