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Requested Move[edit]

This article is very misleading. It really says nothing about sophism and simply reflects an ignorant viewpoint claiming to be the "modern usage". Since when does a theory shown to be irrelevant suddenly become dumbed down to "a deceptive argument". The actual theory and argument needs to be expressed and it pointed out that by it's very nature makes discussion of it irrelevant.

This reminds me of an article written by someone who overheard somebody, who actually understood what they were saying, and just pulled the context and took that to be the meaning, then projected that ignorant and shallow contextual understanding as "the modern usage". If the author actually understood what they were writing about they would see that the "modern usage" is just a means of comparison to the actual argument and not simply a derogatory term. It is derogatory by virtue of the comparison and without actual understanding of the argument it should not be simply replaced with a vague description of the term as derogatory.

This Article is Misleading

"Sophist" in the old sense (5th century greece) and "sophist" in the new sense (now) are so different that they cannot be collapsed into one article. Solon was referred to as a sophist while he was alive (Guthrie 28), and many people believe that Socrates should be grouped with them.

At the very least, we need a Sophist (Ancient Greece) article and a Sophist (Modern Usage) article.

Unless anyone has any serious objections I recommend that we split this article in two after a few days. The lower portion of this talk page suggests that the merging of Sophism and Sophist was beneficial due to repetitiveness, but with a better classification of terms this repetitiveness should not recur.

If an admin wouldn't mind making this move, that would be great!

Guthrie, W. K. C. Vol. 3 of History of Greek Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. --Heyitspeter 02:01, 17 April 2007 (UTC)

While we're waiting for this split, I'm going to rewrite the part about ancient Greek sophists, since it contains a lot of inaccuracies and POV speculation. Djcastel 06:35, 28 April 2007 (UTC)

Splitting an article does not require admin assistance. I am also not convinced of the need to split. If the modern usage were to have an article of its own, it would be little more than a dictionary definition, and would perhaps be deleted. --Stemonitis 05:34, 26 May 2007 (UTC)
I requested it because I was afraid I'd screw it up if I did it myself. I see what you mean, though, and the merits of it. I'll try to adjust the article to take the emphasis off of the modern usage, perhaps. --Heyitspeter 20:04, 26 May 2007 (UTC)
Folks, that's all nice, but two things about these new edits bug me:
  1. Beginning of "Sophists and Democracy": "The considerable wealth attained by the individual Sophists is a testament to their social utility within the direct Athenian democracy." -- Huh? Equating wealth and "social utility" is dubious. Look around you, wealth could just as well be the result of conning people, stealing, quackery, looking good, etc.
  2. The modern meaning is only mentioned in the clumsily-written section near the end. This is bad for the following reasons:
    • I want to know what the word means, not what it meant thousands of years ago.
    • If you look up sophism in a dictionary, you'll read something like "specious argument for deceiving folks". The dictionary entry has no resemblance to the article's lead section. That's misleading.
    • The new lead sentence is about the word's origins. That means the sentence is useless to readers who want to know what "sophism" means, which I assume if they look it up in an encyclopedia.
I've tried to resolve all of that. The wealth/social utility sentence is gone. The lead section now says there's "two very different" meanings, followed by one sentence for each. The stuff in the lead about ancient Greece moved to the appropriate section; I removed redundancies. The section about the modern meaning got a complete makeover.
I think the current state of the article is reasonable. I agree that splitting is a bad idea since the "modern usage" article would be too dictionary-ish, which is inappropriate in Wikipedia. But leaving the modern meaning out or discussing it far down is misleading. So the current approach seems to be the best compromise.
Note to Heyitspeter: Thanks for the contributions. When editing pages, you might want to try the "Show preview" button which sits right next to the "Save page" button. That way, the history page won't show this kind of "edit spree". -- 01:01, 28 May 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the tips! I agree with your points, for the most part. I suppose I still have some misgivings about these two oppositional terms being grouped in the same article, but as long as they are clearly separated here, it will do.--Heyitspeter 02:38, 28 May 2007 (UTC)
I agree. From what I understand, the second meaning developed after Plato and his gang twisted the older meaning: Plato is largely responsible for the modern view of the "sophist" as someone who uses rhetorical sleight-of-hand and ambiguities of language in order to deceive (section Sophists of Ancient Greece). So given the common origin, you could argue that it's ok to discuss both in one article. Question is, however, if the article makes that sufficiently clear--the quoted thing is somewhere in the middle. -- 09:19, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

Other Topics[edit]

I suggest that this page needs a quite radical edit, or perhaps to be merged with the article on Sophists, which it mostly repeats.

