Bert's brein

geplaatst: 6-2-2015

integrale tekst "over non-existentie" van Gorgias

bron: bingweb
erg aanbevolen: veel commentaar & achtergronden

alternatieve bron: aristotle minor works
terug naar Gorgias versus Plato

TEXT (= Sextus Empiricus Against the Schoolmasters 7.65-87, trans. A. Scholtz)

(65) In his work On Non-Being, also known as On Nature, Gorgias develops three main points in succession:

In the first place, that nothing is.

Second, that even if it is, it cannot be apprehended by a human being.

Third, that even if it can be apprehended, still, it cannot be communicated or explained to someone else.

(66) That nothing is he proves as follows:

If something is, it is either existent or non-existent, or else it is both existent and non-existent. But (as Gorgias will establish) neither is there the existent nor (he will add) the non-existent, nor the existent and the non-existent (which he will also show). Therefore, it is not the case that something is. [Already we seem to tread on Parmenidean ground. According to Parmenides, "Being is, but nothing is not" (fr. 6 D-K).]

(67) Note, then, that the non-existent is not. For if the non-existent is, it will at once be and not be. For, insofar as it is understood as not-being, it will not be. But insofar as it is not-being, it will, by contrast, be. But it is altogether absurd for something at once to be and not to be. Therefore, the non-existent is not. For these things [i.e., being and not-being] are opposites, each to the other. And if being turns out to be characteristic of the non-existent, then not-being will prove characteristic of being. Yet it cannot be that the existent is not. Therefore, neither will the non-existent be. [I think Gorgias simply means to acknowledge that there is paradox in saying, "What exists is not," and that this paradox holds implications for what we can posit about the non-existent. Gorgias will, at any rate, soon argue that "the existent is not."]

(68) Nor, for that matter, can we say that the existent is. For if the existent is, then it is eternal or it comes into being or it both is eternal and comes into being. But neither is it eternal, nor does it come into being, nor is it both things at once, as we shall see — whence it will follow that the existent is not. For if (let us say for argument's sake) the existent is eternal, then it does not have a beginning.

(69) For everything that comes into being has a beginning. But the eternal, because it is by definition ungenerated, had no beginning. And lacking a beginning, it is without limit. But if it is without limit, it is nowhere. For if it is somewhere, there is something else (not it) in which it is. And so, being contained by something, the existent will no longer be limitless. For the container is greater than the thing contained, yet nothing is larger than the limitless. Therefore, the limitless does not exist anywhere.

(70) Yet neither is it contained inside itself. For then the thing in it will be the same as that in which it is. [Container and contained will be the same], and the existent will then turn out to be two things: place and body. (For place is what a thing is in, whereas body is what is in that place.) But for the existent to be all that is quite absurd. Nor, for that matter, is the existent inside itself. Hence, if the existent is eternal, it is limitless. But if it is limitless, it is nowhere, and if it is nowhere, it is not. Therefore, if the existent is eternal, judging by its beginning [which, remember, anything eternal cannot have], it cannot be.

(71) Nor, for that matter, can the existent be brought into being. For if it has been brought into being, then either it has come from what exists or from what does not exist. But it cannot, on the one hand, have come from any existent thing. For if it exists, it has not come into being but already is. Nor has it come from a non-existent thing. For there is no way for the non-existent to give rise to anything else, since that which comes into being must perforce have some sort of beginning. [Something that doesn't exist can't cause, nor can it represent the "embryonic" form of, an existing thing. Later philosophy will say, "Nothing comes from nothing."] Neither, then, is the existent a thing brought into being.

(72) By the same token, neither can it be be both things, at once eternal and brought into being. For those are separate from each other. And if the existent is eternal, then it has not been brought into being. And if it has been brought into being, then it is not eternal. Therefore, if the existent is neither eternal nor generated nor both things at once, the existent will not be.

(73) Consider this, too. If the existent is, it is either one or many. But it is neither one nor many, as will be explained — whence it will follow that the existent is not. For if it is one, then it is either a quantity or an extent or a magnitude or a body. Yet if it is any of these, then it is not one. Rather, if a quantity, then it will be divisible, or if an extent, separable into sections. So, too, if understood as magnitude, then it will not be immune to division. And if it turns out to be body, it will be three-fold. For it will have length, width, and depth. But it is absurd to say that the existent is none of these things. Thus the existent is not.

