Independent Greek public speakers of the 5th century BCE, teaching for a fee about politics, philosophy and rhetoric.
Protagoras is usually regarded as the first with Gorgias being another prominent sophist. Wikipedia also lists Prodicus, Hippias, Thrasymachus, Lycophron, Callicles, Antiphon, and Cratylus.
Plato portrays them in his dialogues as foils for the sober, sound argumentation of Socrates.
In the most general sense sophists are usually depicted as denying the existence of ultimate reality and morality in favor of worldly pleasures derived from the senses.
Likewise, they’re often said to reject the Greek gods and advocate the perfection of humanity.
In actual fact, there is no single school of Sophist thought. Plato’s response to the leading Sophists is as complex as are their various positions. Although generally slighted by Plato, the sophists were highly intelligent, contributing to knowledge about linguistics, drama and a prototypical form of applied sociology.
On the Web:
- Video touching on some of the topics that the ancient Greeks debated, topics that carried on to the Middles Ages and to today.
» Baudrillard (Jean, A.)
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