Perhaps this article should be merged with Sophists. where we already have material on what sophists were originally, and how the term came to be derogatory. What is new in this (sophistry) article is the idea that sophists might win by conciously pandering to the prejudices of "the judges" - but I think this is just one sophistical trick (my dictionary prefers to define a sophist as "a person who reasons with clever but fallacious arguments" (New Oxford Dictionary of English, 1998 edition).

The author then moves on to peer review. By inference, the author is saying that peer review of academic literature is flawed because the right strategy is for authors to concentrate on getting the right response from peer review, rather than by rigorously seeking after the truth. This assertion is (briefly) covered in the article aboutPeer review "Some sociologists of science argue that peer review makes the ability to publish susceptible to control by elites. Reviewers tend to be especially critical of conclusions that contradict their own views, and be llenient towards those that accord with them". Perhaps the link to the Sokal affair belongs somewhere around there in the Peer review article?

The sentence (in the sophistry article) about the "problem of academia" is not helpful - the article on Academia is a stub, and the "problem of academia" is nowhere defined. So I have moved this sentrence here in case it needs restoring:

Sophistry is central to the problem of modern Academia, as illustrated by the Sokal Affair.

I have not carried out my other suggestions - this is my first contribution to Wikipedia, and it seems over the top to so radically alter another's work without discussion - discuss please!

Chris B 29/3/04

I agree - this should be merged with sophist. By the way, if you make an account here, you can set up a watchlist of articles to keep an eye on - useful for both preventing vandalism and also for learning new things about topics you're interested in. And if you sign your discussion page comments with four tildes (~), you get a nice time/date stamp with a link to your user page. Welcome aboard, and edit boldly! If you think something should be radically altered, then feel free to alter it. Kwertii 20:32, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Sophistry (rhetoric) is a perfect example of a disease meme. It is successful because its core insight is literally true: if truth is determined by the rulings of corruptible humans, then truth can be changed by corrupting them. Any society or individual that searches for truth must be on guard against the influence of flattery, comfortable assumptions, and pretty phrases. It is a disease meme because once it has achieved dominance in an organization the organization can no longer function effectively, and fails.

There is no sense in which phrasing an argument well makes it more true; therefore there is no sense in which rhetoric brings us closer to truth. Instead the purpose of rhetoric is to make things appear to be more true (acceptable) than they actually are: and so it leads inexorably to the acceptance of falsehood.

The last two paragraphs are blatantly POV. How can we rework them to be NPOV? Kwertii 16:45, 25 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Moved paragraphs here from the article (above). Kwertii 02:45, 27 Mar 2004 (UTC)


I merged sophist with this page. I'll leave the text on sophist for a few days for review, then change it to a redirect if no one objects. Other than that, I made very few changes, and those I did make were small. The only paragraph I deleted outright was:

The modern peer-reviewed journal is exactly reflective of the traditional model of argumentation. Alan Sokal demonstrated both with the Sokal Affair and at length in his book Fashionable Nonsense that peer-review is not necessarily protection against falsehood entering the canon of accepted truths.

I feel that this paragraph is more or less POV; at the very least, it is not directly relevant to this article, since it is simply accusing a particular sphere of academia of being sophistry. (At least, I think that's what it's saying.) As such, it belongs in an article about peer-reviewed journals, not this one. Of course, if anyone disagrees, feel free to reinstate it. Adam Conover 07:24, Apr 1, 2004 (UTC)

Move to Sophism[edit]

Hello there. I seriously think this article needs to be under Sophism, and NOT Sophistry. I am going to figure out how to change it and change it; if there are any objections, please voice them. Possibly also merge it as below comments say, but under the title Sophism.--ArcticFrog 15:57, 8 Jun 2004 (UTC)

I completely agree with your decision. Adam Conover 03:16, Jun 9, 2004 (UTC)

"Though many sophists were as religious as their contemporaries, some held atheistic or agnostic views." I find this to be a rather ambiguous statement. I respectfully suggest that it either be rewritten (Explaining the religious atmosphere at that time, in that culture), or that it be taken out, or rewritten in some other way that dismisses said ambiguity. Tyro the Kinky Kitty 09:03, 19 May 2005 (UTC)

Bias in this article[edit]

To Whom It May Concern:

This article clearly is biased against the early Greek philosophers, Socrates and Plato in particular. This is reflected in the placement of quotes. Information about the mystical beliefs of Socrates is placed without reference to his philosophical views. There is a tone of condescension toward any (Whitehead is mentioned) who believe that Plato’s thought is the core of the Western philosophical tradition. Interestingly enough, the article reflects the claims made about the sophists in its attempts to defend them.

