, the founder of the sect of Pyrrhonists, or sceptics, was the son of Plistarchus of the city of Elea, in the Peloponnesus. He flourished about the 110th olympiad, | or 340 B. C. He applied himself first to painting, and several of his pieces, in which he succeeded well, were long preserved at Elea but, aspiring to philosophy, he became the disciple of Anaxarchus, whom he accompanied to In-? dia. Here he conversed with the Brachmans and Gymnosophists, imbibing from their doctrine whatever might seem favourable to his natural disposition towards doubting, but in general very little satisfied with them. As every advance he afterwards made involved him in more uncertainty, he determined on establishing a new school, in which he taught, that every object of human inquiry is involved in uncertainty, so that it is impossible ever to arrive at the knowledge of truth.

Some of his opinions and some of his oddities tend to remind the reader of certain affectations of wisdom and philosophy in our own days. “All men,” he said, “regulate their conduct by received opinions. Every thing is done by habit; every thing is examined with reference to the laws and customs of a particular country; but whether these laws be good or bad, it is impossible to determine.” In this may be found the germ of those principles advanced by modern sceptics, in order to subvert all morality. At first Pyrrho lived in indigence and obscurity, courting retirement, and seldom appearing in public. He frequently travelled but never told to what country he intended to go. Every species of suffering he endured with apparent insensibility. He never turned aside to avoid a rock or precipice, and would rather be hurt than get out of the way of a chariot, and his friends were therefore obliged to accompany him wherever he went. If this be true, says Brucker, it was not without reason that he was ranked among those whose intellects were disturbed by intense study; and this excellent historian seems to think that many such reports were calumnies invented by the dogmatists whom he opposed, and he is inclined to be of this opinign on account of the respect with which he is mentioned by ancient writers. There appears, however, upon the whole, no great reason to think that his life was much more consistent than his opinions, and the respect paid to either in his age seems entitled to little regard as evidence of excellence.

His reputation certainly spread soon over all Greece, and his opinions were embraced by many. The inhabitants of Elea created him sovereign pontiff of their religion, | although his leading opinion was that there is no certainty in any thing. The Athenians presented him with the freedom of their city. Epicurus liked his conversation, because, as he thought, Pyrrho recommended and practised that self-command which produces undisturbed tranquillity. The highest degree of perfection to which, in Pyrrho' s opinion, men can arrive, is, never to pass a decision upon any thing. His disciples were all agreed in one point, that they knew nothing. Some of them, however, sought truth, in hopes of rinding it others despaired of ever discovering it. Some were disposed to affirm one thing, namely, that they knew nothing for certain; but others hesitated whether it might not be unsafe to affirm even this. His opinions had existed partially prior to his own times; but, as no one before him professed absolute doubt about every thing, he 1ms always been considered as the author and founder of scepticism.

Pyrrho died about the ninetieth year of his age, probably in the 123d olympiad, or B. C. 288. After his death, the Athenians honoured his memory with a statue, and a monument to him was erected in his own country.

Brucker ascribes his scepticism to his early acquaintance with the system of Dernocritus. Having learned, says he, to deny the real existence of all qualities in bodies, except those which are essential to primary atoms, and to refer every thing else to the perceptions of the mind produced by external objects, that is, to appearance and opinion, he concluded, that all knowledge depended upon the fallacious report of the senses, and consequently, that there can be no such thing as certainty. He was encouraged in this notion by the general spirit of the Eleatic school, in which he was educated, which was unfavourable to science. But nothing contributed more to confirm him in scepticism, than the subtleties of the Dialectic schools, in which he was instructed by the son of Stilpo. He saw no method, by which he could so effectually overturn the cavils of sophistry, as by having recourse to the doctrine of universal wncertainty. Being strongly inclined, from his natural temper and habits of life, to look upon immoveable tranquillity as the great end of all philosophy; observing, that nothing tended so much to disturb this tranquillity, as the innumerable dissentions which agitated the schools of the dogmatists at the same time inferring, from their endless disputes, the uncertainty of the questions upon which they | debated he determined to seek elsewhere for that peace of mind, which he despaired of finding in the dogmatic philosophy. In this manner it happened, in the case of Pyrrho, as it has often happened in other instances, that controversy became the parent of scepticism. 1


Diog. Laertius. Stanley. —Brucker. Gen. Dict. by —Bayle. Fenelon’s Lives of the Philosophers by Cormack.