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date: 01 March 2021

sophistslocked

  • C. C. W. Taylor

Extract

Itinerant professors of higher education. From its original senses of ‘sage’ and ‘expert’ the word came to be applied in the 5th. cent. bce in the technical sense given above to a number of individuals who travelled widely through the Greek world, giving popular lectures and specialized instruction in a wide range of topics. They were not a school, nor even a single movement, having neither a common set of doctrines nor any shared organization.

Their activities included the popularization of Ionian natural philosophy, *mathematics and the ‘social sciences’ of history, *geography, and speculative *anthropology; *Hippias (2) was active in all and *Protagoras in at least some of these fields. They pioneered the systematic study of techniques of persuasion and argument, which embraced various forms of the study of language, including grammar, literary criticism, and semantics. Protagoras was reputedly the first person to write a treatise on techniques of argument, and was notorious for his claim to ‘make the weaker argument the stronger’.

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