Date Submitted:
03/18/2011 05:11 AM
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Compare Socrates with the Sophists

Compare Socrates with the Sophists.

Many Athenians had mistaken Socrates for a Sophist. The fact is that Socrates was one of the Sophists’ keenest critics. That Socrates should have been identified with them was due to his relentless analysis of any and every subject, a technique also used by the Sophists. But between the Sophists and Socrates there was a fundamental difference. The Sophists showed that equally good arguments could be advanced on either side of any issue; they were skeptics who doubted that there could be any certain or reliable knowledge. On the other hand, Socrates was committed to the pursuit of truth and considered it his mission to seek out certain knowledge.

Unlike philosophers before them, Sophists claimed to be wise enough to teach whatever you might want to know as long as you were willing to pay them the required fees.   Sophists traveled more than ordinary Greeks and they learned that there is a real variety of “correct” ways to do things depending upon one’s perspective.   They believed there was no universally appropriate way of doing anything.   Therefore there can be no absolutes of any kind.   Appearances are reality, at least the only reality any of us can know. They were extremely doubtful about the possibility of discovering anything that was really true. Instead, they taught their followers how to ‘get along’ in the world, without certain knowledge. They taught their followers how to win disputes, how to speak well and convincingly how to succeed. Their underlying theory developed from two remarks of two of the leading Sophists. Protagoras, perhaps the greatest of the Sophists, said “Main is the measure of all things” and Gorgias, another great sophist, proclaimed, “Nothing exists, and if it did, no one could know it, and if they knew it, they could not communicate it”.   From these statements the Sophists developed the view that knowledge was unattainable, and therefore, man should not bother to seek what he can never find….

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