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Related to sophist: Socrates, Plato, Protagoras


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 ?
As Bartlett observes, while in the Protagoras the sophist cleans up his teaching for the sake of attracting students, in the Theaetetus Socrates rehabilitates and perhaps improves on Protagoras' views for the sake of clarifying a question central to his own life: "What is knowledge?
The inspiration Hu found in the Sophists is not indicative of Hu's desire to westernize China.
The book can be divided into three parts, mirroring the parts of the Sophist itself.
The Visitor violates this rule in the Sophist when he separates the art of contradiction ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) into skilled ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and unskilled ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) forms of arguing (Sph 225c).
14) In a footnote to the introduction of the collected works of rhetorician Isocrates (436--338BCE), George Norlin writes: "The term sophist had not until later times any invidious associations.
Prodicos considered himself a nature philosopher and a sophist, and in his opinion the good and the bad are relative; what it is good for one, it is bad for the other one and vice versa.
Hutchinson has suggested, the roots of this dispute reach back at least as far as the sophist Protagoras (30).
Kennelly, plainly not a sophist by any means, added: "We rated Invasor on what we think he did, and put Deep Impact up to the highest rating we could, based on what he achieved.
The filly showed a natural aptitude for jumping and, having travelled strongly, was in command with three to jump before idling in front and beating Sophist by three lengths with Island Life another twelve lengths adrift in third spot.
Sophist credited Monaghan-based trainer John McConnell with the biggest success of his career as he landed the Grade 3 juvenile hurdle under Philip Enright.
Lounaos (9-10), winner of the November Handicap on the level at Leopardstown earlier this month, stayed on well to account for Sophist by three lengths.
In a world where most architectural publishing is unimaginative and kowtows to the convoluted architecturalstar-system and the main protagonists sophist ideas, Princeton are to be applauded for the breadth of their vision in publishing this book.