Sophists (The)


Sophists (The)
The sophists G. B. Kerferd In the fifth century BC the term sophistēs was used in Greece as a name to designate a particular profession, that of certain travelling teachers who went from city to city giving lectures and providing instruction in a variety of subjects in return for fees. One of the implications of the name sophistēs was ‘making people wise or skilled’ and it is probable that at an earlier stage the term was used to mean simply a wise man or a man skilled in a particular activity, such as poetry, music, the arts or a diviner or seer or the possessor of certain other kinds of mysterious knowledge. It is surely no accident that professional sophists of the fifth century BC liked to emphasize their affinity with such earlier sophists and wise men generally. While such a view was one which it was natural enough for the sophists to adopt, it failed to do justice to the actual form of the word sophistēs; in modern terms it implies that what is being referred to is someone who does something, nomen agentis, but what the sophist did was to attempt to make other people proficient in the practice of wisdom. In other words it was the function of the sophistēs to act as a teacher. The fifth-century sophists were, then, above all else teachers. This raises immediately two questions: what things did they teach and what were the methods used in their teaching? But the answers to these questions must depend to a considerable extent on an understanding of the way in which the sophists functioned in Greek societies in the fifth century, and above all on what their function was at Athens. Plutarch, in his Life of Cimon (chapter 15), claimed that by the middle of the fifth century the multitude at Athens had come to be released, and had overthrown all the ancient laws and customs that had hitherto been observed. The result was a full and unmixed democracy promoted and supported by Pericles. But, as I have written elsewhere1 in fact it is clear from the carefully phrased statement of Thucydides (II.37.1) that Periclean democracy rested on two fundamental principles; Thucydides’ words were: it is called a democracy because the conduct of affairs is entrusted not to a few but to the many, but while there is equality for all in civil affairs established by law, we allow full play to individual worth in public affairs. From this it may be seen that the two principles may be stated as follows: while power should be in the hands of the people as a whole and not with a small section of the citizen body, high offices carrying the right to advise and act for the people should be entrusted to those best fitted and most able to carry out these functions. It should be clear that if a society was to be based on both of the above two principles, this favoured the development of certain more or less specialized skills, above all the ability to speak and argue in public. When it is remembered that ordinary school education for male citizens at Athens was completed by the age of 14 it should be clear that the competition for success in the newly developed Periclean democracy created a real need for a type of further education such as that supplied by the sophists. But it would be a mistake to suppose that this need was something confined to Athens. Individual sophists came from many parts of the Greek world and travelled extensively, teaching and lecturing everywhere that they went. Thus Gorgias taught pupils in Argos and at another period was apparently settled in Thessaly, and Antiphon, who was himself an Athenian, was said to have set up a kind of citizen’s advice bureau offering some sort of psychiatric service to those who needed it, in Corinth of all unlikely places. Virtually every other sophist of whom we have knowledge is stated to have spent much of his time travelling. What all this suggests is that throughout the Greek world there was an emergent demand for the provision of secondary education in the fifth century BC and that this demand was satisfied at least in part by the development of the Sophistic Movement as a whole. What I have found it convenient to call the Sophistic Movement, a term which might be greeted with some criticism as suggesting that the movement as a whole was somehow organized, was essentially a pattern or kind of thinking in the period from about 460 to 380 BC, and it was the product above all of individual sophists. We have the names of some twenty-six such individuals, and ideally the history of philosophy should involve a consideration of each of these separately, together with a discussion of how each reacted or responded to the thought of his predecessors and contemporaries. But in the absence of surviving works by individual sophists we simply do not have the evidence for the reconstruction of their several views on an individual basis. Secondly, when we do have evidence for the views of an individual sophist it is in many cases clear that these views were held in common between several or indeed all of the sophists in the period in question. Consequently it seems appropriate to begin with an attempt to state what were at an early stage recognized as the distinctive doctrines and methods of teaching and argument characterizing the movement as a whole. What may be called generically the sophistic method of argument requires an understanding of three key technical terms: dialectic, antilogic and eristic. First for the term ‘dialectic’: in its most general sense this meant in Greek ‘discussion’ involving two or more persons, and its most obvious application is to be found in the written dialogues of Plato, although this was not exactly the way in which Plato wished to understand the term. At a quite early stage in the fifth century its use was already more precise and this more specialized sense was attributed by Aristotle (Sophistical Refutatins 10, I70b19, DK 29 A 14) to Zeno the Eleatic who wrote before the middle of the fifth century BC. This more specialized sense involved a method of refutation which consisted in opposing two contradictory statements in order to proceed to the acceptance of one of the two statements as truer or more appropriate. Dialectical discussions in this sense of the term flourished above all on the basis of questions and answers, or more generally, on brief statements made by either party to a debate, or even by a single person only. This was to become a marked feature of what is known as the Socratic Elenchos, which is especially associated with the practice followed by Socrates in the early dialogues of Plato. There Socrates reduces opponents to confusion in argument by persuading them to give their agreement to two contradictory views on a given question, either because the initial view is seen to imply its own contradiction or because it is matched by an independently established second proposition which is found to contradict it. In the period after the classical sophists the term ‘dialectic’ came also to be used as a name for Plato’s own preferred method of reasoning. This was a method of escape from the contradictions on Plato’s view inherent in phenomenal experience, leading to the ascent to the world of Forms, which alone for Plato were free from internal contradictions. The method of arguing by opposing contradictory arguments is best known to us from Protagoras, who seems to have held that two opposed arguments or propositions are to be found concerning everything whatsoever, and to have developed a method of argument based on this supposed fact. In their simplest form two propositions are found to be opposed to one another when one is the negative of the other, as for example in the statements that the wind is hot and the wind is not hot. Protagoras’ method of argument based on this doctrine is referred to by Plato (Republic 454a) as the ‘art of antilogic’. Protagoras’ aim was to teach his pupils how to make one proposition stronger than its opposed argument, whether this involves arguing for the positive or the negative of the two opposed propositions. Plato’s objection to this method, which he attributes not only to Protagoras but to other sophists as