The Sophists

In Patricia Curd & Daniel Graham (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy. Oxford University Press USA (2008)
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Abstract

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.

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Paul B. Woodruff
University of Texas at Austin

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