Plato on the Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists


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I assume this meant something specific to her listeners in the 's. I assume they knew which procedures and methods she was referring to. I don't think it would have meant any form of deception or any fallacious argument. But perhaps not.


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Perhaps sophistical methods are synonymous with fallacies. I am interested in what those procedures or methods are specifically. Preferably I would like to be able to link any methods to sources in Plato so I could cite those sources later should I have the opportunity to say that something is sophistical because it uses this or that method or procedure. Without that I would just continue to use the word fallacious.

The philosophical problem of the nature of sophistry is arguably even more formidable.

Due in large part to the influence of Plato and Aristotle, the term sophistry has come to signify the deliberate use of fallacious reasoning, intellectual charlatanism and moral unscrupulousness. It is, as the article explains, an oversimplification to think of the historical sophists in these terms because they made genuine and original contributions to Western thought.

Marina McCoy

I am not interested in defending or attacking sophists themselves, but only in identifying the main methods and procedures that Plato to make this specific would have considered, rightly or wrongly, sophistical. Anscombe, G. Modern moral philosophy. Philosophy, 33 , See The Sophists : Protagoras :.

Plato [in Meno , 91e] says that he [Protagoras] practised as a sophist for over forty years till his death at about seventy probably about BC.


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In any event, we do have some evidence for Protagoras' teaching of techniques of argument. Arguments Kataballontes. So Protagoras taught argumentative strategies, but we have comparatively little evidence of what these actually were. Protagoras was probably the first Greek to earn money in higher education and he was notorious for the extremely high fees he charged. His teaching included such general areas as public speaking, criticism of poetry, citizenship, and grammar.

His teaching methods seemed to consist primarily of lectures, including model orations, analyses of poems, discussions of the meanings and correct uses of words, and general rules of oratory.

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His audience consisted mainly of wealthy men, from Athens' social and commercial elites. The reason for his popularity among this class had to do with specific characteristics of the Athenian legal system. In conclusion, it is necessary to make a clear distinction with the current use of "sophistry" as meaning "fallacious" and the original Sophist school or movement, whose main "tools" were rethoric and teaching. For Plato's critique, see Protagoras dialogue.

Generally, some judge or audience eventually either concurs with or rejects the position of one side and thus a consensus opinion of the truth is arrived upon.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

The essential claim of sophistry is that the actual logical validity of an argument is irrelevant if not non-existent ; it is only the ruling of the audience that ultimately determines whether a conclusion is considered "true" or not. By appealing to the prejudices and emotions of the judges, one can garner favorable treatment for one's side of the argument and cause a factually false position to be ruled true.

The philosophical Sophist goes one step beyond that and claims that since it was traditionally accepted that the position ruled valid by the judges was literally true, any position ruled true by the judges must be considered literally true, even if it was arrived at by naked pandering to the judges' prejudices — or even by bribery. Critics would argue that this claim relies on a straw man caricature of logical discourse and is, in fact, a self-justifying act of sophistry.

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Philosophical perspectives of sophists were critically exposed and analyzed by Plato. Although all sophists may not have shared the same view, Plato depicted their general perspective. Sophists traveled and witnessed diverse views of god and customs, and developed relativistic or antagonistic views for religious faith, morality, and values. They presented a skeptical or critical or antagonistic view to the existence of an absolute, permanent, and objective standard of truth.

They viewed truth or a standard of good and evil as a matter of interpretation. If there is no objective standard of truth we can appeal to or can determine the validity of claims, arguments become like a game or a battle where winning or losing is at stake and rhetorical skills become a definitive universal tool.

The Sophists - Classics - Oxford Bibliographies

Thrasymachus, another prominent sophist, developed this view. Citing historical cases, he challenged Socrates, and explained how winners in fact defined and determined justice and judged losers according to the standard they set. Thrasymachus held a view that power determines and defines good and evil.

Even deceptive measures were justified as far as they serve for winning over opponents. This power based value perspective entails a nihilistic view of life. One may also find an incipient idea of Machiavellianism. There was no permanent or absolute principle such as divine justice that abided human society. If winning or losing is the essential matter, how one appears or looks to others becomes far more important than how one in fact is.

Due to the denial of the existence of unchanging, permanent truth or reality, the world is dissolved and reduced to only appearance or phenomena. Sophists often identified happiness with pleasure and promoted secular materialistic social success.

I do not intend to present a full account of the history of philosophy and rhetoric. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF. Skip to main content. Advertisement Hide. The Conflict between Philosophy, Rhetoric and Theology. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Moore 1 1.


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Plato on the Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists Plato on the Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists
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Plato on the Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists Plato on the Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists
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