(74) And yet neither is it many. For if the one does not exist, then neither do the many. For a multitude consists of a bringing together (sunthesis) of individual units. Therefore, if the one is divisible, so, too, can the many as a collection be divided. But the truth is that neither the existent nor the non-existent is, as will become quite clear.

(75) As to the fact that both, namely, the existent and the non-existent, are not, that can readily be reasoned. For if, in fact, both the non-existent and the existent are, the non-existent will be the same as the existent, insofar as it exists. And therefore, neither thing is. For the same line of reasoning applies to the non-existent, that it is not. But the same set of considerations have also been shown to apply to the existent. Therefore, it, too, will not be.

(76) On the contrary, if the existent is the same as the non-existent, it cannot be both [understand, two different things at once]. For if it is both, then it is not the same, and if it is the same, then it is not both [i.e., "both" implies two different things, whereas "same" implies one thing ("one and the same"), though we use different names for it]. Hence it follows that nothing is. For if neither the existent is, nor the non-existent, nor both, and if that is all that can be conceived of [if that exhausts all possible theories], then nothing is.

(77) As to the argument that, even if anything exists, it is unknowable and inaccessible to human thought, that we must prove next.

For if (says Gorgias) the things that can be thought are not existent things, the existent cannot be thought. And that makes sense. For we are dealing with analogous modes of reasoning. So if objects of thought can be white, then so can white things be objects of thought. Just so, if non-existent things could be objects of thought, then necessarily existent things could be objects inaccessible to thought.

[Gorgias, it seems, was trying to show that we need to be consistent in our reasoning, and that a seeming paradox is at least conceivable. We all grant, then, (1) that if an X can be an A, then an A can be an X. So, by similar logic, (2) if a not-B can be an X, then a not-X can be a B. Now, the only real difference between (1) and (2) is that in (2), there's a "not" that stays on the left side of the equation, which, as a constant element, doesn't really change the logic. (2) is, therefore, very much like (1), and both are like saying, "If a whoozit can be a whatsit, then a whatsit can be a whoozit." Replace X with "thinkable," A, with "white," and B with "existent," and we have Gorgias' formulation. All that means is that "reality" as something beyond thought is at least logically conceivable, which sets up a more counterintuitive claim soon to follow. . . .]

(78) Therefore, the following statement is sound and preserves logical consistency, namely, "If what is thought includes things that are not, then what is includes things that are not thought." But in fact, the things that are thought (for the argument needs to start from there) are not the things that are, as we shall prove — whence it will follow that the existent is a thing not thought. And indeed, the fact that what is thought is not can be made altogether plain. [Gorgias directly confronts Parmenides' idea that if a thing can be thought, then it must also be ("Thinking and being are the same," fr. 3 D-K).]

(79) For if what is thought is, then all things that are thought also are, and are just the way someone thinks them. But that's absurd. For no one would seriously entertain the idea of a person flying, or of chariots coursing across the sea [impossibilities in Gorgias' day]. Therefore, the criterion for what-is is not that it is thought. [Thinking won't by itself make it so.]

(80) Further, if what is thought is existent, then what is non-existent will not be thought. For it turns out that we are dealing here with opposites: the non-existent is the opposite of the existent. And that provides all the proof we need for the following: that if what is can be thought, then one could not think of non-existent things. But that is absurd. For Scylla and Chimera [i.e., fictitious, impossible creatures of myth] and a great many non-existent things can be thought. Hence thinkability does not prove existence.

(81) And just as the things that are seen are described as visible because they are seen, and the things that are heard are described as audible because they are heard, and just as we do not reject the visible because it is not heard, nor dismiss the audible because it is not seen (for each thing ought to be judged by that sensory faculty proper to it, and not by another), just so the mere fact that something thought is invisible or inaudible will not stop it from existing. For a thing is apprehended by that faculty of apprehension proper to it.

(82) If, then, someone thinks of chariots coursing across the sea, even if he does not have them in view, still, he must believe that there are chariots coursing across the sea. But that is absurd. Therefore, what exists is not a thing that is thought, nor is it grasped by the mind. [Think of it this way. Thought and knowledge are intimately connected. Yet thought and reality are not. What's, then, to connect knowledge to reality?]

(83) And then there is this: if it could be grasped by the mind, still, it could not be reported to another. [This is Gorgias' third point.]

For if what exists is visible and audible and generally perceivable, if, in other words, it exists out there, then visible things are graspable by sight, and audible things, by sound, and not vice versa. For how can the information about these things be conveyed by other means? [I.e., by means other than the appropriate sensory faculty. He wants to show that logos has no business trying.]

