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98 COMMENTS ON TWEYMAN AND DAVIS Tweyman contends that in Parts X and XI of the Dialogues Philo sets aside his Pyrrhonian or skeptical approach to theology, which consists in falsifying or casting doubt on the hypotheses of Cleanthes, and instead argues for a thesis of his own, viz. what we might call the "indifference thesis" that the original source of all things is morally indifferent. Davis counters with an alternative interpretation of these two Parts of the Dialogues, arguing that Philo's approach to Cleanthes' arguments is consistent throughout the Dialogues and that Philo's aim is always the same, viz., to show that if cleanthes remains true to his principles and accepts their logical consequences, it is Cleanthes who is the Pyrrhonian and Philo who is the moderate skeptic. My position is that neither Tweyman nor Davis have given a proper analysis of Parts X and XI. I would agree with Davis that Tweyman' s position does seem to have an initial implausibility to it for at least two reasons. First of all, in Part II Philo commits himself to the "mystical incomprehensibility thesis" that the attributes of God are perfect but incomprehensible; and the mystical incomprehensibility thesis is incompatible with the indifference thesis. It cannot be the case both that God has perfect but incomprehensible attributes and that we also know he is morally indifferent. Moreover, the mystical incomprehensi2 bility thesis is reiterated in Part VI and more importantly, in Part X: "None but we mystics, as you were pleased to call us, can account for this strange mixture of phenomena, by deriving it from attributes, infinitely perfect, but incomprehensible" 99 (D 199). Since Philo appears to stick to the mystical incomprehensibility thesis, Tweyman has a problem explaining how Philo can hold one position on the attributes of God in Part X (the mystical incomprehensibility thesis) and then supposedly reverse himself in Part XI to argue for another (the indifference thesis). Second, Tweyman' s position seems to contradict the strategic position outlined by Philo in Part II: "You seem not to apprehend, replied Philo, that I argue with Cleanthes in his own way; and by showing him the dangerous consequences of his tenets, hope at last to reduce him to our opinion." (D 145) The strategy is to show Cleanthes that any position but that of the mystics has dangerous, i.e., skeptical or theologically unwelcome consequences, and so should be abandoned. Philo's strategy is not to defend his own position, but rather to reveal the weaknesses in Cleanthes' position. Thus far I would agree that Davis' interpretation is more consistent with both Philo's strategic position and with his mystical incomprehensibility thesis. Yet Davis does not directly take up the important point about Parts X and XI which Tweyman raises: that Philo changes his way of arguing in Parts X and XI from that which he had been employing previously in the first eight sections, i.e., that he changes from a Pyrrhonian to a non-Pyrrhonian way of arguing. This is how Tweyman puts it: In the first eight sections, Philo argues against Cleanthes' hypothesis by advancing his own hypotheses. His effort to advance hypotheses must be assessed in light of the fact that (by his own admission) all such hypotheses are based on insufficient 100 data, and, therefore, none is, strictly speaking, acceptable. Their use is not to establish truths about the nature of God, but to establish the conclusion which we find at the end of Part VIII that 'a total suspense of judgment is here our only reasonable resource.' The design of the world is compatible with, and could have arisen from, an indefinite number of designing principles. On the other hand, we have seen that in dealing with Cleanthes' hypotheses in Parts X and XI we are able to proceed more scientifically, and, in this manner, eliminate all but one of the hypotheses which can be introduced to explain the design of the world. (Tweyman 84-85) Now Tweyman does seem to have a point here. It is true that Philo takes his arguments in Parts X and XI to have a conclusiveness which he did not attribute to his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 98-103
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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