The Skeptic Sophist: Gorgias of Leontini


English: Empedocles, ancient Greek Presocratic...

English: Empedocles, ancient Greek Presocratic philosopher. From Thomas Stanley, (1655), The history of philosophy: containing the lives, opinions, actions and Discourses of the Philosophers of every Sect, illustrated with effigies of divers of them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coming from a little colony inside Syracuse, Gorgias of Leontini – a Greek Sophist Philosopher – lived around from 485 to 375 B.C.E. And no, that’s not a mistake; scholars insist which he was over 100 years of age whenever he died. Many of them even title Gorgias the “Father of Sophistry.”

Gorgias came to Athens inside the last quarter of the fifth century B.C.E. as a political ambassador from Syracuse. Like Protagoras, he too accepted pupils to teach the art of rhetoric for political plus legal reasons. Many consider Protagoras plus Gorgias the first Sophist Philosophers.

According to historic sources, Gorgias became a student of Empedocles. Gorgias wrote 4 works: On Non-Existence, the Defense of Palamedes, the Encomium about Helen, as well as the Epitaphios. Just 2 works exist inside their entirety, Encomium about Helen plus Defense of Palamedes, whilst On Non-Existence exists just inside fragments or summaries.

Gorgias was very a distinctive figure inside his famous context, considering he promoted a metaphysical plus epistemological program of extreme skepticism. In truth, several scholars today label his study as nihilistic.

Gorgias, with his Sophist rhetoric, argued that nothing exists. I will summarize his argument, that is found inside his On Non-Existence, throughout the next paragraphs.

Assume initially which it’s impossible for nothing to exist. If for no additional cause than absurdity, you might reformulate the statement in “non-existence exists.” That statement proposes an apparent contradiction.

So, when anything exists, then you should accept which existence is eternal or which anything causes existence. First, existence can not be eternal.

Since existence can not be eternal, anything else should result existence or offer its source. But, when existence originates from anything, you either have a circular argument (existence causes existence), a contradiction (considering certain “non”-existence causes existence), or an unlimited regression (existence originates from existence, which originates from existence, ad infinitum).

As it stands, existence fails to justify existence, plus non-existence cannot either. So, you conclude which anything cannot exist plus, by procedure of removal, you should accept nothing exists.

Gorgias continues following this to recommend which whether or not anything exists, you can learn nothing regarding it considering that the knowledge, plus the thoughts, do not have capability for carrying “existing” factors.

Gorgias considers this example, “How could anybody communicate the idea of color through words because the ear refuses to hear hues except just sounds?”

Gorgias goes to the extremes to “prove” which nothing exists.  He constantly promotes an absurd position by disproving or discrediting a favored belief, plus challenging common values had been a widespread Sophist approach.

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