well, is that the attempt to establish one statement as true about the phenomenal world in opposition to its opposite is mistaken; truth is not to be found in phenomena but only in the world of the Forms. What is worse than this, he maintains, is that anyone who attempts to establish one such argument in opposition to another is not really seeking truth at all since truth is not to be found in this way. It follows that anyone proceeding in this way cannot be seeking the truth but is simply trying to secure victory in an argument. This Plato calls the art of Eristic (Sophist 231e and frequently). I have argued elsewhere2 that the meaning of ‘Eristic’ for Plato is always distinct from the meaning of ‘Antilogic’ though he is prepared freely to apply the same two terms to the same people and to the same procedures. Antilogic is the opposition of one proposition to another which contradicts it, and this is in fact a respected and necessary part of the Socratic Elenchos and the process of dialectic. Eristic on the other hand is what occurs when people are concerned to secure apparent victory in argument without any concern for what is in fact the truth. Plato’s charge against the sophists is that they developed the method of antilogic simply for eristic purposes, and his concealed criticism is that this was because they failed to use it in order to ascend by dialectic to an understanding of the Forms. The opposition of one argument to another has a clear practical application, namely the process of public debate whether political or philosophic. It consequently provided an effective basis for sophistic teaching on rhetoric and some have supposed that the teaching of rhetoric was not only an essential element in the Sophistic Movement but constituted the whole of their intellectual activity.3 On this view the sophists were teachers of rhetoric and this is all that needs to be said about them. They would then, it is argued, have no claims to a place in this history of Greek philosophy. Such a judgement raises conceptual issues of considerable importance. In modern discussions it has long been a matter of convention to oppose rhetoric to philosophy. Rhetoric is regarded as the art of persuasive or impressive speaking or writing, or the use of language to persuade or impress often with the implication of insincerity or exaggeration. Philosophy on the other hand is seen as the love of wisdom or knowledge, especially that which deals with ultimate reality or with the most general causes and principles of things. But it is probable that no such opposition was to be found in the earliest Greek uses of the expression ‘the art of rhetoric’; this was understood simply to refer to the best and most correct use of language. Thus in Plato’s Gorgias (449erff.), when Socrates asks the sophist Gorgias ‘what is rhetoric about?’ he receives the answer that it is the art which makes men good at speaking and also makes them good at thinking about the subjects on which it teaches them to speak. This raises the possibility that on Gorgias’ view the most correct use of language will be that which best expresses the nature and structure of reality or the way things are. This is in no way inconsistent with the use of rhetoric as a means of persuasion, and Socrates proceeds in what follows in the Gorgias to secure admissions from Gorgias that persuasion was a major feature of rhetoric. But for Gorgias, persuasion, at least when properly used, is based on the communication of truth. For most or all of the sophists, however, truth is based on a phenomenalistic view of reality, and this is something which Plato rejected. So in Plato’s eyes the sophists were to be condemned because when they were concerned with the art of persuasion they were not concerned with the communication of non-phenomenalistic truth. PROTAGORAS Protagoras was the most famous of all the sophists and Plato seems to have believed that he was the first to adopt the name of sophist and to charge fees for the instruction which he offered (Protagoras 349a2–4). He was born in Abdera, an Ionian colony on the coast of Thrace, probably not later than 490 BC, and he probably died after 421 BC. According to one tradition he was educated as a boy under Persian religious teachers at his house in Thrace. He probably first visited Athens well before 443 BC, as in that year he was asked by Pericles to frame a constitution for the new pan-Hellenic colony of Thurii in southern Italy. It is clear that throughout his life Protagoras was able to rely on the support of Pericles. He was said to have died by drowning on a sea-voyage, when he had to leave Athens after he had been tried and convicted of impiety. As a result of his trial it was recorded that his books were burnt in the agora after they had been called in from those who possessed them, by a herald’s proclamation. The immediate basis for the charge of impiety seems to have been his work On the Gods, of which the opening words were: concerning the gods, I cannot know either that [or perhaps ‘how’] they exist or do not exist or what they are like in appearance, for there are many things which prevent one’s knowing: the obscurity of the subject and the shortness of human life. (DK 80 B4) As a result Protagoras came to be included in later lists of alleged atheists from the sophistic period, alongside Prodicus, Critias, Euripides, Anaxagoras and Phidias. It seems more probable however that Protagoras’ position was actually one of agnosticism rather than outright atheism. Diogenes Laertius, who wrote probably in the third century AD, lists twelve works as written by Protagoras and from other later writers we can add a further six titles. The tradition of the discussion and interpretation of Protagoras’ most important doctrines begins with Plato, above all in the dialogues Protagoras and Theaetetus. But all we have by way of actual fragments of Protagoras’ writings is a handful of brief statements and single sentences, and it is not possible to form any certain idea of the arrangement and order of the arguments in his writings. What must be done is to attempt a reconstruction of his doctrines on the basis of the doxographic tradition, and we have good reason to suppose that the doxographic tradition as a whole was ultimately rooted in what Protagoras had actually written. By far the most famous of his doctrines is that known by the catch-phrase as the homo mensura or man the measure theory. This was stated in the first sentence of a work entitled On Truth, perhaps with a subtitle Overthrowing Arguments. The fragment reads, ‘Of all things man is the measure, of things that are that [or perhaps “how”] they are and of things that are not that [or “how”] they are not (DK 80 B1).’ Every feature of this famous sentence has been the subject of vigorous controversies, and there is no agreement among scholars as to its precise meaning. In what follows I attempt to state the main matters of controversy and to suggest what seem to me to be the most likely interpretations. In the nineteenth century quite a number of scholars took the word ‘man’ in the quotation to mean not the individual human being but mankind as a whole, and on this view things are presented to us according to the structure and arrangement of what is to be known as human nature, thus bringing Protagoras’ doctrine into line with the idealism of Immanuel Kant. But against this view it seems clear that Democritus, Plato, Aristotle and Sextus Empiricus all took ‘man’ in Protagoras’ quotation as referring to each individual man. On this view each individual man is the measure for himself of what he experiences. Next, what is meant by ‘that’ or ‘how’, which is simply a rendering of the single Greek word hōs? Once again scholars are divided. If the meaning is to be taken as ‘that’, then the doctrine as a whole is to be interpreted as meaning ‘Man is the measure of the existence of things that exist and the non-existence of things that are not.’ So for an example, if we as individuals or collectively believe that the gods exist then for us they do exist, and if we believe that they do not exist then for us there are no gods. But if the meaning of hōs is to be taken as ‘how’ then ‘Man’ for Protagoras is the measure not merely of whether things exist or not, but of the way in which they exist, in other words of all their phenomenal qualities. It is clear from Plato’s Theaetetus that Plato supposed that Protagoras’ doctrine certainly included phenomenal qualities. This can clearly be seen when he gives as an example the case of a wind and explains that for Protagoras sometimes when the same wind is blowing it feels cold to one person and to another person not cold. On the everyday view the wind itself is either cold or not cold, and one of the percipients is mistaken in supposing that the wind is as it seems to him and the other percipient is right. This seems clearly to be the view that Plato is concerned with in his discussion of Protagoras’ doctrine. But there are at least three ways of understanding what Protagoras may have supposed to be the case: (1) there is no one wind at all but only two private winds, my wind which is cold and your wind which is not. (2) There is a public wind but it is neither cold nor warm; the apparent coldness of the wind only exists privately for me when I have the feeling that it is cold. The wind itself exists independently of my perceiving it but its coldness does not. This view, however, does not exclude the possibility that while the wind itself is neither hot nor cold it may still contain causal elements which produce in me the sensation of cold. (3) The wind is itself both cold and warm; the two qualities can and do coexist in the same physical object and I perceive one of the qualities while you perceive the other. Each of these three interpretations has been vigorously defended by groups of modern scholars and there is no agreement as to which is correct.4 Here I can only say that I believe that both the evidence of Plato and of the later doxographic tradition definitely supports the third of the above views, namely that all perceived qualities are in fact objectively present in the perceived object. From this it follows that all perceptions that actually occur are true and perception as such is infallible; it would not occur if the basis for what is experienced were not actually there, and as it were waiting to be perceived. Clearly the man-measure doctrine is of considerable interest as a doctrine of perception. But its importance is even wider than this, since Plato in the Theaetetus makes it clear that it was applied by Protagoras not only to qualities which we would say are perceived by the senses, but also to values such as good and bad, advantageous and disadvantageous and so on. It is not clear, though it is entirely possible, that Protagoras regarded these attributes as similar to beautiful and ugly and so as themselves in some sense rooted in external reality. But the doctrine that whatever seems right and admirable to any one individual is necessarily and infallibly right for that individual has clear echoes in present-day thinking about values. Its importance for political arguments and discussions cannot easily be exaggerated, and it was a major contribution to the analysis of the processes of democracy so recently developing at Athens. Protagoras’ views about the nature of men in society and the process of political activity can be inferred in some detail from what Plato says in the Protagoras and which he most probably derived from some of Protagoras’ own writings. According to Plato, Protagoras set himself up as a teacher of Aretē (human virtue or human excellence). This will involve Protagoras training a man in the habit of good judgement about his own affairs, showing him how best to order his own household, and in the affairs of his city showing how he may have the most influence on public affairs both in speech and action (Protagoras 318e– 319a). Protagoras is thus committed to the doctrine that virtue is something which may be taught, as opposed to the view that it is simply inherited or acquired from essentially aristocratic groupings within larger human societies. Plato proceeds to expound the doctrines of Protagoras in two stages, first through a myth and then through a more analytic and rationalized account (a Logos) intended to convey the same doctrines. Protagoras, as Plato and Aristotle do after him, begins his analysis with an account of the development of human societies. First men lived scattered and dispersed and there were no cities at all. But even then they had already developed the ability to provide themselves with dwelling places, clothes, shoes and bedding, and had learnt to talk and to worship the gods. In addition they gradually acquired and so came to possess sufficient skills with their hands to provide themselves with food. They thus possessed a certain technical wisdom which enabled them to develop some of the material elements of civilization. But they were in the process of being destroyed by wild animals which were stronger than they were. This led them to join together and found cities primarily aimed at securing their self-defence. But as they lacked the art required for living together in cities they began to commit injustices against one another and so began to scatter again and to be destroyed. Zeus, in order to preserve mankind, sent Hermes to give them the two qualities needed for them to live together, namely the qualities of respect for what is right (Aidōs) and a feeling for Justice (Dikē) between individuals. These qualities are given to all men and all men are to share in them, with the exception that those incapable of sharing in them are to be killed as being a plague to the city. But while all men after this action by Zeus do share in these qualities they do not do so equally; some have larger shares than others. So much in mythical terms. In the rational explanation that Protagoras gives after the myth a number of points are made clear. The universal share in Aidōs and Dikē that results from the gift of Zeus is not innate, nor is it in fact acquired automatically; it is the product of a process of education, which starts in infancy. The fact that the individual’s share in these two essential qualities is acquired and then developed by teaching provides a justification for the profession of the sophist, who is able to regard himself as an exceptionally able teacher. The whole approach provides a theory of justification —the first known to history —for participatory democracy. All citizens have a claim to participation in the political processes of the city since all share in the qualities needed for the city to function. But they do not share equally in these qualities, and it is accordingly appropriate that within a democracy leadership should be exercised by those who are exceptionally able. Many other aspects of normal political activity at Athens and elsewhere in Greece were probably discussed in Protagoras’ political writings—we have brief notes to the effect that he discussed a theory of punishment as something to be accepted both as a deterrent and also as a form of education leading to reform of the errant individual. Finally mention may be made of the intriguing and puzzling statement, found in Diogenes Laertius (III.57, DK 80 B 5), that the whole of the content of Plato’s Republic was to be found in the work by Protagoras entitled Contradictory Arguments (Antilogikoi Logoi). While this in itself is clearly not credible, that it could even be said to be the case is perhaps evidence of the extremely wide-ranging nature of Protagoras’ writings on politics. More precisely, it may have been possible for an enthusiastic supporter of what Protagoras had written to discern structural similarities with the Republic, in which Plato is concerned with the development of rational societies from earlier organizations that had not yet grasped the need for a rational understanding of and a just respect for the functions of other citizens. It is possible that the unifying basis of Protagoras’ numerous theories was always his distinctive method of arguing. The tradition preserved by Diogenes Laertius (IX.51) tells us that Protagoras was the first to declare that in the case