(redirected from sophistic)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Related to sophistic: sophism, sophistry


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 appropriateness of the forum for philosophical discussion must be determined by the configuration of the guests: pretensions of sophistic discussion in the context of a drinking-party are entirely unsuitable (Plu.
By widening Barthes's notion of enthymeme with Walker's sophistic definition, punctum operates as a valuable conceptual schema to analyze photographs.
Concerns are also raised regarding the denial of any "excess" in education that cannot be accounted for beforehand, and the sophistic deficit logic underpinning the self-interested negotiations detailed in these essays indicates the dearth of any language, any imagination, or perhaps any contemporary public capacity to speak for that which lies beyond sophistic self-interest.
For others these activities harbor sophistic [in the 'evil' sense] Svengalies who seek to influencing perception merely in order to extend their self interests.
The author recasts the image of Theodore Roosevelt from that of the conventional wisdom--the loyal, altruistic model nationalist--to that of a sophistic, scheming demagogue willing to stage-manage U.S.
Part 1 lays the foundation for her investigation by analyzing the nature of the Apologists within the context of the "Second Sophistic" revival of self-conscious Hellenism and contemporary notions of travel within the Roman Empire.
My sophistic fault-finding half (which is more like a fault-finding three-quarters, or four-fifths) suspects that Freedman hopes to have it both ways in this book.
The emphasis is on the market conditions as if different and sophistic needs of market segments, needs for specialized, high quality services from one side and high competition that influence on compulsory of vertical integration, very important in placement of tourist product of both mentioned market subjects
The accused, according to a prosecution report, carried sophistic weapons, including automatic machine guns.
The author recasts Theodore Roosevelt, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time, from the conventional wisdom--a loyal, altruistic model nationalist--to a sophistic, scheming demagogue, willing to stage-manage US foreign policy for his own egotistic ends, driven by psychological factors including an extreme case of father worship.
Horseshit--Self-serving moral, sophistic, false, and otherwise intentionally misleading assertions.