Socrates and the Sophists

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In ancient Greece, Socrates and the Sophists were the most valued philosophical thinkers of their time period. In this essay, I will be examining the similarities and differences in their respective ways of thinking when it comes to their teachings as well as their overall beliefs of knowledge and thinking. The Sophists approach their thinking in a similar way as Socrates as they both practice epistemology, their emphasization of argumentation when using rhetoric, as well as educating the community.

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The predominant difference between Socrates and the Sophists begins with the fact that they were different types of teachers during this time and their extending debate between truth or knowledge and whether or not it was absolute. Through the process of comparing their similarities and differences about their specific ways of thinking, I will conclude that the Sophists and Socrates share a greater amount of similarities than they do differences in respective ways of thinking.

Socrates and the Sophists share a respective way of thinking when it comes to their beliefs in epistemology, their clear usage of rhetoric for argumentation, and also their acts of educating people. The theory about knowledge called epistemology began for the very first time when Socrates and the Sophists began to give their explanations about the difference between belief and opinion. The two philosophers share the same epistemology in that they share similar ideas in the nature of knowledge as well as the extent of human knowledge. The nature of knowledge shows the difference from when someone knows something and when some thinks they know something. The extent of human knowledge comes from using human senses, reason, and the resources to gain knowledge of a certain idea. Like the Sophists, Socrates is interested in the arts of communication and argument, in techniques of persuasion. (Melchert pg 64). Their shared idea of the pure difference between knowledge and opinion is shown through their theories of human knowledge and the knowledge of nature through gaining knowledge to prove whether something is true or not.

The usage of rhetoric was a shared idea for their teaching, primarily through their use of persuasion. Rhetoric allowed them to persuade those who were either ignorant or in denial about the truth whether that came to justice or injustice. During Socrates trial, for corrupting the youth, we have our first glimpse of the Socratic method, which proceeds by the question and answer, not by long speeches. (Melchert pg 62) He used rhetoric is his advantage by not changing his argument to prove injustice but using rhetoric to persuade and make his argument stronger through his Socratic method.

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