The Sophists

Michael Gagarin and Paul Woodruff

in The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780195146875
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


The Sophists

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This article shows that important questions remain to be answered about the topics the sophists studied and taught, and their views, both positive and negative, about truth, religion, and convention. The sophists are united more by common methods and attitudes than by common interests. All sophists, for example, challenged traditional thinking, often in ways that went far beyond questioning the existence of the gods, or the truth of traditional myths, or customary moral rules, all of which had been questioned before. Gorgias, for example argued that nothing exists; Protagoras found fault with Homer's Greek; and Antiphon presented arguments for the innocence of someone who seems obviously guilty. In challenging traditional views, the sophists liked to use deliberately provocative, sometimes paradoxical arguments that seem aimed at capturing the audience's attention rather than enlightening them.

Keywords: sophists; truth; religion; convention; traditional myths; moral rules; Gorgias

Article.  8870 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy

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