The Teachings of the Sophists Essay

The Teachings of the Sophists Essay

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Plato defines rhetoric as “the art of ruling the minds of men” (Bloom). The sophists were instructors in the disciplines of rhetoric and overall excellence. Their teachings thrived in the fifth century B.C. Through the work of Protagoras, Gorgias, Antiophon, and other sophists, the people of Athens gained higher education and stopped accepting everything they were taught as absolute fact. This questioning of traditional philosophical schools eventually led to the emergence of other ways of thought such as skepticism.
According to the Oxford Online Dictionary, the word sophist comes from the Greek word “sophos,” meaning “wise” (“sophist, n.”). The word came to describe those who were an expert in their field or craft, much like the term philosopher was used. A man who was a skilled warrior may be considered a sophist in battle. Later, the word evolved to describe primarily a collective group of teachers who trained others in the art of rhetoric in exchange for financial compensation.
Sophists and their teachings became widespread in the latter fifth century B.C. in Athens, Greece, which was a major cultural hub in the ancient world. At this point, Greece had dominated the trade industry around the Mediterranean Sea, so Greece had great power among the critical urban cities. After the Athenians defeated the Persians, they began to esteem themselves as an elevated people. The population began to focus on broadening their intelligence and understanding of the world. The theatre reached a pinnacle as playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides began to write classics for example Agamemnon, Oedipus Rex, and Antigone. Satire plays which criticized the government became much more common. Great philosophers like ...


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... the sophists are significant. They educated many Athenians, providing the country with greater numbers of intelligent, literate persuaders. They impacted the ways that laws were brought about because they were some of the leading thinkers of the time. The sophists also questioned many of the traditionally accepted schools of thought, which planted the seed that eventually grew into the skeptic movement. The skeptics were a group of people who examined the limitations of human knowledge.
The teachings of sophism stressed highly on the importance of rhetoric and overall excellence. Even though sophists are often looked on in a negative light, lessons can be learned from the fifth century scholars. The art of rhetoric can get one far in life. When man can defend both sides of an argument or persuade his objective, there is no limit to what man can achieve.


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