Tamer here (and here and here). This is my first post and I’d like to thank Dhananjay for inviting me to contribute. I am currently working principally on metaphysics, especially in Aristotle and Hellenistic philosophy; however, I have been thinking about a number of issues at the intersection between epistemology and ethics for a while now and I thought that for my first couple of posts, I’d write about these issues as they were discussed the ancient sceptics. In this first post, I’ll offer a brief introduction to Pyrrhonism. Subsequent posts will offer slightly more detailed discussion of a number of puzzles posed by what the Pyrrhonists were up to.
It is frequently emphasised that ancient scepticism, at least in its Pyrrhonist flavour, was as much about belief as it was about knowledge. We might understand this scholarly platitude as follows. The modern sceptic is usually taken to argue for something like the following:
(1) For any proposition p, one does not know that p.
In contrast, the Pyrrhonist is typically taken to argue for something like the following:
(2) For any proposition p, one should not believe that p.
How does one accomplish (2) and refrain from believing? Well, by producing arguments for p and against p (or for not-p, or else for some proposition which entails not-p). If the arguments of equal strength, one is placed in a position where the reasonable thing to do is to suspend belief: neither to believe that p, nor to believe that not-p.
There are a number of points of interest here, but the one that probably gets discussed the most in the scholarly literature concerns the scope of (2). What, precisely, is the scope of the sceptic’s suspension of belief (epochē)?
(i) Does the Pyrrhonist suspend (or aim to suspend) all beliefs; or
(ii) Does the Pyrrhonist suspend (or aim to suspend) only a certain subset of beliefs?
To many, (i) has seemed silly or impossible. How, for instance, would action be possible without beliefs? A life without beliefs, the thought goes, is that of a vegetable and is undesirable for any rational agent. Further, suppose someone were to desire such a life, how could they possibly hope to suspend all beliefs? Accordingly, (ii) has seemed more promising to many, and discussion has centred on how precisely to construe what sort of beliefs are forbidden to the Pyrrhonist.
The other notion that is worth drawing attention to here is the fact that tranquillity (ataraxia) is supposed to follow (fortuitously, tuchikōs [PH 1.29]) from said suspension of belief. Those questions I am particularly interested in are: the nature of the sceptic’s epochē; how ataraxia is supposed to be the aim (telos) of the Sceptic (e.g. PH 1.25); and why, precisely, tranquillity should follow from the suspension of belief. I’ll be discussing those in forthcoming weeks.
If anyone would like to raise any particular issues for prospective future discussion post them here and I’ll see what I can do.
 There is an important disanalogy between (1) and (2). Despite a few notable exceptions (e.g. Peter Unger) very few contemporary philosophers embrace the label ‘sceptic’ or would openly (and in print) embrace (1). Instead, the sceptic (and a thesis like (1)) is usually a shadowy antagonist that most epistemologists fight against. In contrast, Pyrrhonists lived (or at least seem to have professed to live) the stuff of (2).
 The sceptical modes (tropoi, PH 1.31-179) offer the material for such arguments and are the means by which this suspension of belief is generated.
 For discussion of what I have characterised as (i) and (ii), see, for instance, M. Burnyeat and M. Frede (eds.), The Original Sceptics: A Controversy (Hackett, 1997).