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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a name given to such philosophers as adopted the doctrines of Plato. They were so called from the Academia, a grove near Athens, where they frequently indulged their contemplations. Academia is said to derive its name from one Academus, a god or hero so called. Thus Horace,—

Atque inter sylvas Academi quaerere verum.

[And in the groves of Academus to search for truth.]

The academics are divided into those of the first academy, who taught the doctrines of Plato in their original purity; those of the second or middle academy, who differed materially from the first, and inclined to skepticism; and those of the new academy. The middle school laid it down as a principle, that neither our senses, nor our reason, are to be trusted; but that in common affairs we are to conform to received opinions. The new academy maintained that we have no means of distinguishing truth, and that the most evident appearances may lead us into error; they granted the wise man opinion, but denied him certainty. They held, however, that it was best to follow the greatest probability, which was sufficient for all the useful purposes of life, and laid down rules for the attainment of felicity. The difference betwixt the middle academy and the new seems to have been this, that though they agreed in the imbecility of human nature, yet the first denied that probabilities were of any use in the pursuit of happiness; and the latter held them to be of service in such a design: the former recommended a conformity with received opinions, and the latter allowed men an opinion of their own. In the first academy, Speusippus filled the chair; in the second, Arcesilaus; and in the new or third academy, Carneades.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Academics'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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