It is right and fitting that The Journal of Provincial Thought commence life as a publication in this Bimillenial Year of 2007, to memorialize the steady rise of Pyrrhonism in Western Life.  You may well ask why we did not start publishing on dates coincident with the birth- or death-dates of Pyrrho of Elis (360 or 270 BCE).  The answer is transparent:  a paper-and-pencil computation shows that those dates would have fallen in 1640 or 1730 CE, when America had not accumulated a volume of Provincial Thought sufficient to honor Pyrrho.  When, then (again, you may well ask), is 2007 a bimillenium?  Because astrological computation reckons it is the time required for the Light of Elis to shine across the Peloponnesus, 277 years.  Thus we arrive at 7 CE as the date when the full doctrine of Pyrrho was disseminated freely from the hallowed shrine of Elis.

Some readers have already enquired Why Pyrrho?

The question echoes in Western Thought.  JPT, following its founding principles (see passim), most especially the dual doctrine of obscurity and inutility, traces its genealogy to Pyrrho of Elis, sometimes nicknamed the Vacant Philosopher or Indifferent Sage.  One has only to consult the Encyclopedia of Philosophy to find the story of Pyrrho, and it is always the story of Pyrrho to which we revert, not his cloudy doctrines.  According to an older edition of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (page 36), Pyrrho was significant in Western thought for his chaotic lifestyle:  “what he contributed was not so much a body of doctrine or a dialectical [perhaps dialectrical?] method as an agoge, a way of living.  To be a Pyrrhonian was to imitate Pyrrho himself.”  Classical Greece abounded with top-hole thinkers and logicians, who opened shop in competition with Pyrrho at the fabled court of Alexander the Great.

Pyrrho went his brave and lonely way, eschewing all rigor and certitude of thought:  “None of the accounts reveal a logically agile philosopher . . .”  Powerful praise indeed!  Two thousand full years before our most advanced and modern thinkers, this homely Greek arrived at the position of reasoning as little as possible.  Therefore, Pyrrho’s total relevance to today’s world is 100% clear!

But the endearing elements of Pyrrho’s life are inner qualities best illustrated by fables or parables:

According to one tradition, his was a life that emphasized heroic indifference, apathy toward phenomena and external objects, to such a great extent that his health was always in danger. Diogenes Laertius in his Life of Pyrrho tells us that he would not look where he was going and that only his more commonsensical friends preserved him from death or maiming from “carts, precipices, dogs or what not.” Diogenes also tells us that once, when his teacher Anaxarchus was stuck in a slough, Pyrrho walked right by him without offering any help. In this same tradition of heroic skepticism is the story of Pyrrho and the wild dog. Pyrrho was suddenly attacked by a dog and became terrified; but shortly thereafter he apologized for his terror, saying that it was not easy to strip oneself of human weakness, even though one should try with all one’s might to do so.

These vivid episodes bring Pyrrho to us in his full grandeur.  Imagine brilliant Anaxarchus drowning in his bog!  Where then was the use of all his fancy-schmancy philosophizing?  And the sheer elegance of Pyrrho in ignoring his possibly illusory cries for help is one of the most moving of the Master’s lessons.  What if he had plunged into the mire in response to Anaxarchus’s whining?  He might himself have perished (if it were indeed a real and not illusory bog), he would have been soiled and exhausted, and Pyrrho intuited that Anaxarchus would not have thanked him for being rescued from such an ignominious position.  Pyrrho, as the sketch of his life, was well acquainted with humiliation.  Think of the old man succumbing to fear when the wild dog slavered over his robes.  What a lesson to be learned there!

Since ancient records are sparse and fragmental, imagination must supply scenes of Pyrrho nearly toppling from a precipice, or pulled by loyal acolytes from under the ponderous wheels of a slow-moving cart or being pursued by dogs and cats as he wandered indifferently across the flowery meads of Greece.  A subject for a monumental frieze in the highest heroic style!

Also tantalizing is the “what not” in Diogenes’ account.  We can picture Pyrrho beset by bees, Pyrrho stumbling into shallow brooks, Pyrrho cornered by cows.  We know that in all these instances, heroic indifference to phenomena would have carried the day.  The ultimate anecdote of Pyrrho’s career has been dubbed “Pyrrho and the Pig,” or philosophus porcinus:  “Once Pyrrho was on a ship whose passengers were unnerved by a storm while Pyrrho himself remained calm and confident.  At the height of the storm he pointed out to them a little pig standing on the deck calmly eating its food, and he told them that such was the unperturbed way a wise man should live in all situations.”

Thus we at JPT have adopted the emblem of the winged pig Pigasus, signifying fleshly, worldly appetite conjoined with sublime heroic indifference, the ability to rise limpidly above all phenomena and distractions.  We subscribe fully to Pyrrho’s indifference and skepticism, trumpeting the resonant mottos “So what?” “Prove it!” and “Who cares?”  We reject such sophomoric hoaxes as moon landings, “space exploration” and other delusions stemming from the basic error of believing the Earth to be round.  And we could readily dispense with all such “humanitarian” ventures as hospitals, asylums, etc., as well as with formal government.  Of course most lawyers, bankers, politicians, civil servants, religious workers and other supernumerary factota already practice a debased form of Pyrrhonism (“pyrrhonisme bouie”) in their applied indifference and apathy.  Their work is to be encouraged but underpinned with Theory and Sound Scholarship.

In all forthcoming issues of JPT, we the editors pledge to put Pyrrho’s principles into practice, resolutely ignoring phenomena, unmasking the day’s stubborn delusions and demonstrating the profound depth of Heroic Indifference.  We hope our efforts would have pleased Pyrrho of Elis, penetrating even his monumentally cultivated apathy.  We hope the same for you, Dear Reader. ###

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