Socrates And Sophists

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Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a Sophist as “any of a class of ancient Greek teachers of rhetoric, philosophy, and the art of successful living prominent about the middle of the fifth century B.C. for their adroit subtle and allegedly often specious reasoning,” meaning that they were subtle in their language and their reasoning was often filled with fallacies. The Sophists were rhetoricians; speakers and orators concerned with winning the hearts and ears of their people, much like a politician. Plato (427-347 B.C.) deals greatly with the ideas of sophists in his writings, particularly Gorgias, Protagoras and The Republic, through the idealized character Socrates. Plato was not a Sophist, nor was he a rhetorician. He was a logistician and geometer, concerned, not with persuasion and followers, but with Truth and its methodical pursuit. This put him at odds with many of the Sophists, who often shunned the truth to gain popularity and who often created flawed morals and skewed senses of Justice based on this basic lack of Truth. Three main Sophists of Plato’s and Socrates’ days were Gorgias, Thrasymachus and Protagoras. Each one had his own ideas which were dangerous to society because of their lack of a base in Truth, and Socrates and Plato fought the ideas of each heartily. But what was so dangerous about the ideas of the sophists? Each one was different. For Gorgias, he attempted to destroy the idea of Reality with his philosophy on non-existence.

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