Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

It seems to me that the exercise of suspension of judgment is the dynamic core of a 'therapy' which can release us from attachment to our rigid belief systems and from passionate behavior. Here is some commentary (on section 41) of Long and Sedley (pg. 258) on the suspension of judgment:

"A crucial difference between wise and inferior men is their disposition with respect to knowing when suspension of judgment is called for (cf. 40I). The wise man has infallible control over his assent, giving it only to impressions of whose cognitive status he is quite certain (D1); this is characteristic of his scientific knowledge (H4). In all other cases, he suspends judgment, which Arcesilaus exploits in the second part of his argument (C9-10): he cleverly concludes that the Stoics wise man, on their own admission, would have to suspend judgment about everything if the cognitive impression and cognition do not exist. (Suspension of judgment, which is the fundamental notion in Academic Scepticism, was probably at home on the Stoa before Arcesilaus turned it against them in arguments with Stoic premises, for scepticism). Inferior men by contrast are characterized by their 'precipitancy' (E, G5), or disposition to assent to 'unclear impressions', their erroneous assent where suspension of judgment is in order, and their 'self-deception in yielding to false impressions'. All of these are represented as types of 'assent to the incognitive', the general mark of 'opinion' (E)."


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