The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

Document Type


Publication Date



Though the interpretation of ancient texts is notoriously difficult, Cameades presents what one might call a worst-case scenario. In the first place, he wrote nothing. His faithful disciple Clitomachus, attempting to play Plato to Cameades' Socrates, reportedly recorded Cameades' teachings in four hundred books. Not one remains. However, Clitomachus' attempt to make a philosophy of Cameades' anti-theoretical stance was not a complete failure; Cameades had a tremendous influence on the later Academy as well as the Stoa, and his views (or lack thereof) have been handed down to us by both Sextus Empiricus and Cicero. These sources are, nonetheless, problematic. As a Pyrrhonist, Sextus was critical of the Academy and may have exaggerated what he took to be Cameades' dogmatism. Cicero, on the other hand, a student of both Philo and later Antiochus, was undoubtedly influenced in his interpretation of Cameades by the dogmatic skepticism of the former or the anti-skeptical stance of the latter. Cameades is perhaps best known for proposing the pithane phantasia as a criterion for life. However, file status of his theory of the pithanon is completely unclear. Was it merely a dialectical move against the Stoic charge of apraxia? Was it a theory that Cameades himself endorsed? Or was it perhaps meant to counterbalance the appeal of the Stoic kataleptic impression or even Cameades' own arguments for the impossibility of knowledge?

In this paper, I shall argue that the content of Cameades' theory can be determined irrespective of its meta-theoretical status. Whether Cameades devised the pithanon theory simply as a dialectical ploy against the Stoics or whether he subscribed to it himself, his theory must meet a rather difficult challenge: in order to avoid complete self-refutation, Cameades must demonstrate that the pithane phantasia can demolish the Stoics' apraxia charge while peacefully coexisting with the Skeptic's commitment to epoche.


Suzanne Obdrzalek presented “Carneades’ Pithanon and its Relation to Epoche and Apraxia” to the Society at its meeting with the Eastern Division in Philadelphia in 2002. A later, much revised version was published as “Living in Doubt: Carneades’ Pithanon Reconsidered.” in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 31 (2006) 243-280.

For information about the author see: