Sophist - Wikipedia
ABSTRACT: The Sophists, and the Socratic response they provoked, . little further, I would claim that the relationship between them is reciprocal. As Guthrie . Most of literature would rather highlight the differences between Socrates and sophists What is the difference between the Socrates and pre-Socrates eras?. Although Socrates did not charge fees and frequently asserted that all he knew was that he was ignorant of most matters, his association with the sophists.
Aristophanes made no distinction between sophists and philosophers as Socrates did, and believed both would argue any position for the right fee. In the comedic play The Clouds by Aristophanes, Strepsiades seeks the help of Socrates a parody of the actual philosopher in an effort to avoid paying his debts. In the play, Socrates promises to teach Strepsiades' son to argue his way out of paying his debts. In most cases, however, knowledge of sophist thought comes from fragmentary quotations that lack context.
Many of these quotations come from Aristotlewho seems to have held the sophists in slight regard. Due to the importance of such skills in the litigious social life of Athens, practitioners often commanded very high fees.
The sophists' practice of questioning the existence and roles of traditional deities and investigating into the nature of the heavens and the earth prompted a popular reaction against them. The attacks of some of their followers against Socrates prompted a vigorous condemnation from his followers, including Plato and Xenophonas there was a popular view of Socrates as a sophist.
For example, the comic playwright Aristophanes criticizes the sophists as hairsplitting wordsmiths, and makes Socrates their representative. In comparison, Socrates accepted no fee, instead professed a self-effacing posture, which he exemplified by Socratic questioning i. His attitude towards the Sophists was by no means oppositional; in one dialogue Socrates even stated that the Sophists were better educators than he was,  which he validated by sending one of his students to study under a sophist.
Plato described Sophists as paid hunters after the young and wealthy, as merchants of knowledge, as athletes in a contest of words, and purgers of souls.
From Plato's assessment of Sophists it could be concluded that Sophists do not offer true knowledge, but only an opinion of things.
Plato sought to separate the Sophist from the Philosopher. Where a Sophist was a person who makes his living through deception, a philosopher was a lover of wisdom who sought truth. To give the Philosophers greater credence, the Sophists had to receive a negative connotation.
Protagoras was the first sophist, whose theory said "Man is the measure of all things", meaning Man decides for himself what he is going to believe. In this view, the sophist is not concerned with truth and justicebut instead seeks power.
Some scholars, such as Ugo Zilioli  argue that the sophists held a relativistic view on cognition and knowledge. However, this may involve the Greek word "doxa", which means "culturally shared belief" rather than "individual opinion". Their philosophy contains criticism of religionlawand ethics.
Though many sophists were apparently as religious as their contemporaries, some held atheistic or agnostic views for example, Protagoras and Diagoras of Melos. Democracy[ edit ] The first sophists prepared Athenian males for public life in the polis by teaching them how to debate through the art of rhetoric.
The art of persuasion was the most important thing to have a successful life in the fifth century Athens social commonplace when rhetoric was in its most important stage. The sophists' rhetorical techniques were extremely useful for any young nobleman looking for public office. The societal roles the Sophists filled had important ramifications for the Athenian political system at large. The historical context provides evidence for their considerable influence, as Athens became more and more democratic during the period in which the Sophists were most active.
Sophists contributed to the new democracy in part by espousing expertise in public deliberation, the foundation of decision-making, which allowed—and perhaps required—a tolerance of the beliefs of others. This liberal attitude would naturally have made its way into the Athenian assembly as Sophists began acquiring increasingly high-powered clients.
In addition, Sophists had great impact on the early development of lawas the sophists were the first lawyers in the world. Their status as lawyers was a result of their highly developed skills in argument. The Sophists were notorious for their claims to teach virtue and excellence, and particularly for accepting fees for teaching. The influence of this stance on education in general, and medical education in particular, have been described by Seamus Mac Suibhne.
Influence on Roman education[ edit ] During the Second Sophistic, the Greek discipline of rhetoric had heavy influence on Roman education. During this time Latin rhetorical studies were banned for the precedent of Greek rhetorical studies.