of every question there are two arguments opposed to each other, and that he used this supposed fact as a method of debate. We can expand this statement from other sources somewhat as follows: of the two arguments one will be positive, stating that something is the case, and the other will be negative, stating that something is not the case. In the light of the man-measure doctrine both of the opposing arguments will be true in virtue of their position in the world of appearances. But one view will, at least on certain occasions, be better than the other in that it promotes more desirable results. When one of the two contrary arguments is proposed, one that does not promote desirable effects, such an argument may seem to the ill-informed person to be the stronger of the two arguments. It is then the task of the wise man to make the weaker argument stronger so that it will prevail in competition with what then becomes the weaker argument. To do this is the function of the orator in a developed political society. It is also the function of the sophist as teacher to make the weaker argument stronger and to show others how to do this. An interesting application of this approach may perhaps be seen in Protagoras’ detailed consideration of the nature of language. This, perhaps rather surprisingly, included a doctrine of the correct forms of linguistic expression. He seems to have made an analysis of sentences into narrative, questions, answers, commands, reported narrative, wishes and summonses. Aristotle tells us that he set out to correct ordinary Greek genders to bring usage into accord with the supposed ‘real’ gender of things and concepts. One may conjecture that this could be justified, while still keeping the basis of Protagoras’ relativism, which was that it is better and more expedient for the genders of words to express the perceived genders of things around us. The whole question of the relation between words and things was of fundamental importance for all of the sophists, as far as we know, and it gives us the key to an understanding of the next figure to be considered here, namely Gorgias. GORGIAS Gorgias came from Leontinoi (modern Lentini), an Ionian colony in Sicily. He was born probably between 490 and 485 BC and he outlived Socrates, who died in 399 BC. The most famous single event in his life was his visit to Athens in 427 BC when he came as leader of a group of envoys from his native city in order to seek Athenian support for Leontinoi in its war with Syracuse. The requested alliance was secured after Gorgias had amazed the Athenian assembly by his rhetorical skill (DK 82 A 4). He also, perhaps after his Athenian visit, travelled extensively throughout the Greek world; he is recorded as speaking at Olympia, Argos, Delphi, and in Thessaly and Boeotia. But above all he taught pupils at Athens, for which teaching he received considerable sums of money. After his death he was honoured by the setting up of a golden statue of himself both at Delphi and at Olympia, for the latter of which it may be that the base survives to the present day. In Sicily Gorgias had been a disciple of Empedocles, and his own doctrine of perception was clearly derived from that to be found in his master’s poem. Plato devoted a whole dialogue, the Gorgias, to a discussion of his views on rhetoric, and Aristotle is recorded as having written an attack on Gorgias’ doctrines, unfortunately no longer extant. We have the titles of some eleven writings attributed to Gorgias. Two speeches survive, apparently complete, and we have two detailed summaries of his treatise On Nature. It is on this work that his claims to a significant place in the history of philosophy must depend. One summary of it is preserved in some four (printed) pages of Greek in Sextus Empiricus, Adversus Mathematicos (VII.65–87). A second summary, with some significant differences from Sextus, is found in the third section of a piece of writing wrongly attributed to Aristotle, and so included in the Aristotelian corpus, under the title On Melissus, Xenophanes and Gorgias (MXG for short). Both the reconstruction of the argument in Gorgias’ treatise and its interpretation are difficult and controversial. Scholarly discussion has essentially passed through three stages. First and for a very long period it was held that the work was simply not meant to be taken seriously. On this view Gorgias had written an extended parody or joke against philosophers. If it had any serious purpose it was to be seen as a purely rhetorical exercise in a method of argument which philosophers were supposed to have used and which simply made them ridiculous.5 A second stage in the interpretation of Gorgias’ treatise was reached by those who were prepared to take it seriously, and who took it as an elaborate attack on the philosophic doctrines of the Eleatics, and to a lesser extent the doctrines of certain physical philosophers among the pre-Socratics.6 On this view the verb ‘to be’ in Gorgias’ treatise has the meaning ‘to exist’. The treatise itself is divided into three parts. The first part maintains that nothing exists, and this is established by arguing that ‘not-being’ does not exist, nor does ‘being’ exist. This is directed against the contention of Parmenides that only being exists. Gorgias by his arguments thus achieves a position of philosophic nihilism. Parmenides had destroyed the manifold world of appearances, but he kept the unitary world of true being. Gorgias completed the negative process begun by Parmenides by denying also the world of being, so that we are left simply with nothing. This second stage in the interpretation of Gorgias’ treatise had at least one advantage; it took the treatise seriously and did assign to Gorgias a place in the history of philosophy, albeit one that was negative and destructive. The second part of Gorgias’ treatise on this view tried to ram home the argument by contending that even if something does exist it cannot be known by human beings. In the third part it is argued that even if something exists and is knowable, no knowledge or understanding of it can be communicated to another person. But if this second approach is an improvement over the first, it now begins to seem that perhaps it does not go far enough. What is happening is that we are now beginning to have a certain reassessment of the uses of the verb ‘to be’ in ancient Greek in the light of certain modern doctrines. It is now common to make a clear distinction between ‘is’ as a copula followed by a predicate, as in ‘X is Y’, and an existential sense where the verb has the meaning ‘exists’ as in ‘X exists’. But we can understand the claim that anything which exists must necessarily be something. From this it could follow that the existential use of the verb ‘to be’ is always to be understood as implying one or more predicates. This in turn has the effect of reducing the existential use to a special case of its use as a copula, namely one in which predicates are necessarily involved, but are not actually expressed. We are now also familiar with the view that in order to understand the function of language it is necessary to pay attention to two distinguishable things, namely what is the meaning of words and phrases, and to what if anything they refer. It is now beginning to seem to be the case that Gorgias may have been attempting to make use of just this distinction. On this view it is the relation between words and things with which he is concerned.7 This, it can be argued, emerges in the second and third parts of his treatise, where he is arguing that it is not possible for a thing to be known by human beings because we are only indirectly in contact with objective things, either by perception or by the use of words to describe them. Likewise no knowledge or understanding of things can be conveyed from one person to another, since the only means we have of attempting to do this is by means of words. Words transfer only themselves and not the things to which they refer. I believe that much further work is needed before we can hope to arrive at an adequate interpretation of Gorgias’ treatise. It does not matter