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Abstract

Sextus Empiricus portrays the Pyrrhonian sceptics in two radically different ways. On the one hand, he describes them as inquirers or examiners, and insists that what distinguishes them from all the other philosophical schools is their persistent engagement in inquiry. On the other hand, he insists that the main feature of Pyrrhonian attitude is suspension of judgement about everything. Many have argued that a consistent account of Sextan scepticism as both investigative and suspensive is not possible. The main obstacle to characterizing Pyrrhonism as both investigative and suspensive is the fact that it seems that the mature sceptics, after they have suspended judgement and thus reached tranquillity, have no motivation for further inquiry. Any inquiry they seem to be interested in after they have suspended judgement is the refutation of (relevant) beliefs needed for maintaining tranquillity. I try to show that the mature sceptics' removal of distress does not ipso facto mean removal of the desire for knowledge. This is because distress is not just a matter of unsatisfied desire, but of belief that one of the opposed appearances must be true, or, more generally, of belief that the truth is the only worthwhile epistemic goal. Having abandoned this belief, the sceptics can still engage in philosophical inquiries. This is because Sextus does not assume that philosophy is the search for truth: it is so only for the dogmatists. In a more general sense, applicable to the sceptics as well, philosophy is just an inquiry into certain things, and for the sceptics, its epistemic goal is still open.