He is known as the first of the Sophists, i.e.
His most important work was 11Epi cuo ew (De natura), of which considerable fragments are extant (chiefly in Simplicius); it is possible that he wrote also Against the Sophists and On the Nature of Man, to which the well-known fragment about the veins would belong; possibly these discussions were subdivisions of his great work.
From the Greek sophists they borrowed ingenious ways of playing off one duty against another, or duty in general against self-interest - leaving the doubter in the alternative of neglecting the one and being a knave, or neglecting the other and being a fool.
Of these the best known were: the Kolakes, in which he pilloried the spendthrift Callias, who wasted his substance on sophists and parasites; Maricas, an attack on Hyperbolus, the successor of Cleon, under a fictitious name; the Baptae, against Alcibiades and his clubs, at which profligate foreign rites were practised.
The Sophists and the Sceptics, Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics and the Epicureans took up the question, and from the time of Locke and Kant it has been prominent in modern philosophy.
This seems to have been interpreted by its author and by the Sophists in general in a subjective sense, with the result that it became the motto of a sceptical and individualistic movement in contemporary philosophy and ethics.
A famous problem concerning the cube, namely, to construct a cube of twice the volume of a given cube, was attacked with great vigour by the Pythagoreans, Sophists and Platonists.
The Sophists were the first in Greece to dissolve knowledge into individual and momentary opinion (Protagoras), or dialectically to deny the possibility of knowledge (Gorgias).
The prominence given by most of the Sophists to rhetoric, their cultivation of a subjective readiness as the essential equipment for life, their substitution of persuasion for conviction, all mark the sceptical undertone of their teaching.
But with these insignificant exceptions it holds true that, after the sceptical wave marked by the Sophists, scepticism does not reappear till after the exhaustion of the Socratic impulse in Aristotle.
Thus Cyrenaicism goes beyond the critical scepticism of the Sophists and deduces a single, universal aim for all men, namely pleasure.
After the manner of the sophists of the period, Bion travelled through Greece and Macedonia, and was admitted to the literary circle at the court of Antigonus Gonatas.
ZocearLKoL g XEyXoL: Sophistici Elenchi: On sophistic (roccaTLKOS) or eristic syllogism (EpLaTLKOS avXAoytapos), so called from the fallacies used by sophists in refutation (€AEy X os) of their opponents.
PHILOSTRATUS, the name of several, three (or four), Greek sophists of the Roman imperial period - (t) Philostratus "the Athenian" (c. 170-245), (2) his nephew (?) Philostratus "of Lemnos" (born c. 190); (3) a grandson (?) of (2).
1 He wrote also Blot /ocftorcov (Lives of the Sophists), Gymnasticus 'and Epistolae (mainly of an erotic character).
The Lives of the Sophists gives the praenomen Flavius, which, however, is found elsewhere only in Tzetzes.
The fact that the author of Apollonius is also the author of the Lives of the Sophists is confirmed by internal evidence.
The work is divided into two parts: the' first dealing with the ancient Sophists, e.g.
We must be content to assume two Lemnian Philostrati, both sophists, living in Rome.
SOPHISTS (from Gr.
For nearly a hundred years the sophists held almost a monopoly of general or liberal education.
Further, since Socrates and the Socratics were educators, they too might be, and in general were, regarded as sophists; but, as they conceived truth - so far as it was attainable - rather than success in life, in the law court, in the assembly, or in debate, to be the right end of intellectual effort, they were at variance with their rivals, and are commonly ranked by historians, not with the sophists, who confessedly despaired of knowledge, but with the philosophers, who, however unavailingly, continued to seek it.
With the establishment of the great philosophical schools - first, of the Academy, next of the Lyceum - the philosophers took the place of the sophists as the educators of Greece.
The sophistical movement was then, primarily, an attempt to provide a general or liberal education which should supplement the customary instruction in reading, writing, gymnastic and music. But, as the sophists of the first period chose for their instruments grammar, style, literature and oratory, while those of the second and third developments were professed rhetoricians, sophistry exercised an important influence upon literature.
Finally, the practice of rhetoric and eristic, which presently became prominent in sophistical teaching, had, or at any rate seemed to have, a mischievous effect upon conduct; and the charge of seeking, whether in exposition or in debate, not truth but victory - which charge was impressively urged against the sophists by Plato - grew into an accusation of holding and teaching immoral and unsocial doctrines, and in our own day has been the subject of eager controversy.