if the account just outlined above is dismissed as simplistic. What would be of the greatest importance would be that Gorgias in his treatise was perhaps the first thinker to grapple directly with the problem with which we have come to be familiar for rather more than a hundred years, namely the distinction made by Frege between meaning and reference. Plato in the Meno (76c–e) is quite explicit that Gorgias had a precise theory of perception based on Empedocles’ doctrine of effluences from physical objects. Perception takes place when one or more effluences from a physical object fit exactly into pores or passages in the human body, and for them to do this they must be neither too large nor too small. It is such shapes or effluences which provide us, for example, with our perception of colours. Gorgias followed Empedocles in his contention that no one sense can perceive the objects of any other sense. We do not have precise details as to how Gorgias developed his theory of perception, but there is every reason to suppose that it was a matter of great importance to him. The gulf between words and things was apparently also exploited by Gorgias in his teachings on rhetoric, both in theory and in the practice to be followed by speakers if they were to hope to be successful. At the practical level he stressed the importance of being able to speak briefly as well as at length according to the needs of the situation, and also the importance of appeals to the emotions as a means of persuasion. In addition he recommended an elaborate series of stylistic devices, listed by later writers under technical names such as antithesis, isokolon (two or more clauses with the same number of syllables), parison (parallelism of structure between clauses), and homoeoteleuton (a series of two or more clauses ending with the same words or with words that rhyme). At the more theoretical level he developed a doctrine of attention to the right time and situation, in Greek the kairos. Secondly he stressed the need to devote attention to things that are probable, and thirdly to arguments which are ‘suitable’ or appropriate. Finally he gave expression to a doctrine of ‘justified deception’. This he used to give a theoretic basis for literature, above all for tragedy, and he seems to have applied this also to the practice of making speeches, contending that the man who indulges in this practice is acting with more right on his side in his use of myths and appeals to emotions than is the person who is not acting as a deceiver. But the end result is that the person who is deceived in this way is the wiser because a man who is not without experience in the reading of literature will let himself be won over by the pleasure of spoken words. Clearly the doctrine involved was highly technical, but the implication was probably that a man’s view of the world around him is improved by the study of literature and the teaching he receives from the sophists.8 Gorgias’ influence among his contemporaries was so extensive that he came close to establishing a school for those who came after him, not in the sense of a particular organization, but rather in that a number of thinkers and teachers continued to express ideas and doctrines clearly derived from him. These included Alcidamas of Elaia, Isocrates the orator, Licymnios of Chios, Meno of Larisa, Polus of Acragas who is an important character in Plato’s Gorgias, and Protarchus of Athens, who is a key speaker in Plato’s Philebus. Of special interest is the sophist Lycophron who was said to have been an associate of Gorgias. In addition to certain social and political doctrines concerning nobility of birth and its lack of any real basis in nature he is reported to have argued that the Greek verb for ‘is’ should be confined to existential cases, such as ‘Socrates exists’, and should not be extended to its use with a predicate, as in ‘Socrates is white’ or ‘Socrates is two cubits in height’ as this would have the effect of making the same thing both one (Socrates) and many (the various predicates) at the same time. PRODICUS Prodicus came from the island of Ceos in the Cyclades, where he was probably born before 460 BC, and he was still alive at the time of the death of Socrates. He came frequently to Athens, sometimes on official business for Ceos. On one occasion he gained a high reputation for a speech before the Council, and at other times he was involved in the teaching of young men, for which he received large sums of money. Plato records that Socrates had sent pupils to him for instruction before they were ready to come to Socrates himself (Theaetetus 152b). Like Gorgias he gave public display lectures for which the technical name was Epideixeis, and one of these, On the Choice of Herakles, was summarized by Xenophon, who puts it in the mouth of Socrates (Memorabilia II.1.21–34). It seems to have come from a work entitled Hours (Hōrai) which included encomia on other persons or characters as well as Herakles. He also wrote a treatise On the Nature of Man, and another on The Correctness of Names. In a separate work On Nature he called the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, all gods as well as the sun and moon, on the ground that they were the source of life for all things. But what made Prodicus famous among all the sophists was his treatment of language. For this we have no record of any actual written version, but it must at the very least have featured prominently in his lectures and in his teaching. Our fullest information about Prodicus’ views on language comes to us from Plato’s Protagoras, in which Prodicus figures as one of the sophists taking part in the discussion that resulted from the visit of Protagoras to the house of Callias. We have further information from other dialogues of Plato. It is clear that he developed a very precise doctrine about the need for an extremely accurate use of words. This involved distinguishing sharply between words that might seem to have similar meanings. The theoretical basis for these distinctions between words was made clearer to us by the discovery in 1941 of a papyrus commentary on Ecclesiastes which attributes to Prodicus the doctrine that it is not possible to contradict. The reason for this paradoxical contention is stated to be because only the person who speaks the truth makes a meaningful statement. The person who appears to contradict him is not in fact saying anything at all, and so in effect is not actually speaking. What this implies is that meaningful statements necessarily refer to something which is the case, while statements which appear to contradict such meaningful statements by denying that they are true, are themselves without meaning since they have nothing to which they can refer. This should probably be related to the doctrine ascribed to Prodicus by Alexander of Aphrodisias (DK 84 A 19), that in proper linguistic usage each word or phrase should be related to one thing only and to no other. In modern terms this amounts to the attribution to Prodicus of a referential theory of meaning. Prodicus was famous also for his rationalizing account of the origins of religious beliefs. The details of exactly how he did this are unfortunately not clear, but he seems to have supposed that human beings began by personifying physical objects that were of use to them, so bread becomes Demeter and wine becomes Dionysus. Finally it may be stated that the pseudo-Platonic dialogue Eryxias credits Prodicus with a doctrine of the relativism of values, which I have argued else-where9 may in fact be true for the historical Prodicus. HIPPIAS Hippias of Elis was a younger contemporary of Protagoras and he is depicted by Plato in the Protagoras as present along with other sophists at the house of Callias. The dramatic date for this is about 433 BC. He was apparently still alive at the death of Socrates in 399 BC. He travelled extensively as a professional sophist, making a famous visit to Sicily, and made a great deal of money. He claimed to be at home in all the learning of his day, and was credited with a large number of writings, both in prose and in verse in the forms of