In addition, the Greek history was preferred for the education of the Roman elites above that of their native Roman history. Whether this statement should be taken as expressing the actual views of Antiphon, or rather as part of an antilogical presentation of opposing views on justice remains an open question, as does whether such a position rules out the identification of Antiphon the sophist with the oligarchical Antiphon of Rhamnus.
Hippias The exact dates for Hippias of Elis are unknown, but scholars generally assume that he lived during the same period as Protagoras. Hippias is best known for his polymathy DK 86A His areas of expertise seem to have included astronomy, grammar, history, mathematics, music, poetry, prose, rhetoric, painting and sculpture. Like Gorgias and Prodicus, he served as an ambassador for his home city. His work as a historian, which included compiling lists of Olympic victors, was invaluable to Thucydides and subsequent historians as it allowed for a more precise dating of past events.
In mathematics he is attributed with the discovery of a curve — the quadratrix — used to trisect an angle. It is hard to make much sense of this alleged doctrine on the basis of available evidence.
The Sophists and Socrates: A Complex Relation
As suggested above, Plato depicts Hippias as philosophically shallow and unable to keep up with Socrates in dialectical discussion. Prodicus Prodicus of Ceoswho lived during roughly the same period as Protagoras and Hippias, is best known for his subtle distinctions between the meanings of words. He is thought to have written a treatise titled On the Correctness of Names.
Prodicus spoke up next: There is a distinction here. We ought to listen impartially but not divide our attention equally: More should go to the wiser speaker and less to the more unlearned … In this way our meeting would take a most attractive turn, for you, the speakers, would then most surely earn the respect, rather than the praise, of those listening to you.
For respect is guilelessly inherent in the souls of listeners, but praise is all too often merely a deceitful verbal expression. Socrates, although perhaps with some degree of irony, was fond of calling himself a pupil of Prodicus Protagoras, a; Meno, 96d. Thrasymachus Thrasymachus was a well-known rhetorician in Athens in the latter part of the fifth century B. He is depicted as brash and aggressive, with views on the nature of justice that will be examined in section 3a.
Major Themes of Sophistic Thought a. Nature and Convention The distinction between physis nature and nomos custom, law, convention was a central theme in Greek thought in the second half of the fifth century B.
Before turning to sophistic considerations of these concepts and the distinction between them, it is worth sketching the meaning of the Greek terms. Some of the Ionian thinkers now referred to as presocratics, including Thales and Heraclitus, used the term physis for reality as a whole, or at least its underlying material constituents, referring to the investigation of nature in this context as historia inquiry rather than philosophy.
The term nomos refers to a wide range of normative concepts extending from customs and conventions to positive law. Nonetheless, increased travel, as exemplified by the histories of Herodotus, led to a greater understanding of the wide array of customs, conventions and laws among communities in the ancient world.
This recognition sets up the possibility of a dichotomy between what is unchanging and according to nature and what is merely a product of arbitrary human convention. The dichotomy between physis and nomos seems to have been something of a commonplace of sophistic thought and was appealed to by Protagoras and Hippias among others. Antiphon applies the distinction to notions of justice and injustice, arguing that the majority of things which are considered just according to nomos are in direct conflict with nature and hence not truly or naturally just DK 87 A His account of the relation between physis and nomos nonetheless owes a debt to sophistic thought.
Callicles argues that conventional justice is a kind of slave morality imposed by the many to constrain the desires of the superior few. What is just according to nature, by contrast, is seen by observing animals in nature and relations between political communities where it can be seen that the strong prevail over the weak. Callicles himself takes this argument in the direction of a vulgar sensual hedonism motivated by the desire to have more than others pleonexiabut sensual hedonism as such does not seem to be a necessary consequence of his account of natural justice.
Like Callicles, Thrasymachus accuses Socrates of deliberate deception in his arguments, particularly in the claim the art of justice consists in a ruler looking after their subjects. Justice in conventional terms is simply a naive concern for the advantage of another.