(84) Of course, speech (logos) is how we convey information. Yet speech does not equate with objects that exist out there. Therefore, we do not inform those next to us about what exists; rather, we convey to them speech, which is different from substances. And so, just as the visible will not become the audible, or vice versa, just so, since what exists does so in a domain external to non-substances [literally, "since the existent subsists outside"], it will not be transformed into any utterance [logos] of ours. [Gorgias is talking about speech and the realities speech addresses as occupying separate domains.]

(85) And if the thing to be communicated is not itself speech, then it cannot be made known to another person. To be sure, speech (so he says) is composed of impressions that come to us from the outside, that is, from sense perception. For from our encounter with taste arises within us speech concerning that quality, and from the sight of color, speech having to do with color. But if that is the case, then speech does not inform us about external reality, rather, external reality informs our speech.

(86) And indeed, it is quite impossible to affirm that speech operates on a material plane in the same way that vision and hearing do, or that, as a consequence of its material basis, speech can convey substances or realities. For, says Gorgias, even if speech possesses substance, still, it differs from all the other substances, and the difference between visible bodies and speech is extreme. For the visible is apprehended through one faculty, and speech, through yet another. Thus speech does not have a lot to say to us about substances, just as substances do not reveal the nature of other substances. [Think of it this way. Speech and the things we sense are not disconnected, but they are, in the end, incommensurable. For sense impressions, once they have been processed into speech, have been hopelessly degraded. As in a game of telephone, it's communication itself that causes the "message" to get lost.]

(87) And so Gorgias, saddled with doubts as compelling as these, dispenses with the criterion of truth. For there can be no criterion if we accept his arguments as to non-being and the impossibility of knowledge and the barrier nature has set against communication.

De weergave door Aristotoles van deze tekst. Uit "Melissus, Xenophanes en Gorgias"
Betwist is of Aristotoles de schrijver is van dit stuk.
In de gebruikte internet-bron is ook de griekse tekst weergegeven.


Gorgias maintains first, that nothing exists ; secondly, that if anything exists it is unknowable ; and thirdly, that if anything exists and is knowable, it cannot be demonstrated to others.
To prove that nothing exists, he combines the statements made by different people, who in discussing the question of Being have apparently made contradictory assertions ; some say that Being is one and not many, others that it is many and not one, some that it has never come into being, and others claim that it has ; he attempts to draw his conclusions from both sides.

For he says, if anything exists, it is either one or many, and either has not come into existence or it has.
If. then, it happens that it is neither one nor many, neither born nor unborn, it would be nothing.
If. then, there were anything, it would be one of these two things. To prove that it is neither one nor many, neither unborn nor born, he tries to prove partly on the lines of Melissus and partly on those of Zeno, after the first demonstration of his own, in which he says that neither Being nor not-Being can exist.
For if Not-Being is Not-Being. Not-Being IS no less than being. For Not-Being IS Not-being, and Being IS also Being, so that things exist no more than not exist.
If Not-Being exists, then Being, which is its opposite, does not. For if Not-Being exists, then Being and Not-Being seem to be the same. On these grounds, he says, nothing could exist, unless Being and Not-Being are the same thing. And if they were the same thing, on these grounds too nothing would exist ; for Not-Being does not exist, and the same applies to Being, since it is the same thing as Not-Being. This, then, is his argument.

Now it does not follow from any of his statements that nothing exists. His own demonstration is thus disproved. If Not-Being exists, either it exists in the ordinary sense of the term, or in the sense in which Not-Being does not exist. Now this is not apparent, nor is it a necessary conclusion; supposing, then, there are two things, one of which is, and one only seems to be, the one exists, but the other is not true, because it is non-existent. Why, then, should there be neither Being nor Not-Being ? Both, and not only one, are possible. For he says Not-Being would exist no less than Being, if Not-Being had any existence, whence he states that Not-Being has no existence of any sort.
But even if Not-Being IS Not-Being, Not-Being need not BE in the same sense as Being IS a ; for the former simply is Not-Being, but the latter also exists. Even if it were possible to apply the word IS in its truest sense, how absurd it would be to say that Not-Being IS.
And even if it were, would it be any more reason- able to say that everything IS not rather than IS ? In this case the opposite seems to be true. For if Not- Being can be said to exist, and Being also exists, then all things exist, for both things which are and those which are not exist. For it does not follow that if Not-Being exists Being does not exist.
If, then, anyone were to agree both that Not-Being exists, and that Being does not exist, even in this case something would exist ; for according to his argument Not- Being would exist. If, then, Being and Not-Being are identical, in this case nothing can be said to exist any more than not to exist. For, as he himself says, if Not-Being and Being are identical, then neither Being nor Not-Being has any existence, so that nothing exists, and changing the argument round it is just as true to say that everything exists. For both Not-Being and Being exist, and therefore everything exists.

