Francisco Sanchez: A Renaissance Pyrrhonist Against Aristotelian Dogmatism

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Francisco Sanchez (1550/51-1623) was a well-known skeptic in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His one skeptical work, That Nothing is Known (Quod nihil scitur), first published in 1581, was widely read and went to four editions.1 Pierre Bayle praised him in his Dictionnaire historique et critique as "a great Pyrrhonist" (Bayle 1740: vol. IV, 133), and Gabriel Naudé recommended in 1644 that Sanchez's skeptical work should be part of every learned library—next to that of Sextus Empiricus (see Jolly 1990).2 Even as late as 1702, Leibniz declared in a letter to the French mathematician and physicist Pierre de Varignon that he had often thought a reply to Sanchez would be a very useful thing indeed (Gerhardt 1859: 94-95). After this, Sanchez's influence waned. He no longer seems to have been discussed much in the eighteenth century.

In what follows, I will first discuss what kind of skepticism Sanchez adhered to: whether he was an Academic or a Pyrrhonian skeptic. Then I will consider Sanchez's critique of the scholastic Aristotelians, the dogmatists of his day. Finally, I will ask where Sanchez stands in relation to modern Cartesian skepticism and whether his skepticism is purely theoretical or whether it also has implications for the practical affairs of life.


Diego E. Machuca, Baron Reed







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Skepticism: From Antiquity to the Present

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