The useful lesson of Carneades

Thursday June 8, 2023

“According to tradition, Carneades also delivered a pair of lectures while in Rome, speaking in defense of justice on one day and, in rebuttal of his own arguments of the previous day, against it on the following day.” (Allen)

Carneades is sometimes interpreted as demonstrating only “that every conclusion is unwarranted.” (Russell, p. 236) The skeptic is correct as such, but has not yet offered useful advice. The useful lesson of Carneades is that rhetoric should be wielded responsibly to create the world we want. In expelling Carneades from Rome, Cato the Censor may or may not have acted wisely, but it seems he understood the lesson.