This attempt broke down at the end of the ancient world. This breaking down of the great- attempt of the Greek philosophers to create a world of meaning through philosophy, produced what I call” the skeptical end of the ancient development.
Skepsis means, originally,.observing things. But it has received the negative sense of looking at every dogma, thereby undercutting it, even the dogmata of the Greek schools of philosophy. Therefore the Skeptics are those who doubt the statements of all schools of philosophy. And what is perhaps even more important, these schools of philosophy, e. g. , the Platonic Academy, took a lot of these Skeptical elements into itself. Skepticism did not go beyond probabilism, and the other schools became pragmatic. So a skeptical mood entered all schools and permeated the whole life of the later ancient world. This Skepticism, especially in the school called the School of the Skeptics, was a very serious matter of life. Again it was not a matter of sitting behind one’s desk and finding out that everything can be doubt – which is comparatively easy. But it was an inner breakdown of all convictions, and the consequence was – very characteristic of the Greek mind – that if they were not able to give theoretical judgments any more, they believed that they were not able to act practically, either. Therefore they introduced the doctrine of epoch’, – restraining, keeping down, not giving judgment nor acting, deciding neither theoretically nor practically. This doctrine of epoch’ meant the resignation of judgment in every respect. Therefore these people went into the desert, with a suit or gown very similar to the later Christian monks who followed them in this respect, because they also were in despair about the possibility of living in this world. Some of the skeptics of the ancient Church were very serious people and drew the consequences which our snobbistic skeptics do not usually do, who have a very good time while at the same doubting everything! That was not what the Greek Skeptics did; so they retired from life in order to become consistent.