Our condition improved when Zeus bestowed us with shame and justice; these enabled us to develop the skill of politics and hence civilized communal relations and virtue. Protagoras measure thesis is as follows: A human being is the measure of all things, of those things that are, that they are, and of those things that are not, that they are not DK, 80B1. On this reading we can regard Protagoras as asserting that if the wind, for example, feels or seems cold to me and feels or seems warm to you, then the wind is cold for me and is warm for you.
The Sophists (Ancient Greek)
All three interpretations are live options, with i perhaps the least plausible. Whatever in any particular city is considered just and admirable is just and admirable in that city, for so long as the convention remains in place c. One difficulty this passage raises is that while Protagoras asserted that all beliefs are equally true, he also maintained that some are superior to others because they are more subjectively fulfilling for those who hold them.
Protagoras thus seems to want it both ways, insofar as he removes an objective criterion of truth while also asserting that some subjective states are better than others. His appeal to better and worse beliefs could, however, be taken to refer to the persuasiveness and pleasure induced by certain beliefs and speeches rather than their objective truth.
The other major source for sophistic relativism is the Dissoi Logoi, an undated and anonymous example of Protagorean antilogic. In the Dissoi Logoi we find competing arguments on five theses, including whether the good and the bad are the same or different, and a series of examples of the relativity of different cultural practices and laws.
Overall the Dissoi Logoi can be taken to uphold not only the relativity of truth but also what Barney89 has called the variability thesis: Language and Reality Understandably given their educational program, the sophists placed great emphasis upon the power of speech logos.
Logos is a notoriously difficult term to translate and can refer to thought and that about which we speak and think as well as rational speech or language. The sophists were interested in particular with the role of human discourse in the shaping of reality.
Rhetoric was the centrepiece of the curriculum, but literary interpretation of the work of poets was also a staple of sophistic education. The extant fragments attributed to the historical Gorgias indicate not only scepticism towards essential being and our epistemic access to this putative realm, but an assertion of the omnipotence of persuasive logos to make the natural and practical world conform to human desires.
The elimination of the criterion refers to the rejection of a standard that would enable us to distinguish clearly between knowledge and opinion about being and nature. Whereas Protagoras asserted that man is the measure of all things, Gorgias concentrated upon the status of truth about being and nature as a discursive construction. About the Nonexistent or on Nature transgresses the injunction of Parmenides that one cannot say of what is that it is not. Employing a series of conditional arguments in the manner of Zeno, Gorgias asserts that nothing exists, that if it did exist it could not be apprehended, and if it was apprehended it could not be articulated in logos.
The elaborate parody displays the paradoxical character of attempts to disclose the true nature of beings through logos: For that by which we reveal is logos, but logos is not substances and existing things. Therefore we do not reveal existing things to our comrades, but logos, which is something other than substances DK, 82B3 Even if knowledge of beings was possible, its transmission in logos would always be distorted by the rift between substances and our apprehension and communication of them.
Gorgias also suggests, even more provocatively, that insofar as speech is the medium by which humans articulate their experience of the world, logos is not evocative of the external, but rather the external is what reveals logos. An understanding of logos about nature as constitutive rather than descriptive here supports the assertion of the omnipotence of rhetorical expertise.
If humans had knowledge of the past, present or future they would not be compelled to adopt unpredictable opinion as their counsellor. The endless contention of astronomers, politicians and philosophers is taken to demonstrate that no logos is definitive. Human ignorance about non-existent truth can thus be exploited by rhetorical persuasion insofar as humans desire the illusion of certainty imparted by the spoken word: The effect of logos upon the condition of the soul is comparable to the power of drugs over the nature of bodies.
For just as different drugs dispel different secretions from the body, and some bring an end to disease and others to life, so also in the case of logoi, some distress, others delight, some cause fear, others make hearers bold, and some drug and bewitch the soul with a kind of evil persuasion DK, 82B All who have persuaded people, Gorgias says, do so by moulding a false logos.
While other forms of power require force, logos makes all its willing slave. The Distinction Between Philosophy and Sophistry The distinction between philosophy and sophistry is in itself a difficult philosophical problem. This closing section examines the attempt of Plato to establish a clear line of demarcation between philosophy and sophistry.
