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What God Didn't Know (Sextus Empiricus AM IX 162–166)

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Chapter Summary

It is sometimes wondered whether ancient philosophers ever entertained the idea that a person's access to his or her own mental states is radically different from the same agent's access to the external world. This chapter considers a passage of Sextus Empiricus that might be thought to come close to this notion but shows that even here there is no sign of a radical division between a private and personal internal mental world and the world external to the agent. At Adversus Mathematicos (AM) IX 162-166, Sextus offers an argument against the existence of god which depends on a notion of what it is to 'know what pain is like by nature'. The argument is based on the idea that if god exists then god must possess wisdom and therefore know which things are good, which are bad, and which are indifferent.

Keywords: Adversus Mathematicos (AM); ancient philosophers; external world; god; mental states; pain; Sextus Empiricus

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