epics, dithyrambs and tragedies. His polymathy was no doubt aided by certain exceptional powers of memory. It appears that these were developed by special techniques which he also taught to others, and he was said to have been able to remember fifty names after a single hearing. In addition to his epideictic displays he was known to have been ready to teach astronomy, mathematics and geometry, genealogy, mythology and history, painting and sculpture, the functions of letters, syllables, rhythms and musical scales. Of particular importance for the history of Greek thought must have been his synagōgē which, it appears, was a collection of passages, stories and pieces of information from earlier writers both Greek and non-Greek. It thus stands at the beginnings of the doxographic approach to Greek thought, above all to the preSocratics, and it probably underlay to some extent both Plato’s and Aristotle’s schematized views of their predecessors. Another work of great importance was his list of victors at the Olympic games based on local written records, which provided a foundation for subsequent Greek historical chronology. The collection of Plato’s writings includes two dialogues directly concerned with Hippias, the Hippias Major and the Hippias Minor. The authenticity of each of these dialogues has been questioned by modern scholars, probably wrongly at least in the case of the Hippias Major. But in either case, they provide evidence which there is good reason for us to accept. Hippias is presented throughout as incapable of standing up to the questioning of Socrates. It has been suggested that Hippias came close to personifying the type Plato most abhorred as a generic sophist. None the less his intellectual versatility is clearly represented, even though it is always dismissed as accompanied by superficiality. When we turn to consider the philosophic doctrines associated with Hippias we are confronted with an initial difficulty. We do not know for certain whether Hippias held any overall or unifying basis for his polymathy. But there is some evidence for an overall philosophical position given in the Hippias Major (301b– e) where reference is made to a ‘continuous theory of being’. This is apparently based on the view that there is something continuous that is carried through classes as well as through the physical bodies of things without interruption, and this is wrongly divided or cut up by the use of words. The implication here is that language cannot represent the true nature of the external world. That he did have a doctrine of some kind about nature is supported by what we are told about him in Plato’s Protagoras, where he contrasted law and nature; he favoured nature against law, which acts as a tyrant and compels human beings to do or submit to many things which are contrary to nature. He further argued that like is akin to like by nature, and called for men to draw the logical consequences from this. One of these consequences is that some or even all men are alike by nature, and as a result we should recognize as friends and kinsmen those men who are alike by nature. Unfortunately the context in Plato (Protagoras 337d-e) does not make it clear exactly what he supposed was the range of the likeness to be found in men. If, as is possible, he held the view that it is all men who are alike by nature he would then be seen as an advocate of the doctrine of the unity of mankind. But other scholars have supposed that he may have been confining his remarks to Greeks only, and so to have been preaching simply pan-Hellenism. An even more restricted interpretation is possible. What, according to Plato, Hippias is actually saying is that he considers those whom he is addressing, namely ‘you’, as kinsmen and intimates and fellow citizens by nature, not by law, on the basis that like is akin to like by nature. We who are the wisest of the Greeks, no doubt meaning by this sophists, should accordingly refrain from quarrelling with each other like the basest of men. This suggests that he is advocating a recognition of the unity of wise men or scholars, as distinct from ordinary people. The people to whom he is speaking are those who ‘know the nature of things’ and are the wisest people among the Greeks. In that case what he is advocating is the unity of Greek scholars rather than the unity of mankind as a whole, or perhaps even only the unity of sophists within the Sophistic Movement. However that may be, the actual contributions made by Hippias to Greek scholarship were by no means inconsiderable. In mathematics he is credited with a history of Greek geometry after Thales. When Proclus came to write his history of geometry he drew on a work by Eudemus of Rhodes, not now extant, and he makes it clear that at least some of Eudemus’ information about the period before Plato was derived from Hippias. In addition Hippias was credited with his own attempted solution to the problem of the squaring of the circle. This consisted in the invention of the curve later known as the quadratrix, the name for which may have been derived from Hippias’ own expression, which we know from Proclus’ commentary on Euclid (DK 86 B 21)10 was grammē tetragōnizousa. There was also a practical side to Hippias’ activities, based on his doctrine of the ideal of self-sufficiency in the individual. This ideal he put into practice for himself; he appeared at Olympia on one occasion when all his own clothing and equipment had been made by himself. In particular, according to the author of the Hippias Minor (368b-c), he had manufactured for himself his own engraved finger ring and another seal as well, then a strigil, an oil flask, his own sandals, cloak, tunic and Persian-style girdle. ANTIPHON The expression ‘Antiphon the sophist’ is currently used by many scholars as a means of identifying the author of three works, namely On Concord, On Truth and a Politikos, to which is sometimes added a work On the Interpretation of Dreams. But in the manuscripts that have come down to us under the general title of the Attic Orators we have a set of speeches attributed to an Athenian, Antiphon of Rhamnous, who is often referred to as Antiphon the orator. This Antiphon was condemned to death and executed in 411 BC, after the overthrow at Athens of the oligarchy of the Four Hundred, of which he was a member (Thucydides VIII.68). We are confronted with a major and as yet unresolved question, namely whether Antiphon the sophist is to be identified with Antiphon the orator or not. The evidence is conflicting and uncertain. But according to one tradition an Antiphon who was a writer of tragedies was put to death at the court of Dionysius I of Syracuse some time between 405 and 367 BC (Philostratus Lives of the Sophists, I.15.3). If this was Antiphon the sophist, then clearly he was not the same as Antiphon the orator. But he just may have been a third Antiphon, to be added to the other two in the historical tradition. From the point of view of the history of philosophy it is probably allowable for us to sidestep this question; it is the four works of the supposed Antiphon the sophist which alone are of real interest from a philosophic point of view. These indeed were not regarded as important before 1915, when his reputation was transformed by the publication in the collection of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri of two quite large fragments of the work On Truth. A further fragment was added in 1922. Then in 1984 a small further fragment of fewer than 200 scattered letters was published with a dramatic result since it shows that the standard supplements of the fragments known previously, made by Wilamowitz and included in the standard edition of the fragments in Diels-Kranz (87 B 44) are in fact incorrect. They were based on an overall view of Antiphon’s position which can now in all probability be seen to involve at least an element of distortion. The first surviving section of On Truth begins Justice then consists in not transgressing the laws and customs of the city in which one is a citizen. So a man would employ justice best in his own interests if he were to regard the laws