Broadly speaking, there are two contrasting attitudes towards common sense prevalent in ancient Greek philosophy. On the one hand, there is a dismissive attitude: common sense, understood as what people in general routinely think, is regarded as simply misguided and out of touch with the way things really are. On the other hand, there is a tendency to regard human beings as such as having cognitive capacities that can afford them correct insights – if only they will let these capacities operate as they could or should, without being distracted or misled by various factors that throw them off course. Although these two attitudes are in a clear tension with one another, we frequently find them together in the same philosophers. Indeed, it is not too much to say that we find both strands present, to varying degrees, almost throughout the history of Greek philosophy. The paper pursues these themes chronologically, touching on several Presocratic thinkers, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and Epicureans, and the Pyrrhonian skeptic Sextus Empiricus.
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Workshop in Ancient Philosophy Convenors: Ursula Coope, Simon Shogry and Luca Castagnoli