§31 [218-219]

This view is untenable, since the sophists had, from the very outset, no interest in saying anything substantive about scientific questions. Therefore they lacked the concrete means to philosophize scientifically, so that one cannot attribute to them any definite scientific position, even if only the one of skepticism. What people have interpreted that way is thus for the sophists actually a mere object of speeches and argumentation and not something to be considered scientifically. For instance, the proposition of Protagoras, man is the measure of all things, is not the expression of a relativism or a skepticism, as if a theory of knowledge were to be found in that sophist. The traditional interpretation of sophistry was occasioned by the fact that the positive content of scientific research in philosophy was understood precisely in opposition to sophistry. But this way of understanding places that against which Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates worked their way forward on the same level as Plato and Aristotle themselves. It overlooks the fact that scientific philosophy did not arise as a counter-movement against certain doctrinal contents, schools, and the like, but arose instead from a radical reflection on existence, which in Greek public life was determined by the educational ideal of the sophists and not by a determinate philosophical movement. Only by passing through Plato could one think of making the sophists exponents of definite philosophical systems. And that is an inverted image of the spiritual development of the Greeks in general and, above all, of scientific philosophy itself.

c) Sophistry and rhetoric. Plato's position on rhetoric as distinct from Aristotle's. Their common judgment on sophistry (φαινομένη σοφία).

Since Plato identified sophistry with rhetoric (as even Aristotle still did in part), his battle against the sophists was at once a condemnation of the orators. That is, Plato did not succeed in attaining a positive understanding of rhetoric. Aristotle was the first to attain it, for he saw that this kind of speaking makes sense in everyday life, insofar as everyday discussions and deliberations are not so much a matter of disclosing the actual and strict truth but simply of forming a δόξα, a πίστις, a conviction. The positive reflections Aristotle carried out in his Rhetoric broke open Plato's identification of sophistry and rhetoric. Plato's identification of them is clear from the dialogues named after Greek sophists. The Gorgias: ταὐτόν ἐστιν σοφιστὴς καὶ ῥήτωρ, ἢ ἐγγύς τι καὶ παραπλήσιον (cf. 520a6ff.). "The sophist and the orator are the same, or in any case they come very close to one another and are similar." What is characteristic of the sophists, paid tutors of youth who claimed to have perfected this education, is also part and parcel of the orator, insofar as it is also the latter's goal to enact παιδεία in the sense of the δεινότης of the εὗ λέγειν, to enable one to speak well.