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Related to Sophists: Protagoras


(sŏf`ĭsts), originally, itinerant teachers in Greece (5th cent. B.C.) who provided education through lectures and in return received fees from their audiences. The term was given as a mark of respect. ProtagorasProtagoras
, c.490–c.421 B.C., Greek philosopher of Abdera, one of the more distinguished Sophists. He taught for a time in Athens, where he was a friend of Pericles and knew Socrates, but was forced to flee because of his professed agnosticism.
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 was perhaps the first to style himself a Sophist and to receive payment for his instruction. He and GorgiasGorgias
, c.485–c.380 B.C., Greek Sophist. From his native city, Leontini, Sicily, he was sent as an ambassador to Athens, where he settled to teach and practice rhetoric.
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 were respected thinkers, but others after them, notably Thrasymachus and Hippias, and many lesser figures, turned education into the development of skills useful to political careers. Hence, they cared little for the disciplined search for truth (dialectics), teaching in its place the art of persuasion (rhetoric). Although not properly speaking a philosophical school, they appear to have shared a basic skepticismskepticism
[Gr.,=to reflect], philosophic position holding that the possibility of knowledge is limited either because of the limitations of the mind or because of the inaccessibility of its object. It is more loosely used to denote any questioning attitude.
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 regarding the possibility of knowing truth. The more notorious of them boasted of their ability to "make the worst appear the better reason." They were criticized by Plato and Aristotle for their emphasis on rhetoric rather than on pure knowledge and for their acceptance of money, a judgment that has passed into history and has given the term sophist its present meaning. George Grote's History of Greece (1846) was one of the first defenses of the Sophists. Modern studies have stressed the contributions of Protagoras and Gorgias to a theory of knowledge and to ethics. They are frequently cited today as forerunners of pragmatism.


See W. K. C. Guthrie, Sophists (1971); H. Diels, ed., The Older Sophists (1972).

References in periodicals archive ?
Protagoras, the professor of "good counsel," recognizes that his true competitors are not the other individual sophists.
Like the Greek Sophists, Hu was more concerned with the creative function of doubt.
The next section will discuss one last group of ancient thinkers who did not have a solution to the problem, but an original interpretation of it: Protagoras and the sophists.
The Visitor also uses the same joints to account for more than one division, so that the number of joints used in the Sophist and Statesman is smaller than the total number of divisions made.
The sophists and their rhetoric were primarily concerned with how forms of thought are inculcated.
The humanism, the relativism, the emphasis on knowledge and experience, on the ability to convince, on the real needs of the moment are benchmarks that reveal why the sophists had such a great success especially on young people.
Lesley Brown argues for an uncommon reading of the Sophist.
The sophists allege that techne is a matter of applying exceptionless general principles in particular situations.
For the Sophists, there is nothing very mysterious going on: they know, whereas the student does not; the student needs to be encouraged, cajoled, and entertained to learn.
In this way, the sophists tried to entangle, entrap, and confuse their opponents, and even, if this were not possible, to beat them down by mere violence and noise.
Poets provided sophists with material to disrupt the orderly conduct of society and to incite class conflict.
The sophists of the Eisteddfod court and council is pouring irrational scorn on Alun Pugh, a dedicated, hard working AM, and on the Labour administration in Cardiff, cannot hide from the fact that failure to attract a wider audience, even of Welsh speakers, is theirs, and theirs alone.