Gorgias: Existence Vs. Reality

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade September 2001

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Imagine paying one hundred dollars for a seminar in which the speaker comes out and says, "Nothing exists," and then packs his briefcase and leaves. Most people would be stunned and outraged that they paid money for the course and got nothing out of it. An ancient Greek philosopher named Gorgias conceived this idea, that nothing exists. He came up with two major philosophies about existence, which are often misunderstood. Though some people reject Gorgias' philosophy as nonsense, it appears to be sensible when thoroughly reflected upon.

Gorgias supposedly lived from 485 BC to 380 BC. Although born in Sicily, he became an ambassador to Athens in 427 BC and later settled there to practice and teach rhetoric. He was one of the first philosophers to use commonplaces in arguments and to introduce cadence into prose. Gorgias lived through the Golden Ages of Athens and the Pellopenesian War. Other philosophers living in his time were Socrates, Plato, and Pythagoras.

These men came up with many popular philosophies, including some that dealt with existence. Contrary to Gorgias' ideas, the philosopher Pythagoras believed that everything exists. Gorgias continued to teach and discuss different philosophies until his death at age 105.

Gorgias' first philosophy is "Nothing exists". Many people believe this to be false because they look at themselves and think it is obvious that they exist. They rely on their senses to tell them what does and does not exist. Gorgias confirms his idea by proving that something cannot exist, and therefore that nothing exists. He believes that if something exists, it is either eternal or generated. If that-which-exists is eternal , then it is unlimited in space. Thus it is either nowhere, somewhere, or in something larger. If it is nowhere, then it is not. If it is somewhere, then it...