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From Epicurus to EpictetusStudies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy$
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A. A. Long

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199279128

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199279128.001.0001

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Scepticism About Gods

Scepticism About Gods

(p.114) 6 Scepticism About Gods
From Epicurus to Epictetus

A. A. Long (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The philosophical sceptic attacks, in the doctrines of his rivals, not or not primarily the traditional features of the gods that the doctrinaire schools retain, but the rational innovations — the attempt to justify theological doctrines by appeal to experience, conceptual analysis, and argument. Sextus Empiricus characterizes the sceptic as one who may be in a safer position than other philosophers: he abides by local traditions in saying that gods exist and in worshipping them. Even the official sceptics make no profession of seeking to undermine religious beliefs outside a specific dialectical context. Their object is not to induce atheism, but to show that, for every argument concluding to the existence of gods, an argument of equal strength can be advanced on the opposite side. The sceptic intends to leave himself and his audience in a position whereby they neither affirm nor deny the existence of gods.

Keywords:   sceptics, Sextus Empiricus, gods, religion, Stoics

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