After Protagoras the most prominent of the literary sophists was Prodicus of Ceos.
It is plain that Prodicus was an affected pedant; yet his simple conventional morality found favour, and Plato (Rep. 600 C) couples him with Protagoras in his testimony to the popularity of the sophists and their teaching.
At Athens, the centre of the intellectual life of Greece, there was soon to be found a host of sophists; some of them strangers, others citizens; some of them bred under Protagoras and Prodicus, others self-taught.
In the teaching of the sophists of this younger generation two points are observable.
3 18 E) makes Protagoras pointedly refer to sophists who, " when young men have made their escape from the arts, plunge them once more into technical study, and teach them such subjects as arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and music."
That he should do so was only natural, since his position as a teacher of rhetoric was already secure when Protagoras made his first appearance in the character of a sophist; and, as Protagoras, Prodicus and the rest of the sophists of culture offered a comprehensive education, of which oratory formed only a part, whilst Gorgias made no pretence of teaching " civic excellence " (Plato, Meno, 95 C), and found a substitute for philosophy, not in literature generally, but in the professional study of rhetoric alone, it would have been convenient if the distinction between sophistry and rhetoric had been maintained.
It was only natural then that some of those who professed to prepare young Athenians for public life should give to their teaching a distinctively political direction; and accordingly we find Isocrates recognizing teachers of politics, and discriminating them at once from those earlier sophists who gave popular instruction in the arts and from the contemporary eristics.
To this class, that of the political sophists, may be assigned Lycophron, Alcidamas and Isocrates himself.
For, though that celebrated personage would have liked to be called, not " sophist " but " political philosopher," and tried to fasten the name of " sophist " upon his opponents the Socratics, it is clear from his own statement that he was commonly ranked with the sophists, and that he had no claim, except on the score of superior popularity and success, to be dissociated from the other teachers of political rhetoric. It is true that he was not a political sophist of the vulgar type, that as a theorist he was honest and patriotic, and that, in addition to his fame as a teacher, he had a distinct reputation as a man of letters; but he was a professor of political rhetoric, and, as such, in the phraseology of the day, a sophist.
Indeed, the sophists generally had a special predisposition to error of this sort, not only because sophistry was from the beginning a substitute for the pursuit of truth, but also because the successful professor, travelling from city to city, or settling abroad, could take no part in public affairs, and thus was not at every step reminded of the importance of the " material " element of exposition and reasoning.
Finding in the cultivation of " virtue " or " excellence " a substitute for the pursuit of scientific truth, and in disputation the sole means by which " virtue " or " excellence " could be attained, he resembled at once the sophists of culture and the sophists of eristic. But, inasmuch as the " virtue " or " excellence " which he sought was that of the man rather than that of the official, while the disputation which he practised had for its aim, not victory, but the elimination of error, the differences which separated him from the sophists of culture and the sophists of eristic were only less considerable than the resemblances which he bore to both; and further, though his whole time and attention were bestowed upon the education of young Athenians, his theory of the relations of teacher and pupil differed from that of the recognized professors of education, inasmuch as the taking of fees seemed to him to entail a base surrender of the teacher's independence.
With these resemblances to the contemporary professors of education, and with these differences, were Socrates and the Socratics sophists or not?
Again, as the Socratics - Plato himself, when he established himself at the Academy, being no exception - were, like their master, educators rather than philosophers, and in their teaching laid especial stress upon discussion, they, too, were doubtless regarded as sophists, not by Isocrates only, but by their contemporaries in general; and it may be conjectured that the disputatious tendencies of the Megarian school made it all the more difficult for Plato and others to secure a proper appreciation of the difference between dialectic, or discussion with a view to the discovery of truth, and eristic, or discussion with a view to victory.
As for Socrates, he ranked himself neither with the philosophers, who professed to know, nor with the sophists, who professed to teach; and, if he sometimes described himself as a cbtX6a040s he was careful to indicate that he pretended to no other knowledge than that of his own limitations.
The Socratics) dialectic; (3) that the differences between the different groups of sophists were not inconsiderable, and that in particular the teaching of the rhetoricians was distinct in origin, and, in so far as its aim was success in a special walk of life, distinct in character, from the more general teaching of the sophists of culture, the eristics, and the dialecticians, while the teaching of the dialecticians was discriminated from that of the rest, in so far as the aim of the dialecticians was truth, or at least the bettering of opinion; and, consequently, (4) that, in awarding praise and blame to sophistry and its representatives, the distinctive characteristics of the groups above enumerated must be studiously kept in view.
