The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Carneades

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CARNEADES, Greek philosopher: b. Cyrene, Africa, about 214 B.C.; d. 129 B.C. The date of his birth is uncertain. Cicero states be was 90 years old at the time of bis death, which would place his date of birth in 219 B.C. He studied first under Diogenes the Stoic, but subsequently attended the lectures of Egesinus, who explained the doctrines of Arcesilaus; and succeeding his master in the chair of the Academy, he restored its reputation by softening the prevailing pyrrhonism and admitting practical probabilities. The doctrine of Carneades specifically was, that “as the senses, the understanding, and the imagination frequently deceive us, they cannot be the infallible judges of truth, but that from the impression made by the senses we infer appearances of truth, which, with respect to the conduct of life, are a sufficient guide.” He was a strenuous opposer of Chrysippus, and attacked with great vigor the system of theology of the Stoics. He was an advocate of free-will against the fate of the same sect and urged just the same difficulties in reconciling divine prescience with the freedom of human actions as have divided some contending sects of Christianity. One of the most distinguished events of his life was his being joined in an embassy to Rome with Diogenes the Stoic and Critolaus the Peripatetic, in order to gain the mitigation of a fine levied by the Roman Senate on the Athenians. This extraordinary embassy was successful, and Carneades so captivated the people by his eloquence, one day delivering a harangue in praise of justice, and on the next proving it to be an odious institution, that Cato the censor, fearful of its effect on the Roman youth, persuaded the Senate to send the philosophers back to their schools without delay. In his latter years Carneades became totally blind and continually complained of the shortness of life, lamenting that the same nature which composed the human frame could dissolve it. Consult Hicks, ‘Stoic and Epicurean’ (New York 1910).