Dr. Graham – Philosophy 201
10 December 2017
Extra Credit Paper
The Benefits and Detriments of Sophism on Society
Education in society is paramount for its progression. As citizens educate themselves, they learn how to improve their quality of life through innovation and efficiency. This improvement leads to advancements in technology, philosophy, and methodology. The Sophists from Ancient Greece were itinerant teachers that charged tuition from middle-and-upper class Athenians in exchange for an education in philosophy and rhetoric. They were the first formal adult educators among their people, and their academic influence has been said to have both benefitted and hindered their society. Sophists benefited the Greeks because they were deemed experts in their subjects, and they edified their fellow men as they shared their knowledge with them. Because the Sophists were both skilled in a wide range of disciplines and always reachable, anyone who had the monetary means to pay them tuition could be taught about numerous subjects including math, music, and athletics. Consequently, the people started to attain proficiency in various subjects, become more informed, and eventually teach help others to develop valued skills and intellect as well. This novel trade initiated a cycle of perpetual learning and development among the Athenians. Furthermore, the Sophists taught the arts of persuasion through proper oratory and through reasoning skills. With this benefit, many of the people were taught how to communicate effectively and convey their ideas in such a way that they could participate in local politics. Thus, bringing forth justice and democracy through the better voicing of their opinions. An example of this was when Gorgias defended Helen of Troy from the accusatory charges placed against her for initiating the Trojan War. Gorgias was an adept Sophist tutor who could utilize persuasive techniques to win arguments when needed.
Other Sophists in Greek society transmitted similar tactics to their pupils as well. Although the Sophists were talented educators, many have said that they prioritized the teaching of talent over truth. Focusing so much on the arts of persuasion, reason, and politics, they gave their students the key to deceive. This effect was detrimental to society because it allowed for dishonesty and guile to corrupt the voice of the people and pollute their agendas within local politics and interpersonal behavior. Perhaps greed prevented the Sophists from caring about this disservice, and they grew numb to truth as they became wealthy with Athenian currency. Etymology proves this point, as the word “sophistry” has evolved over time to signify “the deliberate use of fallacious reasoning, intellectual charlatanism and moral unscrupulousness” (Rauhut). Another problem with the Sophists’ role in society was that they only provided adult education to those who could afford the tuition, which vastly limited their potential teaching pool and kept the lower-class citizens in the dark. Many say that proper education is precisely what the poor need to escape poverty. Furthermore, the professional educators claimed to teach excellence and virtue but were often hypocritical and acted contrary to their curriculum.
Logical fallacies and distorted evidence were utilized in the fight to win debates, and some of the credibility earned from peers was false.
Education is very important in the advancement and progression of a people. Each successful society must have some form of academia and educators whether informal or
formal. The Sophists revolutionized the availability and methodology of ancient Greek education, and did some good and some bad in the process. Although the Sophists catalyzed more widespread participation in local governments and a greater proficiency in many disciplines, they were hypocritical in their programs and sought more after wealth than teaching for another’s benefit.
Rauhut, Nils. “Thrasymachus (fl. 427 B.C.E.).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d.
Web. 18 Nov. 2016.