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Related to Sophists: Protagoras
Sophists(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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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).