Sextus Empiricus on scepticism triggered by variations in circumstances

One of the relatively neglected modes of scepticism—modes that lead one to conclude to suspension of judgement—arguably pertains to that of circumstances. Mostly this is because we are accustomed to such circumstances, or, when they strike us as important, are either so fleeting as to be unnoticed, or are typically viewed as anomalies to be compared with a commonly accepted standard, and so admit of irrelevance. The central task of Sextus Empiricus in enumerating the mode of scepticism pertaining to circumstances consists in the attempt to show that the different appearances which come about depending on different conditions will be undecidable. The goal of this paper is to evaluate whether Sextus has successfully carried out this task, through a close reading of his first book of the Outlines of Scepticism. The logical structure of his fourth mode is reviewed first, before its association with the infinite regress is assessed second. The contingency of circumstances on standards is analysed third.

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The individual vs the collective: Karl Marx and Daniel Bell on social class theory

A major preoccupation of political philosophers and social scientists has consisted in the divination of the origin, causes, and effects of inequalities between persons and groups of a nature that do not readily admit to differences in intelligence or ability—that is, inequalities based (primarily) on class and economic circumstances, or, as has been more recently understood, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, and creed. This blog examines the approaches of two such social scientists, Karl Marx and Daniel Bell, to this study of class. Their respective views concerning the origin of classes are first examined, before the two conceptual frameworks proffered for this understanding are compared. The implications for the individual and the collective are then assessed, with particular reference paid to the political economic transformations observed in mereological constitutions of class analysis. That is to say, transformations of class structures and mobility within these structures that are the result of interactions between parts, or individuals, and the whole, or the collective. Comparing the ideas of Marx with those of Bell shows that the distinction between complexity and simplicity comprises a fundamental point of departure in studies of class structure. This is the key conclusion of the analysis presented in this blog.

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