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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 ?
Taking what is substantive in each element, and rejecting in each its exclusiveness, or rejecting what is sophistical and accidental in each, and bringing both into dialectic union, we have the truly catholic order, and a really catholic civilization, together with the principle and conditions of the unity and peace of Christendom.
Hu demonstrated the Sophistical attitude first and foremost in the Literary Revolution's creative impetus.
Reverting to our previous point, we can say that the sophistical skepticism and agnosticism acquits the senses of suspicion and prescribes, conversely, a reliance on them in our cognition.
Existem tres variedades destas ambiguidades e anfibolias (2): (l) quando a expressao, ou o nome, tem estritamente mais de um significado; (2) quando, por costume os usamos assim; (3) quando as palavras que, tomadas isoladamente tem um sentido simples, tem mais de um significado quando combinadas [...] (ARISTOTLE, Sophistical Refutations, 4, traducao nossa).
The Meno illustrates two competing philosophies of education as it invites students and teachers to reject traditional sophistical education and embrace a progressive Socratic education.
Pickard-Cambridge: It is, too, altogether absurd to discuss Refutation without first discussing Proof: for a refutation is a proof" (Parte 10, On Sophistical Refutations, Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.).
More sophistical asymmetric models are proposed [14-16].
But no congressional vote about Syria can damage the presidency as much as Obama has done by overreaching, and by sophistical rhetoric that refutes his appeals for unconditional trust.
To Erasmus's protestations for the reasonableness of free will, Luther attacks with reductio ad absurdum, pointing out contradictions in Erasmus's ostensibly sophistical distinctions.
This availability of the sophistical equipment and experience qualified SQUH to perform such sophisticated operations.
(32) I take it that by 'ordinary beliefs' here, Aristotle means something like the 'common things' (koina) he discusses in Sophistical Refutations 11; such 'common things' are known by everyone --even by non-scientists.
Though agricultural biotechnology companies such as Monsanto have enabled the vital production of greater yields of high-quality crops, allowing for cheaper and more widely available food, Marder seeks to curtail these life-promoting values through a sophistical argument for "plant rights." In so doing, he reveals himself to be no dif ferent from scores of other environmentalists who, though they hide behind a veneer of concern for "the environment," are actually anti-industry and, therefore, are anti-man.