Kerferd’s The Sophistic Movement

G.B. Kerferd
The Sophistic Movement
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter One: Introduction

•    Sophists provoked their own condemnation, first by Socrates then Plato
1: “Even the revulsion of Plato felt by those to whom Plato felt by those whom Plato has tended to appear as a reactionary authoritarian has done little for the sophists.  Condemned to a kind of half-life between Presocratics on the one hand and Plato and Aristotle on the other, they seem to wander for ever like lost souls.”
2: “Throughout all, two dominant themes – the need to accept relativism in values and elsewhere without reducing all to subjectivism, and the belief that there is no area of human life or of the world as a whole which should be immune from understanding achieved throughout reasoned argument.”
Chapter Two: Towards a History of Interpretations of the Sophistic Movement
•    Aristotle: The sophistic art consists in apparent wisdom which is not in fact wisdom, and the sophist is one who makes money from “apparent and not real wisdom”
•    Two charges: sophists are not serious thinkers and teachings were profoundly immoral
4: “They define the sophist (1) as the hired hunter of rich young men, (2) as a man who sells ‘virtue’, and, since he is selling goods not his own, as a man who can be described as merchandising in learning, or (3) who sells it retail in small quantities, or (4) as a man who sells goods that he has fabricated in person for his customers.  On another view, (5) the sophist is one who carries on controversies of the kind called Eristic in order to make money from the discussion of right and wrong.  (6) A special aspect of kind of sophistry is then identified as a kind of verbal examination called Elenchus which educates by purging the soul from the vain conceit of wisdom.  […]  Finally at the end of the dialogue, after a long digression, we come to (7) where the sophist is seen as the false counterfeiter of philosophy, ignorantly framing contradictions that are based on appearances and opinions rather than reality.”


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