After this argument Gorgias says that if anything exists it is either unborn or born. If it is unborn he maintains by the axioms of Melissus that it is infinite ; and the infinite, he says, is nowhere. For it can neither be in itself nor in another : if it existed in another there would be two infinites, that which is in something and that in which it is : and according to Zeno's discussion on Space, that which is no-thing must be no-where.
For this reason, then, it is not un- born, nor can it be born. For nothing could be born either from Being or from Not-Being. For if it were born from Being, it would have changed, which is impossible ; for if it were to change, it would no longer be Being, just as if Not-Being were to be born, it would no longer be Not-Being. Again it could not be born from Being, for. if Not-Being does not exist, clearly nothing could be born out of nothing ; but if Not-Being does exist, it could not be born from Not- Being, for the same reason as it could not be born from Being.
If, then, it is inevitable, that if anything exists it is either unborn or born (and this is impossible), then it is impossible for anything to exist.
Again, if anything exists, he says it must be either one or many ; if it were neither one nor many, it could not exist. He says it cannot be one, because one is really not corporeal, as it has no magnitude : which is disproved by Zeno's argument.
If, then, it is not one, it could not exist at all. For if it is not one, it cannot be many. But, he argues, if it is neither one nor many, it does not exist at all.
Again, he says that nothing can be moved. For if it were moved, it would not be the same as it was before, but Being would have become Not-Being, and Not-Being would be born.
Again if it has any motion whereby it can change its place, not being continuous it suffers division, and at the point where Being is divided, it does not exist ; so that if it moves in every part, it is divided in every part. If this is the case, it ceases to exist in any part. For it falls short of Being (so Gorgias says) at the point of its division, and he calls it division instead of Void, as it is described in the works ascribed to Leucippus.

These , then , he claims as proofs that nothing exists; after this he states his proof that, if anything exists, it is unknowable. For if it could be known, then all subjects of thought must exist and Not-Being, since it does not exist, could not be thought of. But, if this is so, no one, he says, could say anything false, not even if he said that chariots compete in the sea. For everything would be in the same category. So things seen and things heard will exist, because each of them is an object of thought ; if this is not the case, if, that is, what we see no more exists because we see it, so what we think no more exists because we think of it (for just as in that case many would see this, and a The whole of this passage is unsatisfactory, but in the mutilated condition of the ms. it is hopeless to attempt a Bound emendation.
in the other many would think of it), why should it be any more clear, if such things exist ? But it is quite uncertain which kind of things is true. So that, if they exist, things must in any case be un- known by us.

But even if they are known, how, he says, could anyone communicate them to another ? For how could a man express in words what he has seen ? Or how could a thing be clear to a man who heard it, if he has not seen it ? For just as sight is not the sense which recognizes sounds, so hearing cannot hear colours, but only sounds ; and the speaker speaks, but he does not speak a colour or a thing. Airvthing, then, which a man has not in his own consciousness, how can he acquire it from the word of another, or by any sign which is different from the thing, except by seeing it if it is a colour, or hearing it if it is a sound ?
For, to begin with, no one speaks a sound or a colour, but only a word ; so that it is not possible to think a colour but only to see it, nor to think a sound, but only to hear it.
Granting, then, that it is possible to know and read a word, how can the hearer be conscious of the same thing ? For it is impossible for the same thing to exist in several separate persons : for then the one would be two. But if the same things were in several persons, there is nothing to prevent it from not being the same in them all, seeing that they are not in every way alike, nor in the same place ; for if anv- thing were this, it would be one and not two.
But even the man himself does not seem to perceive similar things at the same time, but different things with his hearing and with his vision, and different again at the moment and long ago, so that one man can hardly perceive the same things as another. Thus if anything exists, it cannot be known, and if it is known, no one could show it to another ; because things are not words, and because no one thinks the same things as another.

All philosophers including Gorgias are here dealing with difficulties of other older thinkers,, so that in consideration of their views these must also be examined.