If anything exists, says Gorgias, it cannot be communicated. Struth!

The “Gorgias” is one of Plato’s Socratic Dialogues. Plato pits the rhetorician, Gorgias, whose area of expertise is persuasion, in opposition to the philosopher, whose speciality is dissuasion and refutation. Gorgias (487-376 BC) was a presocratic rhetorician and a nihilist. His nihilism is articulated in three propositions: 1. Nothing exists. 2. But, if anything does exist, it cannot be known. 3. However, if anything does exist and can be known, it cannot be communicated.

I, Bography, am on the Academy intercom with Gorgias

Bography: What’s that, Gorgias! Run that by me one more time.

Gorgias: Ok. Let me try again.  If anything does exist and can be known, it cannot be communicated.

Bography: What do you mean?

Gorgias: What’s wrong with you; are you a post-structuralist post modernist? Have you been reading Jacques Derrida! Raphy Bog, “I must recall to your attention – and I will remind you of it more than once – that language obeys certain rules; it has its grammar, its rhetoric, its pragmatics. As you did not take these rules into account, you quite simply did not understand or want to understand, in the most elementary and quasi-grammatical sense, what I am saying.[1]


[1] “What I, on the other hand, must recall to your attention – and I will remind you of it more than once – is that the text of an appeal obeys certain rules; it has its grammar, its rhetoric, its pragmatics. I’ll come back to this point in a moment, to wit: as you did not take these rules into account, you quite simply did not read my text, in the most elementary and quasi-grammatical sense of what is called reading” (Jacques Derrida 1986, p. 157, But beyond…(Open letter to Anne McClintock and Rob Nixon). Translated by Peggy Kamuf. Critical Enquiry, Autumn, pp.155-170. (See Can Derrida’s Tour (Surprisingly) Translate Us Anywhere?).

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