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Hume begins his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by discussing what an ideal dialogue ought to look like. Many considerations that Hume raises coincide with similar concerns in contemporary social epistemology. This paper examines three aspects of Hume's social epistemology: epistemic peerhood, inquiry norms and the possibility of rational persuasion. Interestingly, however, I will argue that the conversation between Philo, Cleanthes and Demea falls short of meeting Hume's articulated standard of what an ideal dialogue ought to look like. From this analysis, I defend the less popular view that Demea's decision to leave the conversation (in Part XI) was entirely reasonable and suggest an explanation for why Hume decided to make Cleanthes the ‘hero’ of the Dialogues.
The chapter traces statements on Cicero’s philosophical position from his earliest treatise (on rhetorical theory) to the philosophical works of the 40s bce, while attending to the literary form of Cicero’s oeuvre. It argues that Cicero’s stance is stable over time, that it exhibits a number of features that would warrant calling it mitigated skepticism, but that, given the way different Academic positions are conceptualized in Cicero’s texts, notably the Academica, his position is formally one of radical skepticism. The chapter tries to identify features of the evidence from Cicero which are distinctive compared to other texts (e.g. by Sextus Empiricus and Numenius), notably an unusual wealth of comments on the practice of Academic skepticism (i.e. on what being an Academic skeptic was like, at least on Cicero’s construal and to what extent it was compatible with being a fully functioning Roman of a certain social class and with a particular occupation).
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