Cosmos of the Ancients
The Greek Philosophers on Myth and Cosmology
lthough Gorgias (483-378 BC) has left us no particular thoughts on the gods and their myths, his three basic principles do not, in their extreme position, leave much room for any divinity - or anything else, for that matter: nothing exists, and if anything did exist, it could not be known to, and finally, if it could be known to exist, that knowledge could not be communicated. What could Gorgias be called, but the Nihilist?
There is a drastic humor to his three propositions, as well as to his arguments for them. According to Sextus Empiricus, Gorgias found that existence, or being, must have a beginning, or it would be unlimited and therefore nowhere. But if being began in being, it did not begin but already was, and it could not have begun in not-being, because then not-being would have had to be some kind of being.
Gorgias took pride in rhetoric rather than sophism, wanting to teach the ability of persuasion, as Plato shows in the dialogue Gorgias, where to the question from Socrates of what art he is skilled in, Gorgias bluntly replies: "Rhetoric, Socrates." And he goes on to admit proudly that he is able to teach others the same - in essence: "the ability to persuade with speeches." This power of persuasion was not necessary to hold the truth, but to make believable - something abominable to Socrates, as the unusual arrogance and harshness of his words in this dialogue indicate.
Yet, Gorgias' arguments against existence are not easily brushed aside, not even if applied to modern day big bang theory. In old Greece, though, his statement must have been a provocation to the pious. Another fragment of his reads: "Being is unrecognizable unless it succeeds in seeming, and seeming is weak unless it succeeds in being," which again denies anything certain to be stated about anything, and at the same time - if gods would seem to exist, although fragile, it would be some kind of existence. To Gorgias there does not appear to be much of a distinction between what is and what might be, so his unwillingness to adopt an ethic standpoint as a sophist must have made good sense to him - when it is impossible to decide what is, how could one possibly profess the ability to judge it?
, 449a, WWW Perseus.
Freeman, Kathleen, Ancilla to The Pre-Socratic Philosophers, Oxford 1952.
© Stefan Stenudd 2000
The Greek Philosophers
Cosmos of the Ancients - the Book
The material on this website about the Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods, is now a book. It can be ordered at the Internet bookstores - printed or as a Kindle ebook. Both contain the footnotes with additional explanations as well as literary sources. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
All about the peaceful Japanese martial art.
A system of jo (staff) and ken (sword) exercises for aikido students.
My paintings, drawings, photos and video art.
My writing - fiction as well as non-fiction.
What the Greek philosophers thought about the cosmos, the gods and the myths.
Myth, its psychology and archetypes.
Essays on various intriguing topics.
My reviews of film, TV, and music.
My blog with random thoughts.
My Other Websites
Myths in general and myths of creation in particular.
Qi (also spelled chi or ki) explained and exercises to increase it.
An encyclopedia of life energy concepts around the world.
The wisdom of Taoism and the Tao Te Ching, its primary source.
The ancient Chinese system of divination and free online reading.
Tarot card meanings in divination and a free online spread.
The complete horoscope and how to read it.
Zodiac sign astrology, explaining each sign and its meaning.
My Facebook page.
My Twitter account.
My Amazon Author page.
My YouTube account with aikido videos.
My YouTube account Aravadia, with art videos and poetry.
My Swedish website.
Click the header to get to the webpage where I present all my books in English. Click an image below to go to that book's page on Amazon.
I'm a Swedish writer
of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist
, an historian of ideas
and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor
. Click the header to read my full bio.