“Nihil est” / Memorable Fancies #473

          Current scholarship holds that the philosopher Metrodorus of Chios lived “at some time during the fourth century BCE.” It is believed, by those who keep track of such things, that Metrodorus wrote one treatise, and perhaps two others also. But all this is conjecture.

     One fragment of the writings of Metrodorus survives, dutifully recorded by generations of careful philologists:

     “None of us knows anything, not even whether we know or do not know, nor do we know whether knowing and not-knowing exist, nor even whether there is any thing or not.”

     It is owing to the ravages of Barbarians and Crusaders through the centuries that only this fragment is left to us. These same ravages have removed from our knowledge Metrodorus’ exact dates, the titles of his works, and even proof that this fragment was really written by him.

     We do not know, in actuality, whether Metrodorus lived in Chios or not (recent evidence tends to favor Samos), or whether the spelling of his name is correct in either Greek or Latin orthography. Some scholars doubt the traditional placing of Metrodorus in the fourth century, holding him to have lived a hundred years earlier, or two hundred years later.

     In my researches, I myself have grown to suspect that, owing to certain corrupted texts, the person we identify as “Metrodorus of Chios” has been confused with Menestor of Cybaris, who certainly did not write the fragment quoted above.

     In summary, then, we must confess that we really know nothing of Metrodorus, not even whether our knowledge of him is really worthy to be called “knowledge” at all; nor do we know when or where he lived, or even whether there ever was a “Metrodorus,” or not.

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Comments

  1. I love this piece!

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