"Questioning Everything: Sextus Empiricus and Skepticism as a Way of Getting Along in a Modern Political Culture," By Coyle Neal
More than a thousand years before Descartes and Hume, Sextus Empiricus challenged the premises of everything. In a world dominated by dogmatic belief systems (especially Stoicism, Platonism in all its varieties, and, increasingly, Christianity), the skeptic thinkers continually demanded a reexamination of the basic assumptions at the root of existing political, cultural, moral, and philosophical beliefs. This article surveys that demand for reexamination in its political context through the writing of Sextus Empiricus and his contributions for the search for individual autonomy and peace (ataraxia) in an increasingly hostile, distant, and fragmented political system. Ancient skepticism offered an alternative view of the world which is worthy of attention today as we face renewed economic, political, and cultural challenges. While Sextus Empiricus does not offer solutions to these contemporary problems, his skepticism presents both a useful pattern for formulating the correct questions and a fascinating guide to living in a world which seems to abound with wrong questions and wrong answers alike.