It was Plato who first clearly and consistently refers to the activity of philosophia and much of what he has to say is best understood in terms of an explicit or implicit contrast with the rival schools of the sophists and Isocrates who also claimed the title philosophia for his rhetorical educational program.
The related questions as to what a sophist is and how we can distinguish the philosopher from the sophist were taken very seriously by Plato. He also acknowledges the difficulty inherent in the pursuit of these questions and it is perhaps revealing that the dialogue dedicated to the task, Sophist, culminates in a discussion about the being of non-being.
It can thus be argued that the search for the sophist and distinction between philosophy and sophistry are not only central themes in the Platonic dialogues, but constitutive of the very idea and practice of philosophy, at least in its original sense as articulated by Plato.
This point has been recognised by recent poststructuralist thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Jean Francois-Lyotard in the context of their project to place in question central presuppositions of the Western philosophical tradition deriving from Plato.
Lyotard views the sophists as in possession of unique insight into the sense in which discourses about what is just cannot transcend the realm of opinion and pragmatic language games The prospects for establishing a clear methodological divide between philosophy and sophistry are poor. Apart from the considerations mentioned in section 1, it would be misleading to say that the sophists were unconcerned with truth or genuine theoretical investigation and Socrates is clearly guilty of fallacious reasoning in many of the Platonic dialogues.
This in large part explains why contemporary scholarship on the distinction between philosophy and sophistry has tended to focus on a difference in moral character. For Plato, at least, these two aspects of the sophistic education tell us something about the persona of the sophist as the embodiment of a distinctive attitude towards knowledge.
The fact that the sophists taught for profit may not seem objectionable to modern readers; most present-day university professors would be reluctant to teach pro bono. It is clearly a major issue for Plato, however. Plato can barely mention the sophists without contemptuous reference to the mercenary aspect of their trade: It is significant that students in the Academy, arguably the first higher education institution, were not required to pay fees.
This is only part of the story, however. A good starting point is to consider the etymology of the term philosophia as suggested by the Phaedrus and Symposium.
What is the main similarity between Socrates and sophists? - Quora
Similarly, in the Symposium, Socrates refers to an exception to his ignorance. The philosopher is someone who strives after wisdom — a friend or lover of wisdom — not someone who possesses wisdom as a finished product, as the sophists claimed to do and as their name suggests.
The sophists, according to Plato, considered knowledge to be a ready-made product that could be sold without discrimination to all comers. The Theages, a Socratic dialogue whose authorship some scholars have disputed, but which expresses sentiments consistent with other Platonic dialogues, makes this point with particular clarity.
The farmer Demodokos has brought his son, Theages, who is desirous of wisdom, to Socrates. As Socrates questions his potential pupil regarding what sort of wisdom he seeks, it becomes evident that Theages seeks power in the city and influence over other men. Since Theages is looking for political wisdom, Socrates refers him to the statesmen and the sophists.
Disavowing his ability to compete with the expertise of Gorgias and Prodicus in this respect, Socrates nonetheless admits his knowledge of the erotic things, a subject about which he claims to know more than any man who has come before or indeed any of those to come Theages, b.
In response to the suggestion that he study with a sophist, Theages reveals his intention to become a pupil of Socrates. Perhaps reluctant to take on an unpromising pupil, Socrates insists that he must follow the commands of his daimonion, which will determine whether those associating with him are capable of making any progress Theages, c.
The dialogue ends with an agreement that all parties make trial of the daimonion to see whether it permits of the association. Whereas the sophists accept pupils indiscriminately, provided they have the money to pay, Socrates is oriented by his desire to cultivate the beautiful and the good in promising natures.
In short, the difference between Socrates and his sophistic contemporaries, as Xenophon suggests, is the difference between a lover and a prostitute.
By contrast, Protagoras and Gorgias are shown, in the dialogues that bear their names, as vulnerable to the conventional opinions of the paying fathers of their pupils, a weakness contributing to their refutation.
The sophists are thus characterised by Plato as subordinating the pursuit of truth to worldly success, in a way that perhaps calls to mind the activities of contemporary advertising executives or management consultants. In the Sophist, Plato says that dialectic — division and collection according to kinds — is the knowledge possessed by the free man or philosopher Sophist, c.