Sophists have played a crucial role in shaping the Ancient Greek civilization and, consequently, the entire Western civilization. Initially, they were philosophers and scholars who taught various subjects for money. They managed to transform Athens and contributed to the promotion of the cultural and social roles that ensured the city’s importance as a cultural and political center. Sophists helped democratize education in Athens by providing it to anyone who was able to pay. The availability of education was the primary factor of Athens’ success, which has been used as a guideline by various societies numerous times since the fifth century BC.
Sophists had a unique approach to studies and knowledge that was later criticized by several prominent Greek philosophers. Unlike many other philosophers (and scientists), sophists did not make much effort to find the ultimate truth, as they believed that there was a need for it. Having traveled across most neighboring states, the first Sophists came to the conclusion that nothing was good or bad by nature (Soccio, 2015).
Therefore, the Sophists sought to acquire wisdom and experience that could be successfully applied in order to achieve power that has become central to their philosophy. According to Sophists, power is the only thing that all people truly desire. Power gives a person control over conditions that increase the chances for survival and a happy life. Therefore, Sophists generally focused on the tools and wisdom needed to maximize the benefits under certain circumstances in order to become more powerful. Moreover, the Sophist idea that justice originates from the will of the powerful further highlights the importance of power.
Pragmatism and moral realism both rely on some of the basic ideas proposed by Sophists. Pragmatism emphasizes the utilization of words and thoughts as efficient tools for solving various problems and improving wellbeing. Moreover, a pragmatic theory of truth is one of the main positions of that philosophy. Moral realism also provides a highly practical approach to the concepts of truth and justice, as it argues that moral beliefs can be called untrue if they contradict each other. Therefore, ideas and tools proposed by Sophists more than two thousand years ago have long been influencing people’s perception of truth and knowledge.
Soccio, D. J. (2015). Archetypes of wisdom: An introduction to philosophy (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.