Volume 7, Issue 1, Spring 2013
Pragmatic Inconsistency of Sextan Skepticism
Skepticism described by Sextus Empiricus faces the persistent charge that it is an inconsistent, self-refuting view. However, recently its consistency has
been defended in three important ways: (1) it is a thesis with weak assertion, (2) it is a practice without any assertion, and (3) it is a process developing over time.
The first option is not well supported by Sextus’ texts, where even a weak assertion is not allowed. The second option cannot explain the rationality of skeptical arguments. The third option reveals two levels of Sextan skepticism; however, the developing skeptic has to accept the self-refutation charge, and the mature skeptic takes flight from the charge without any rational answer. I claim that Sextus embraces the self-refutation charge. The mature skeptic’s speech acts are pragmatically inconsistent: their content cannot be asserted without contradiction. As a result, the charge of inconsistency is not answered.