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Could the Cyrenaics Live an Ethical Life? Jules Vuillemin’s Answer (and a Further Suggestion)

Ugo Zilioli
p. 29-48


The paper aims to first understand whether the Cyrenaics were actually susceptible to the charge of apraxia; secondly, if they were, to see how they might have responded to this and what sort of ethical outlook they might have tried to defend. In dealing with these issues, I will inevitably assess the legitimacy of Vuillemin’s interpretation of Cyrenaic scepticism. In so doing, I shall confirm the scholarly plausibility of his interpretation while, at the same time, providing material for further exploration of the full nature and scope of Cyrenaic philosophy.

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1 The Cyrenaics on pleasure, knowledge and the apraxia charge
2 The Theaetetus: the subtler thinkers
3 Vuillemin on the Theaetetus
4 The Theaetetus: a further challenge
5 Pleasure, happiness and the self

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Pyrrho led a life consistent with this doctrine, going out of his way for nothing, taking no precaution, but facing all risks as they came, whether carts, precipices, dogs or what not, and, generally, leaving nothing to the arbitrament of the senses; but he was kept out of harm’s way by his friends who, as Antigonus of Carystus tells us, used to follow close after him. But Aenesidemus says that it was only his philosophy that was based upon suspension of judgement, and that he did not lack foresight in his everyday acts. He lived to be nearly ninety. [Diogenes Laertius, 9.62]

In the second part of his article on the morality of the sceptic, “Une morale est-elle compatible avec le scepticisme?”, the French philosopher Jules Vuillemin asks whether an ethical life is ever possible for the Cyrenaics [Vuillemin 1985, 25-35]. How will it be possible for the Cyrenaics and, for that matter, for any brand of sceptics to have an ethical life at all if scepticism lacks a criterion of truth, th...

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Electronic reference

Ugo Zilioli, « Could the Cyrenaics Live an Ethical Life? Jules Vuillemin’s Answer (and a Further Suggestion) », Philosophia Scientiæ [Online], 20-3 | 2016, Online since 09 November 2019, connection on 24 February 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/philosophiascientiae.1221

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About the author

Ugo Zilioli

Durham University (UK)

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