as important when witnesses are present, and when they are not he were to regard the demands of nature as of greater importance. The opposition between law and the requirements of human nature as sources of values was widely discussed throughout the sophistic period, and some have argued that it can be taken as a typical or even as a defining doctrine for the movement as a whole. But Antiphon’s preference for nature over law involves a further concept, that of benefit or advantage to each individual man, and this leaves open the question whether exceptionally some laws may actually be of benefit to our natures. In that case nature could become a norm for laws. Support for this interpretation may be drawn from the surviving fragments which we have from the second treatise of Antiphon, namely On Concord, which seems clearly enough to be arguing for the value of harmony or concord both in society and within the personality of an individual man. This raises the question of how, if at all, it is possible to reconcile the doctrine of On Truth with that of On Concord. The simplest answer is also the most likely to be correct, namely that an attack on traditional justice and on traditional societies is perfectly compatible with the promulgation of the ideal of a better and radically different society based on ‘true’ values and (true) justice. Such arguments could be used to support the position of an oligarch at Athens, and would be understandable if Antiphon the sophist was in fact the same person as Antiphon the orator. But they need not imply any oligarchical political stance, as they are also compatible with the view that it is the function of a democracy so to revise the laws of a city that they are brought into accord with nature. Two further works are possibly relevant here. On the Interpretation of Dreams seems to have argued that dreams cannot be used directly to foretell the future, but require rational interpretation first, though they can be used for predictive purposes. Finally mention must be made of the work with the intriguing title The Art of Avoiding Distress. In the later doxographic tradition this is attributed to Antiphon the orator, but it would seem rather to have affinities with what we know of the psychological interests of Antiphon the sophist, assuming always that there were two Antiphons and not simply one. This piece of writing outlined an extension of the treatment provided by doctors for those who are ill. Antiphon was said to have set up a kind of clinic functioning as a citizen’s advice bureau or modern style Samaritan Service in a dwelling-place near the market in Corinth. In a notice in front of the building he claimed that help could be provided to those in distress by discussing matters with them, and, through talking to them, finding out the causes of their illness (DK 87 A 6). If this tradition is sound it seems more likely to be true of the sophist rather than the orator, since the latter is less likely to have functioned away from Athens. A further statement of psychiatric interest is that preserved by Stobaeus (DK 87 B 57), namely that ‘illness is a holiday for those who are cowards, for such people do not go out into the world to undertake activities’. Among other aspects of Antiphon’s interests should be mentioned the brief references, which are all that survive, to discussions about the nature of time, the functioning of the sun and the moon, the bitterness of the sea and the formation of the surface of the earth, the behaviour of bile and other physiological processes, and an attempt to solve the problem of the squaring of the circle by continually doubling the number of sides in an inscribed regular polygon (DK 87 B 26–8, 29–32 and 13). LESSER SOPHISTS Thrasymachus of Chalcedon in Bithynia was well known as a sophist who travelled from city to city and claimed fees for his teaching. A number of writings are attributed to him, but we know virtually nothing of their contents. He appeared as a character in a lost play by Aristophanes, the Daitaleis performed in 427 BC. But his fame springs for us from his confrontation with Socrates in the first book of Plato’s Republic. There he puts forward the view that justice is the interest of the stronger, and he infers from this that justice accordingly is normally to be understood as consisting in seeking the interest of some one or more persons other than oneself. Accordingly justice is folly, the only reasonable course being always to pursue one’s own interest. Clearly Plato regarded this as an important if wrong-headed sophistic contention, and in a sense the whole of the rest of the Republic after the first book is concerned to give us Plato’s refutation of Thrasymachus. Three further characters who appear in Plato’s dialogues are Callicles in the Gorgias, and Euthydemus and Dionysodorus in the Euthydemus. According to Plato, Callicles came from the deme of Acharnae in Attica, and it is at his house in Athens that his friend Gorgias is staying at the opening of the Gorgias. Like Thrasymachus Callicles is presented as approving actions which the world calls unjust, and he approves of them because they express for him a higher justice, the justice of nature. Such justice he goes so far as to call the law of nature, in what is apparently the first occurrence of the phrase which was to become of such importance in the history of European thought. The importance of what Callicles has to say in the dialogue can hardly be questioned. But it should be mentioned that modern scholars have expressed doubts both as to whether he was a real person and if so as to whether he should be classed as a sophist.11 Euthydemus and Dionysodorus were brothers and came originally from Chios. In Plato’s Euthydemus they are addressed as sophists (271 CI) and are said to have had many pupils. Euthydemus’ most distinctive doctrine is perhaps that referred to in Plato’s Cratylus (386d), namely that all things belong equally to all things at the same time and always. The most likely explanation of this statement is that which takes it as meaning that all things possess all attributes together and all the time. If this is what he is saying, then it would seem to provide an underlying basis for Protagoras’ man-measure doctrine. All perceived qualities are in fact always present in perceived objects, and this is shown by the fact that the verbal attribution of any quality to any thing is always possible. Words only have meaning because they refer to what is actually the case. This would explain the doctrine attributed to Dionysodorus (Euthydemus 284c5) according to which no one says things that are false: all statements that anyone can make are true because all attributes are necessarily actually present in the things to which reference is being made. Consequently it is not possible to make genuinely contradictory statements, since contradiction would be asserting that one statement is true and the other which conflicts with it is false. Three names in addition to the above may be mentioned in passing. Critias, who was a first cousin of Plato’s mother, was one of the Thirty Tyrants who held power at Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian war. He was classed as a sophist by Philostratus, and has regularly been listed among the sophists ever since, down to the present day. He wrote tragedies, in at least one of which he included a rationalizing account of belief in the gods. But he is not known to have been a teacher, and he should accordingly in all probability be excluded from the list of sophists. The opposite is the case with the thinker Antisthenes of Athens who came to be regarded as the founder of the Cynic sect. As a result he has usually been discussed by modern writers under the general heading of the Cynic movement. But his claims to have been the founder of this movement are subject to serious doubt, and there is fairly convincing evidence that he should rather be classed as a sophist.12 He lived a long life, from the middle of the fifth century long into the fourth century BC. We know from Aristotle (Metaphysics 1024b26) that he held the two distinctive sophistic