Pyrrho

Pyrrho was a philosopher from Ancient Greece. He was considered to be the father of the Greek School of Skepticism, also known as the School of Pyrrhonism.

Pyrrho’s Life

Pyrrho was born around 360 BCE in the southern parts of Greece. When he was young, his passion was painting and following his dream he was a painter for a short time. The gymnasium in Elis, his birthplace, proudly exhibited his paintings. However, later on he was attracted by philosophy thanks to the works of Democritus. Pyrrho became a student of Bryson of Achaea and then – of Anaxarchus of Abdera.

Pyrrho and Anaxarchus together with Alexander the Great embarked on a journey to explore the East. So Pyrrho had the unique opportunity to study in India and Persia. The time spent exploring the East, motivated him to start living in solitude so when he came back to Elis, he decided to live in poor conditions. Probably his life in solitude helped him to reach the ripe age of 90 as some reports state.

Pyrrho’s Philosophy

Pyrrho found it hard to decide for himself which one of the existing schools of philosophy was the right one. One thing was for sure, the dogmatists and the stoics made him angry because they stated that they possessed knowledge. So Pyrrho decided to found his own school which preached that every aspect of our knowledge is uncertain and that we can never reach the ultimate truth about anything.

According to him, we are only aware of how things seem to us, but we will never know what they hide in their essence. He proves this with the fact that different people can perceive one and the same thing differently. Pyrrho said that it is impossible for one to be sure what the right thing is. Keeping in mind these theories, Pyrrho reached to the conclusion that the right attitude to life and everything surrounding us should be ‘ataraxia’, which means inner peace and apathy. Pyrro stated that nothing is good or bad and so we should live led by apathy so we can reach tranquility of the soul.

Instead of wording his observations with certainty, Pyrrho preferred using phrases as ‘it appears to me’, ‘perhaps’, ‘it seems’, ‘probably’. According to some accounts, Pyrrho developed his Skepticism to such extents that he seemed not to care when he was in danger and he managed to withstand to physical pain calmly. Some anecdotes that his rivals, the dogmatists told, stated that Pyrrho’s friends had to go everywhere with him to make sure that he was safe. Otherwise, he could get hit by a carriage or fall down in a hole.

The citizens of Elis, his hometown, were so proud of him and followed him and his philosophy that they made him their major chief. Thanks to him all philosophers in Elis were free of paying taxes. Athenians also honored Pyrrho and they even granted him Athenian citizenship. What is more, they even built a monument and a statue in Pyrrho’s memory.