Of the two conflicting sentiments, the favour of the young, gaining as years passed away, naturally prevailed; sophistry ceased to be novel, and attendance in the lecture-rooms of the sophists came to be thought not less necessary for the youth than attendance in the elementary schools for the boy.
Political rhetoric, but at the same time hints that, though r04cy-ruoi and S fM oXoyuu may be discriminated, they are nevertheless near akin, the one being the ape of philosophy, the other the ape of statesmanship. In short, Plato traces the changes which, in less than a century, had taken place in the meaning of the term, partly through changes in the practice of the sophists, partly through changes in their surroundings and in public opinion, so as to show by a familiar instance that general terms which do not describe natural kinds cannot have a stable connotation.
- If then the sophists, from Protagoras to Isocrates, were before everything educators, it becomes necessary to inquire whether their labours marked or promoted an advance in educational theory and method.
As has been seen, it was just at this pe.iod that philosophy and art ceased to be available for educational purposes, and accordingly the literary sophists were popular precisely because they offered advanced teaching which was neither philosophical nor artistic. Their recognition of the demand and their attempt to satisfy it are no small claims to distinction.
That, whereas before the time of Protagoras there was little higher education in the colonies and less in central Greece, after his time attendance in the lecture-rooms of the sophists was the customary sequel to attendance in the elementary schools, is a fact which speaks for itself.
The education provided by the sophists of culture had positive merits.
Despairing of philosophy - that is to say, of physical science - the sophists were prepared to go all lengths in scepticism.
Accordingly the epideictic sophists in exposition, and the argumentative sophists in debate, one and all, studied, not matter but style, not accuracy but effect, not proof but persuasion.
That this defect was serious was dimly apprehended even by those who frequented and admired the lectures of the earlier sophists; that it was fatal was clearly seen by Socrates, who, himself commonly regarded as a sophist, emphatically reprehended, not only the taking of fees, which was after all a mere incident, objectionable because it seemed to preclude independence of thought, but also the fundamental disregard of truth which infected every part and every phase of sophistical teaching.
To literature and to oratory the sophists rendered good service.
Themselves of necessity stylists, because their professional success largely depended upon skilful and effective exposition, the sophists both of culture and of rhetoric were professedly teachers of the rules of grammar and the principles of written and spoken discourse.
Whereas, when sophistry began, prose composition was hardly practised in central Greece, the sophists were still the leaders in literature and oratory when Plato wrote the Republic, and they had hardly lost their position when Demosthenes delivered the Philippics.
In fact, it is not too much to say that it was the sophists who provided those great masters with their consummate instrument, and it detracts but little from the merit of the makers if they were themselves unable to draw from it its finer tones.
From the days of Protagoras, when this hostility was triumphant and contemptuous, to the days of Isocrates, when it was jealous and bitter, the sophists were declared and consistent sceptics.
It may have been that the sophists' preference of seeming to reality, of success to truth, had a mischievous effect upon the morality of the time; but it is clear that they had no common theory of ethics, and there is no warrant for the assumption that a sophist, as such, specially interested himself in ethical questions.
In short, the attitude of the sophists towards inquiry in general precluded them, collectively and individually, from attachment to any particular theory.
Yet among the so-called sophists there were two who had philosophical leanings, as appears in their willingness to be called by the title of philosopher.
Plato's criticisms of the sophists are then, in the opinion of the present writer, no mere obiter dicta, introduced for purposes of literary adornment or dramatic effect, but rather the expressions of profound and reasoned conviction, and, as such, entitled at any rate to respect.
In this place it is sufficient to say that, while Plato accounts no education satisfactory which has not knowledge for its basis, he emphatically prefers the scepticism of Socrates, which, despairing of knowledge, seeks right opinion, to the scepticism of the sophists, which, despairing of knowledge, abandons the attempt to better existing beliefs.
" The sophists," says Grote, " are spoken of as a new class of men, or sometimes in language which implies a new doctrinal sect or school, as if they then sprang up in Greece for the first time - ostentatious impostors, flattering and duping the rich youth for their own personal gain, undermining the morality of Athens, public and private, and encouraging their pupils to the unscrupulous prosecution of ambition and cupidity.
That the persons styled sophists " were not a sect or school, with common doctrines or method," is clear.