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Ideas of Carneades, by Text

[Greek, 214 - 129 BCE, Born at Cyrene, in North Africa. Head of the New Academy in Athens. Wrote nothing, but Clitomachus preserved his arguments.]

174BCE fragments/reports
p.10 Carneades said that after a shipwreck a wise man would seize the only plank by force
     Full Idea: Carneades argued forcefully that in the event of a shipwreck, the wise man would be prepared to seize the only plank capable of bearing him to shore, even if that meant pushing another person off it.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Ch.1
     A reaction: [source for this?] This thought seems to have provoked great discussion in the sixteenth century (mostly sympathetic). I can't help thinking the right answer depends on assessing your rival. Die for a hero, drown a nasty fool.
p.102 Future events are true if one day we will say 'this event is happening now'
     Full Idea: We call those past events true of which at an earlier time this proposition was true: 'They are present now'; similarly, we shall call those future events true of which at some future time this proposition will be true: 'They are present now'.
     From: Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]), quoted by M. Tullius Cicero - On Fate ('De fato') 9.23-8
     A reaction: This is a very nice way of paraphrasing statements about the necessity of true future contingent events. It still relies, of course, on the veracity of a tensed assertion
p.103 Carneades distinguished logical from causal necessity, when talking of future events
     Full Idea: From 'E will take place is true' it follows that E must take place. But 'must' here is logical not causal necessity. It is a considerable achievement of Carneades to have distinguished these two senses of necessity.
     From: comment on Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by A.A. Long - Hellenistic Philosophy 3
     A reaction: Personally I am inclined to think 'necessity' is univocal, and does not have two senses. What Carneades has nicely done is distinguish the two different grounds for the necessities.
p.103 Some actions are within our power; determinism needs prior causes for everything - so it is false
     Full Idea: Now something is in our power; but if everything happens as a result of destiny all things happen as a result of antecedent causes; therefore what happens does not happen as a result of destiny.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by M. Tullius Cicero - On Fate ('De fato') 14.31
     A reaction: This invites the question of whether some things really are 'in our power'. Carneades (as expressed by Cicero) takes that for granted. Our 'power' may be antecedent causes in disguise.
p.104 People change laws for advantage; either there is no justice, or it is a form of self-injury
     Full Idea: The same people often changed laws according to circumstances; there is no natural law. There is no such thing as justice or, if there is, it is the height of folly, since a man injures himself in taking thought for the advantage of others.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by Lactantius - Institutiones Divinae 5.16.4
     A reaction: [An argument used by Carneades on his notorious 156BCE visit to Rome, where he argued both for and against justice] This is probably the right wing view of justice. Why give other people what they want, if it is at our expense?
p.221 Voluntary motion is intrinsically within our power, and this power is its cause
     Full Idea: Voluntary motion possesses the intrinsic property of being in our power and of obeying us, and its obedience is not uncaused, for its nature is itself the cause of this.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by M. Tullius Cicero - On Fate ('De fato') 11.25
     A reaction: To say that actions arise from our 'intrinsic power' is not much of an explanation, but it is still informative - that you should study the intrinsic powers of humans if you want to explain it.
p.223 We say future things are true that will possess actuality at some following time
     Full Idea: Just as we speak of past things as true that possessed true actuality at some former time, so we speak of future things as true that will possess true actuality at some following time.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by M. Tullius Cicero - On Fate ('De fato') 11.27
     A reaction: This ducks the Aristotle problem of where it is true NOW when you say there will be a sea-fight tomorrow, and it turns out to be true. Carneades seems to be affirming a truth when it does not yet have a truthmaker.
p.229 Even Apollo can only foretell the future when it is naturally necessary
     Full Idea: Carneades used to say that not even Apollo could tell any future events except those whose causes were so held together that they must necessarily happen.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by M. Tullius Cicero - On Fate ('De fato') 14.32
     A reaction: Carneades is opposing the usual belief in divination, where even priests can foretell contingent future events to some extent. Careneades, of course, was defending free will.
p.505 Carneades' pinnacles of philosophy are the basis of knowledge (the criterion of truth) and the end of appetite (good)
     Full Idea: Carneades said the two greatest things in philosophy were the criterion of truth and the end of goods, and no man could be a sage who was ignorant of the existence of either a beginning of the process of knowledge or an end of appetition.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE]) by M. Tullius Cicero - Academica II.09.29
     A reaction: Nice, but I would want to emphasise the distinction between truth and its criterion. Admittedly we would have no truth without a good criterion, but the truth itself should be held in higher esteem than our miserable human means of grasping it.
fr 41-42 p.91 Carneades denied the transitivity of identity
     Full Idea: Carneades denied the principle of the transitivity of identity.
     From: report of Carneades (fragments/reports [c.174 BCE], fr 41-42) by Roderick Chisholm - Person and Object 3.1
     A reaction: Chisholm calls this 'extreme', but I assume Carneades wouldn't deny the principle in mathematics. I'm guessing that he just means that nothing ever stays quite the same.