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one of the pre-Socratic philosophers who were itinerant professional teachers of oratory and argument and who were prepared to enter into debate on any matter however specious



a term with two meanings in ancient Greek literature. First, the term referred to any intelligent, resourceful, clever, and knowledgeable person, sometimes a person of a specialized profession. Second, the designation “Sophists” was used in a narrower sense, to designate the philosophers and teachers of wisdom and rhetoric in the second half of the fifth century B.C. and the first half of the fourth century B.C. who were the first in Greece to teach their art for a fee. The most important Sophists were Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, Prodicus, Antiphon, and Cri-tias. The Sophists were not a homogeneous group. They differed in their sociopolitical views; Protagoras, for example, sympathized with slaveholders’ democracy, whereas Critias was an enemy of democracy. They also differed in their attitude toward previous Greek philosophy; Protagoras, for example, built on the ideas of Heraclitus, whereas Gorgias and Antiphon began with the ideas of the Eleatic school. Furthermore, they differed in their own philosophic ideas.

Several common traits may be distinguished in the Sophists’ philosophy, including a shift of philosophic concerns from natural philosophy to ethics, politics, and the theory of knowledge. The Sophists urged the study of man himself and his subjective characteristics, and in doing this often approached relativism and subjectivism. The ideas of the Sophists became an integral element of ancient Greek philosophy and influenced not only Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Megarian school, and the Cynics, but also the philosophy of Hellenism as a whole, including Neoplatonism.

Sophistry began degenerating as early as the fourth century B.C. (Euthydemus and others). The Sophists gradually became verbal jugglers ready to defend or refute any idea by means of specious arguments and the other methods described in detail by Aristotle in Sophistical Refutations.

“The second or new Sophistic movement” is the name that has been given to a literary current of the second century A.D. that tried to revive the classical Greek ideas and style of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Members of this movement were erudite and had an excellent knowledge of the preceding Greek literature; the only one who came close to continuing the traditions of the Sophists in the proper sense of the term, however, was Lucian.


Diels, H. von. Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 12th ed. Berlin, 1966.
In Russian translation:
Makovel’skii, A. O. Sofisty, fases. 1–2. Baku, 1940–41.


Hegel, G. W. F. Soch., vol. 10. Moscow-Leningrad, 1932. Pages 3–33.
Giliarov, A. N. Grecheskie sofisty. Moscow, 1888.
Chernyshev, B. S. Sofisty. Moscow, 1929.
Losev, A. F. Istoriia antichnoi estetiki; Sofisty, Sokrat, Platon. Moscow, 1969.
Dupréel, F. Les Sophistes. Paris-Neuchâtel, 1948.
Gomperz, H. Sophistik und Rhetorik. Leipzig, 1965. (Reprint.)
Jaeger, W. W. Paideia, vol. 1. Berlin, 1959.
Guthrie, W. K. A History of Greek Philosophy. Cambridge, 1969. Pages 1–322.


References in periodicals archive ?
Sonnet 85, for instance, opposes a "true spirit" and authentic voice avant la lettre--qualities of the "un-lettered" speaker--to the sophistically "refined" pens of rival poets, but the poet's voice, ironically, is reduced to echoes of "Amen.
Mill believed that the "gravest" offense in discussion was "to argue sophistically, to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, or to misrepresent the opposite opinion" ([1859] 1975, 51).
In a series of sophistically argued speeches, Clemenceau demanded that two new states, Poland and Czechoslovakia, be strengthened by dismembering eastern Germany, that a Rhenish buffer state be torn out of the flank of western Germany, and that, along with Alsace-Lorraine, the iron-and coal-rich Saar Basin be ceded to France.
The driving force behind this sophistically prepared terrain is the critique of the dominant mode of modem thinking in general and management theory in particular, in short, its bias towards utopia.
Lucian sophistically wants to animate the house, to give it memory and the gift of speech directed at the pepaideumenos, while denying to the vulgar imagination its personified Echo (despite her status as mythical exemplum
Here Diodorus argues sophistically and wants to deceive us by an ambiguity [[Greek Text Omitted]].
Thus, while he ostensibly rejects "human solipsism," he doesn't renounce solipsism itself but rather champions it in "transhuman' form: "transhuman magnificence' seems independent of - sophistically remote from - humanity.
By commenting the persistent insisting of the "brand new" Greek "extreme demands" which are clearly not new, analyst Zarko Trajanoski wonders in Dnevnik why are the Greek positions declared so sophistically but not the Macedonian.