Sophist



(often initial capital letter) Greek History.

any of a class of professional teachers in ancient Greece who gave instruction in various fields, as in general culture, rhetoric, politics, or disputation.
a person belonging to this class at a later period who, while professing to teach skill in reasoning, concerned himself with ingenuity and specious effectiveness rather than soundness of argument.

a person who reasons adroitly and speciously rather than soundly.
a philosopher.
Contemporary Examples

If his Ethicist gig ever winds up feeling too constricting, he can always launch a column called The sophist.
Forget the Wife Beating—Are You Ready for Some Football? Steve Almond September 10, 2014

Historical Examples

Answer of the latter, declaring the antiquity of the sophistical profession, and his own openness in avowing himself a sophist.
Plato and the Other Companions of Sokrates, 3rd ed. Volume II (of 4) George Grote

There is little worthy of remark in the characters of the sophist.
Sophist Plato

“Man is the measure of all 199things,” said the old Greek sophist, but modern science has taught us another lesson.
Ancient Art and Ritual Jane Ellen Harrison

But the sophist is the Proteus who takes the likeness of all of them; all other deceivers have a piece of him in them.
Sophist Plato

The “sophist” discusses Being and not-being, and their relationship to the theory of Ideas.
A Critical History of Greek Philosophy W. T. Stace

And Plato does not on this ground reject the claim of the sophist to be the true philosopher.
Sophist Plato

The plain high-and-dry men distrusted him as what they called a sophist.
The Life of William Ewart Gladstone, Vol. 1 (of 3) John Morley

Plato does not really mean to say that the sophist or the Statesman can be caught in this way.
Sophist Plato

After the sophist, then, I think that the Statesman naturally follows next in the order of enquiry.
Statesman Plato

noun
(often capital) one of the pre-Socratic philosophers who were itinerant professional teachers of oratory and argument and who were prepared to enter into debate on any matter however specious
a person who uses clever or quibbling arguments that are fundamentally unsound
n.

“one who makes use of fallacious arguments,” mid-15c., earlier sophister (late 14c.), from Latin sophista, sophistes, from Greek sophistes “a master of one’s craft; a wise or prudent man, one clever in matters of daily life,” from sophizesthai “to become wise or learned,” from sophos “skilled in a handicraft, cunning in one’s craft; clever in matters of everyday life, shrewd; skilled in the sciences, learned; clever; too clever,” of unknown origin. Greek sophistes came to mean “one who gives intellectual instruction for pay,” and at Athens, contrasted with “philosopher,” it became a term of contempt.

Sophists taught before the development of logic and grammar, when skill in reasoning and in disputation could not be accurately distinguished, and thus they came to attach great value to quibbles, which soon brought them into contempt. [Century Dictionary]

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