Monday, 19 April 2010

How to move from doubt to self-reliance - Story of Carneades (Part 1 of 4)

From all dead-end situations, intellectual paralysis is by far the worst. Mistaken ideas can block your initiatives and make you doubt your senses. An erroneous philosophy can deprive you of the capacity to perceive the facts of reality, extract conclusions, and take appropriate action.

The Greek philosopher Carneades (214-129 BC) used to preach that knowledge and certainty are impossible, since our senses are unreliable and too many factors are involved in each case. To prove his point, Carneades used to take pleasure in making double speeches. One day, he would defend a certain principle and, on the next day, the opposite.

Carneades' practice baffled his audiences, but managed to attract him disciples who spread his ideas through Ancient Greece and Rome. His doctrine of perpetual doubt, scepticism, grew to play a minor role in ancient times, but by the end of the 18th century, it had waned to insignificance.

Strange enough, Carneades' ideas seem to be returning now to public discourse. While technology continues to advance, philosophy is being driven back to ancient times. While achievement and wealth accumulate, some individuals question their justification and purpose.

In the field of work, you probably know more sceptics that you care to count. Those are the sort of people who constantly ask themselves if they are on the right track, if they have chosen the right career, if they are working for the right company, or if their contribution makes any difference.

To be continued in Part 2


[Image by brainware3000 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post, carneades certainly had some wise sayings.


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