Chapter 30: New Bottles for the Old Wine
Pythagoras studied in that library for many years. He was a Greek, but he found in Greece itself only sophistry. Sophistry is something ugly. It comes from a very beautiful word sophia, which means wisdom, but sophistry is only a pretension of wisdom. The whole of Greece was all too much interested in sophistry. There were sophist teachers moving all over the country teaching people, and the basic teaching of sophistry was that there is no truth. It is all a question of better argument. Truth as such does not exist, it is a fallacy. When two persons argue, whoever is better in argument seems to have the truth, but it is really the better argument and nothing else.
Their teaching was to give you all possible ways of arguing and to make you a great arguer, and then you can argue from any side - it doesn’t matter. When truth does not exist, what side you take and argue for does not matter. It is a question of convenience: which side is going to declare you victorious? Which side do you have more arguments for?
I have been interested in sophistry, although the name sophistry has disappeared. Socrates was the cause of destroying it. He emphasized that truth is there, and arguments do not prove it, they only discover it. They do not disprove it either; they can only prevent its discovery. A single man, Socrates, destroyed the whole hundreds of years old tradition of sophistry. But it has remained running underground. I see it in theologians, in religious philosophies, in political ideologies.no concern for truth, the only concern is to present a very solid argument.
There is a story of one very famous sophist teacher, Zeno.and he was not just a sophist, he was a genius. It is unfortunate that his genius became associated with sophistry because that was prevalent. You pay him money and he can prove anything - anything in the world. You just say it, he has a price for it. He proved strange things which logicians have not been able to disprove even now, after two thousand years, and whatever he has proved goes against all common sense. But logic listens to the argument, and his arguments are so fine, so refined.
For example, he says that when you kill a bird with an arrow, the arrow does not move at all. This is absurd, because if the arrow does not move at all, then how does it reach the bird? From your bow to the bird there is a distance. The arrow reaches there, the bird is killed - there is proof. This question was asked by one king, thinking that Zeno would not be able to prove this - and he was ready to give any amount of money if Zeno should prove that the arrow does not move.
Zeno proved that the arrow does not move, and even up to now there is no way to disprove him. His argument is that for movement, the arrow has to go from point 1 to point 2 to point 3 to point 4; obviously it has to move from one place to another place, only then will it reach the bird.
Moving from A to B or from 1 to 2, it has to pass a passage between A and B; it cannot simply reach from A to B, so you have to make another point between the two. So where there were two points, now there are three points - and you have got into difficulty. Now he has to reach not only three points but five, because these two gaps are there, and this goes on growing. If you fill these two gaps, then there are five points and there are gaps. And you go on filling ad infinitum.the arrow will never reach the bird.