Nos in Diem Vivimus: Gassendi’s Probabilism and Academic Philosophy from Day to Day

  • Delphine BellisEmail author
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 221)


In “Nos in Diem Vivimus: Gassendi’s Probabilism and Academic Philosophy from Day to Day,” Delphine Bellis challenges Popkin’s twofold reading of Gassendi. On Popkin’s account, Gassendi was first a Pyrrhonian, and later in his career became a mitigated “sceptic” who tried to elaborate a specific epistemology in order to overcome the sceptical crisis of his time. Bellis shows that, beyond the role played by Pyrrhonian arguments in rebuking Aristotelian theses, Academic philosophy (in particular as conveyed by Cicero) played a much more constructive role in building Gassendi’s own philosophy right from its beginning. Academic philosophy offered to Gassendi a probabilist model of knowledge which, contrary to Pyrrhonism, opened the possibility of a natural philosophy conceived as a science of appearances, i.e. as based on experimentation on appearances, in the line of the Academic notion of “inspected” or “scrutinized” appearances. By showing the long-lasting permanence of Academic philosophy as a source of inspiration for Gassendi’s own philosophy, Bellis demonstrates how probabilism became central to his epistemology and natural philosophy. In addition to Gassendi’s erudite interest for Cicero and Charron, Academic probabilism suited Gassendi’s own practice as a natural philosopher in the realms of meteorology and astronomy. But first and foremost, Gassendi’s preference for Academic philosophy rather than for Pyrrhonism was motivated, early in his philosophical career, by ethical concerns: the importance of preserving his libertas philosophandi, combined with his personal incapacity not to incline toward one opinion or another, led him to formulate his epistemological probabilism and to claim the freedom to revise his opinions from day to day.


Acataleptic Appearance Aristotelianism Astronomy Certainty Criterion of truth Doubt Empiricism Epicureanism Experience Experiment Freedom Humanism Hypothesis Meteorology Mitigated scepticism Natural philosophy Probabilism Rhetoric Sign Suspension of assent Verisimilitude 



Research for this article was made possible by a Veni grant (275-20-042) funded by NWO (the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research). I would also like to acknowledge the financial support the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies at the Radboud University Nijmegen provided me with for English corrections. A first version of this paper was presented at the conference “Controversies and Experimentations in the Emergence of Modern Philosophy and Science” organized by Sophie Roux at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. I would like to thank the participants for their useful comments. I would also like to thank Raphaël Chappé, Christoph Lüthy, Carla Rita Palmerino, Kuni Sakamoto, Jan Willem Wieland and two anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions, Angela Axworthy for her help with the translation into English of the French quotations, Elena Nicoli for her help with the translation into English of the Latin quotations, and Charles Wolfe for his emendations to my English text. All translations are the author’s except where otherwise noted.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)BrusselsBelgium

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