doctrines that we have already mentioned several times, namely that it is not possible to contradict and that it is not possible to say what is false. The final name to be mentioned here is that of Socrates. Although presented by Plato as the arch-enemy of the sophists and all they stood for, it is none the less true that Socrates can only be understood if he is seen as a member of the world in which he lived. Socrates had a great influence on the young men who became his disciples, even though he did not accept any payment from them for his teaching. Two things at least emerge clearly from what Plato has to tell us: Socrates had begun early in his life with a critical interest in the problems of physical science (Phaedo 96a–99d), and he also deployed a distinctive method of argument which involved the refutation of unacceptable propositions and the promotion of acceptable answers to the question ‘What is the correct account to be given as to what is x?’ above all when x is a moral or political concept. This became famous as the Socratic method of Elenchos, and this alone would be sufficient to justify us in considering him as an active member of the Sophistic Movement, in fact as an unpaid sophist. In addition to named sophists it is necessary to discuss a number of anonymous sophistic writings, of which several survive, at least in summary form. The first of these is known as the Dissoi Logoi, the title being taken from the first two words of the opening paragraph, which are repeated in the next three chapters. The text is found at the end of the main manuscripts of Sextus Empiricus, and it is written in a dialect which is a form of literary Doric. This has suggested to some that it may have originated in Sicily or southern Italy, but there is no other positive evidence for this. It has commonly been supposed that it was composed soon after 400 BC on the basis of the reference in I.8–10 (DK 90) where the victory which the Spartans won over the Athenians and their allies is spoken as a most recent event. But this dating is quite uncertain and others have argued for a much later date. The pattern of arguments followed throughout the treatise is established in the first chapter where we are told that ‘some say that good is one thing and bad is another thing, while others say that they are the same, and that for the same person it is on one occasion good and on another occasion bad.’ This formulation is potentially ambiguous. On one view to say that good and bad are the same thing might be taken to say that the two terms are identical in meaning, or it might mean that any one thing will be both good and bad either simultaneously or at different times and in different relationships. It is however the second interpretation which should be preferred: the meanings of the two terms are always different and it is the way in which they are to be applied as attributes to particular things or situations which varies. What we are explicitly told is that as the name or term used differs so does the thing. This is repeated three times in subsequent sections, in one of which (II.1) ‘thing’ is expressed by sōma or physical body. There seems no doubt that what we are being confronted with is the familiar sophistic problem of varying predicates attached to physical objects in the external world. The whole approach of the Dissoi Logoi amounts to an application of the sophistic doctrine of relativism. After good and bad in the first section the same treatment is applied to the terms for beautiful and ugly, then to just and unjust, the truth and falsehood of propositions, and the question of the teachability or otherwise of wisdom and virtue. After the discussion of these terms the treatise concludes with arguments that election by lot is a bad method of election in democracies, that the art of the man who is skilled in argument (and so has been trained by a sophist) is the same as the art of the statesman, and that a developed use of memory is essential for intellectual wisdom and its application in the conduct of human affairs. A second anonymous treatise is known as the Anonymus lamblichi. This was identified in 1889 when Friedrich Blass showed that some ten pages of printed Greek text in the Protrepticus of Iamblichus were taken apparently virtually unaltered from an otherwise unknown piece of writing of the fifth or fourth centuries BC. Attempts to assign it to one of the known sophists of the period are now generally regarded as unsuccessful. But the sophistic origin of the material is not in question. It provides a manual of how to succeed in life. This is dependent on the achievement of aretē or virtue, which requires both natural qualities and efforts maintained over a period of years. When achieved, human aretē is found to have involved acting in accordance with law and justice in order to benefit as many persons as possible. Respect for law brings with it good government, which benefits all greatly, and removes the danger of tyranny. The treatise thus provides a kind of complementary antithesis to the perhaps more famous sophistic doctrine which would place the claims of nature above those of human laws. In fact, according to the Anonymus it is not the man who scorns vulgar justice who is going to succeed, it is rather the man who exercises control over himself and co-operates with the society in which he lives. By way of conclusion mention may be made of a further series of anonymous works which various modern scholars have supposed should be attributed to sophistic writers, but for the content of which we have only rather slight information. These may be listed as On Music published from a Hibeh papyrus in 1906; a work entitled Nomima Barbarika concerned with the contrasting customs of different peoples; On Laws, consisting of materials extracted in 1924 from Demosthenes, Oratio XXV; On Citizenship which actually survives among the works attributed to Herodes Atticus in the second century AD, and a supposed treatise On Magnificence (as a quality of persons), which may have some relationship with the Dissoi Logoi. Sophistic doctrines and materials are to be found in many places in the Hippocratic corpus, particularly in the treatises On Art, On Ancient Medicine, On Breathing and De Locis in Homine. To these may be added the pseudo-Xenophontine Constitution of the Athenians, which cannot have been written by Xenophon, and seems to have been put together partly under the influence of the doctrine of opposing arguments developed by Protagoras. NOTES 1 Kerferd [7.15], 16. 2 Kerferd [7.15], ch. 6. 3 For this view of the sophists see the description by H. Sidgwick, Journal of Philology 4 (1872); 289. 4 For view (1) see A.E.Taylor, Plato, The Man and his Work, 4th edn, 1937: 326. For (2) see most recently Guthrie, [2.3] III: 184, and for (3) F. Cornford, Plato’s Theory of Knowledge, London, 1935, and most recently K. von Fritz, in Pauly- Wissowa [see 5.34], s.v. Protagoras, 916f. 5 So, for example, Gomperz [7.13], 1–38. 6 So G. Grote, History of Greece VIII, (London, John Murray, 1883), pp. 172–4. 7 See [7.28]. 8 For fuller discussion see W.J. Verdenius, in [7.9], 116–28. 9 Kerferd [7.31]. 10 272.3 in Proclus, In Primum Euclidis Elementorium Librum Commentarii, ed. G. Friedlein, Leipzig, Teubner, 1871 p.272–3. 11 For discussion, see Dodds [7.24], 12–15. 12 So by Guthrie [2.13] III: 304ff. BIBLIOGRAPHY Original Language Editions 7.1 DK [2.2], vol. II, C. Ältere Sophistik, sections 79–90. (Cited as DK with section number, e.g. DK 80 for Protagoras.) 7.2 Untersteiner, M. Sofisti, testimonianze et frammenti, fasc. I–IV, Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1949–62, Fasc. I–III 2nd edn 1962–7. With Italian translation. Translations 7.3 Dumont, J.P. Les sophistes, fragments et témoignages, Paris, Presses Universitaires, 1969. French. 7.4 Sprague, R.K. The Older Sophists: A Complete Translation, Columbia, SC, University of South Carolina Press, 1972, repr. 1990. English. Bibliographies 7.5 Classen, C.J. (ed.) 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Routledge History of Philosophy. . 2005.

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