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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 ?
The Literary Revolution would till the ground for creative cultural qualities that would be foundational for China's future similar to the way the Sophistic attitude had been foundational in the West.
Fiction, Mimesis and the Performance of the Greek Past in the Second Sophistic.
The author also notes a recent controversy concerning the methods and aims of sophistic scholarship.
Nevertheless, Plato's dramaturgical strategy of setting the dialogue at Callias' house and selecting certain notorious Athenians to be students of the Sophists there correlates Sophistic activity and the corruption of the Athenian people.
More recent scholarship has resisted such a sharp dichotomy between simple and sophistic, suggesting that this view does not do justice to the complexity of Callirhoe (see e.
In an age plagued with the dissonance between a sophistic reality staged by politicians and corporate powers.
Scholars studying Lucian's The Hall have shown how Second Sophistic authors were expected to criticize a work of art.
Philosophical rhetoric is distinguished from sophistic rhetoric not by a precise method but rather by how Socrates' speech is informed by the presence of .
It is also expressed in the critical digressions on issues relating to the value of true rhetoric and the danger of its sophistic perversion.
The latter, according to Swain's insightful exposition, revived the best elements of the Second Sophistic project, combining artful Atticism, a more personal approach to the gods, and outspoken criticism of imperial corruption in the vein of Dio Chrysostom.
Her novella, The Promenade of Monsieur de Montaigne, despite its many references to Homer, the Bible, Catullus, and Virgil, clearly derives from the hugely popular translations of Second Sophistic Greek novels (such as those of the second-century C.
Altman's understanding of Elizabethan drama as sophistic, that is, as conceived and responded to in a spirit of dialectical enquiry (The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1978)).