History In the second half of the 5th century BC, particularly in Athens, “sophist” came to denote a class of mostly itinerant intellectuals who taught courses in various
subjects, speculated about the nature of language and culture, and employed rhetoric to achieve their purposes, generally to persuade or convince others.
Most of these sophists are known today primarily through the writings of their opponents (particularly Plato and Aristotle), which makes it difficult to assemble an unbiased
view of their practices and teachings.
In some cases, such as Gorgias, original rhetorical works are extant, allowing the author to be judged on his own terms, but in most cases, knowledge about what individual
sophists wrote or said comes from fragmentary quotations that lack context and are usually hostile.
However, this may involve the Greek word “doxa”, which means “culturally shared belief” rather than “individual opinion”.
 However, despite the opposition from philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, it is clear that sophists had a vast influence on a number of spheres,
including the growth of knowledge and on ethical-political theory.
Sophists could be described both as teachers and philosophers, having travelled about in Greece teaching their students various life skills, particularly rhetoric and public
Plato’s dialogs present his generally hostile views on the sophists’ thought, due to which he is largely responsible for the modern view of the sophist as an avaricious instructor
who teaches deception.
In one dialogue Socrates even stated that the sophists were better educators than he was, which he validated by sending one of his students to study under a sophist.
Lycophron Main article: Lycophron (sophist) Lycophron is mentioned as a sophist by Aristotle, and was probably among the students of Gorgias He rejected the supposed
value of an aristocratic birth, claiming that “Now the nobility of good birth is obscure, and its grandeur a matter of words.
 Protagoras Main article: Protagoras Protagoras was one of the best known and most successful sophists of his era; however, some later philosophers,
such as Sextus Empiricus treat him as a founder of a philosophy rather than as a sophist.
However, Protagoras, who is regarded as the first sophist, argued that arete was the result of training rather than birth.
In the present day, however, a sophist refers to someone who deliberately argues using fallacious arguments or reasoning, in order to mislead; see the section § Modern usage
Sophists contributed to the new democracy in part by espousing expertise in public deliberation, the foundation of decision-making, which allowed—and perhaps required—a tolerance
of the beliefs of others.
 This means that he treats law as a mere means, in the context of a (perhaps primitive) social contract theory, without considering it as something special, in contradistinction
to, e.g., Plato but similar to both Thrasymachus and Callicles, albeit that their theories have – as far as can be ascertained from the information available about them – more specific characteristics.
Thus, by the time of the Roman Empire, a sophist was simply a teacher of rhetoric and a popular public speaker.
In addition, sophists had a great impact on the early development of law, as the sophists were the first lawyers in the world.
Many of these quotations come from Aristotle, who seems to have held the sophists in slight regard.
In one case, the Dissoi logoi, an important sophist text survived but knowledge of its author has been lost.
From Plato’s assessment of sophists it could be concluded that sophists do not offer true knowledge, but only an opinion of things.
 Gorgias Main article: Gorgias Gorgias was a well-known sophist whose writings showcased his ability to make counter-intuitive and unpopular positions appear stronger.
The historical context provides evidence for their considerable influence, as Athens became more and more democratic during the period in which the sophists were most active.
Protagoras taught his students the necessary skills and knowledge for a successful life, particularly in politics.
 Isocrates, one of the later sophists, was critical of the education practices of his predecessors Isocrates One of the few speeches that have survived from ancient
Greece is Isocrates’ Against the Sophists.
Democracy The sophists’ rhetorical techniques were useful for any young nobleman seeking public office.
[full citation needed] Major figures Most of what is known about sophists comes from commentaries from others.
Many rhetoricians during this period were instructed under specialists in Greek rhetorical studies as part of their standard education.
He trained his pupils to argue from both points of view because he believed that truth could not be limited to just one side of the argument.
Contradictions (antithesis ) were important to the Sophists because they believed that a good rhetorician should be able to defend both his own opinion and the exact opposite
Aristophanes, however, made no distinction between sophists and philosophers, and showed either of them as willing to argue any position for the right fee.
Plato describes them as shadows of the true, saying, “the art of contradiction making, descended from an insincere kind of conceited mimicry, of the semblance-making breed,
derived from image making, distinguished as portion, not divine but human, of production, that presents, a shadow play of words—such are the blood and the lineage which can, with perfect truth, be assigned to the authentic sophist”.
 The works of Plato and Aristotle have had much influence on the modern view of the “sophist” as a greedy instructor who uses rhetorical sleight-of-hand and ambiguities
of language in order to deceive, or to support fallacious reasoning.
But it was, to a large degree, to meet the everyday needs and respond to the practical problems of Greco-Roman society.
He, thus, believed that law is a matter of agreement, a social convention and not a natural or universal standard (there is no evidence that Lycophron rejected the idea that
law is a universal standard – indeed his view appears far more universalist than that of Aristotle, in that Lycophron proposes a single standard, what would now be called the non aggression principle, in relation to all states).
Regardless of his efforts toward this end, Greek history was still preferred by the majority of aristocratic Romans during this time.
Later, Aristotle described the means used in Gorgias’ speech as “Gorgias figures”.
Unlike Plato’s approach, the Sophist rhetoricians did not focus on identifying the truth, but the most important thing for them was to prove their case.
“Sophists did, however, have one important thing in common: whatever else they did or did not claim to know, they characteristically had a great understanding of what words
would entertain or impress or persuade an audience.
He is the author of the famous saying, “Man is the measure of all things”, which is the opening sentence of a work called Truth.
For the sophists, the primary purpose was to win the dispute in order to prove their excellence in word usage.
In this speech, Gorgias aims to make something almost impossible – to justify Helen, about whom the people have already had a negative opinion.
It came to dominate higher education and left its mark on many forms of literature.
In some cases, such as Gorgias, some of his works survive, allowing the author to be judged on his own terms.
The first sophist whose speeches are a perfect example of a sophisticated approach is Gorgias.
The sophists’ practice of questioning the existence and roles of traditional deities and investigating into the nature of the heavens and the earth prompted a popular reaction
Plato sought to distinguish sophists from philosophers, arguing that a sophist was a person who made his living through deception, whereas a philosopher was a lover of wisdom
who sought the truth.
Gorgias authored a lost work known as On the Non-Existent, which argues that nothing exists.
Despite his oratorical skill, Cicero pressed for a more liberal education in Roman instruction which focused more in the broad sciences including Roman history.
These texts often depict the sophists in an unflattering light, and it is unclear how accurate or fair Plato’s representation of them may be; however, Protagoras and Prodicus
are portrayed in a largely positive light in Protagoras.
Their status as lawyers was a result of their highly developed skills in argument.
Examples include meteorosophist, which roughly translates to “expert in celestial phenomena”; gymnosophist (or “naked sophist”, a word used to refer to Indian philosophers),
deipnosophist or “dinner sophist” (as in the title of Athenaeus’s Deipnosophistae), and iatrosophist, a type of physician in the later Roman period.
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