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Epistemology After Sextus Empiricus$
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Katja Maria Vogt and Justin Vlasits

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190946302

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190946302.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 October 2021

“The Skeptical Physitian”

“The Skeptical Physitian”

Locke, Pyrrhonism, and the Case against Innate Ideas

(p.195) 9 “The Skeptical Physitian”
Epistemology After Sextus Empiricus

Kathryn Tabb

Oxford University Press

This chapter makes the case that John Locke was influenced by the Pyrrhonian medical tradition, both in his own methods and commitments as a physician, and in the philosophical strategies he employed. Following Sextus Empiricus and other Pyrrhonian physicians, Locke rejects metaphysical accounts of the causal processes underlying diseases and their cures in favor of practical guidelines based on observation and experience. This approach leads Locke to explain madness as an intellectual disorder based on phenomenology and self-report, instead of in terms of the neurological processes posited by his contemporaries. Locke ultimately mobilizes this original account of madness as part of his skeptical attack on innatism, in which, analogous to his employment of Pyrrhonian strategies from cultural diversity, he argues that the commitments of dogmatists might just as well be mad as inborn. The possibility of mad ideas aping certain ones, he suggests, should give the nativist pause.

Keywords:   John Locke, Sextus Empiricus, Pyrrhonism, empiricist medicine, history of medicine, madness, association of ideas, innatism

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