I suspect someone is trying to be clever and use sophistry to defend sophists. If that's the reason for the bias of this article, this is not the place. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:22, 18 September 2010 (UTC)

A mish-mosh[edit]

As just one example of the poor condition of this article, it says "the sophists' practice of questioning the existence and roles of traditional deities (this was done to make 'the weaker argument appear the stronger')" -- This is a bastardization of Plato, a conflation of two different matters, and frames a very strange conclusion as established fact. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:36, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

Move to sophism[edit]

New to wikipedia, but thought I would point out that it can't hurt to leave the article here - I found the page using the google "define:sophistry" command, whcih pops up with this page. It may technically belong under sophism, that I don't deny; however if there is space there for it, and in terms of utility, the separate article makes sense, I suggest? Any opposing arguments are appreciated.

Entry needs serious revision, especially regarding Socrates. Several parts are just plain wrong.

A New Idea[edit]

I have a thought that might actually help with POV and will also add more contextual information. It is my understanding (by no means expert) that during the Sophists' heyday, there was unrest in many of the Greek city-states, and that some of the governing powers seized peasant lands. The peasants, in turn, had to argue their case at court. Losing in court, therefore, meant losing property. Granted, the Sophists charged for their teachings (which Socrates despised), but if I am not mistaken many of the Sophists taught rhetorical skills to those who were not already well educated, i.e., not the elites of Greek society. In so doing the Sophists helped some of the members of the lower-class develop the skills in argumentation necessary to win in the courts (admittedly, the Sophists only did this at a cost). Socrates might have given his teachings for free, but his pupils were predominately elites themselves. At any rate, if any are interested in this line of research, it could supplement the article by better giving the reader a balanced view of the Sophists, which is difficult to achieve given Plato's biases and the fragmentation of primary sources. Also, an earlier and more thorough distinction among the Greek, Roman, and modern meanings of "sophistry," "sophism," "sophist" etc. might be helpful.

Friedrich Nietzsche[edit]

Why is Friedrich Nietzsche listed in the See Also section? I looked in the Friedrich Nietzsche article, and the only reference to Sophism was "Nietzsche applauds Ceasar, Napoleon, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Thucydides and the Sophists as healthier and stronger types." There is only one other person singled out in the see also section, and that link has text explaining why he was listed. Perhaps text could be added to this link explaining why it is listed. Is the article claiming that he was a Sophist, it's unclear.--RLent 21:45, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

Sophists as opponents of Plato[edit]

Is it really fair to characterize the Sophists as 'opponents' of Plato?Yeago (talk) 00:12, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Susan Jarratt, for one, has characterized them this way. There does seem to be direct opposition between the two; not always malicious, but nearly always oppositional. Plato believed in immutable truths, objective and absolute. Whether or not he believed that we could infallibly access these truths is another story - the Sophists didn't believe that these truths existed to be accessed. That's a serious schism.--Heyitspeter (talk) 07:55, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

Relevant reading[edit]

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig is a book which examines the Sophists of ancient Greece in some detail. This author, among other things, offers a rebuttal to the commonly held conceptions about sophistry.

Certainly there has been extensive literature written about the Greeks of antiquity; why is none of it linked in this article? Is this some arcane Wikipedia policy that I don't know of? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:27, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

It definitely is linked (not hyper). Check the notes section. It can always grow, of course.--Heyitspeter (talk) 07:56, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

Why is a redirect to Glenn Beck included here? The GB page on Wikipedia does not mention sophism as far as I can tell. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:58, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

MR. BECK is linked to in regards to the modern usage of "Sophism," meaning a specious argument, particularly the clever type that is made to sound very highly rational. or "Sophist" meaning one who relies on such practice. Note that neither cleverness, nor rationality, make it necessarily true. This has no bearing on the ancient usage of the word in regards to wisdom. As MR. BECK would likely take issue with being called "rhetorical, but hollow" I'm certain the Wikipedia policy is to never play favorites with (or against) the Mass Media. Ironically, ADDING GLENN BECK to the "Sophism" page is a rather fine example of rhetoric, but that does not necessarily make it so. This irony in itself, is an example of the modern use of "Sophism," hollow rhetoric, which is why it can't be used in the Wikipedia — we have standards, no Sophism is allowed! even on the Sophism page. ROFLMAO. but in terms of sheer Irony, a definitely hit-of-the-hat!


I'd like to propose that an article be created on the topic of "Sophistry". I find it disconcerting to be redirected to "Sophism", when what I'm interested in is Sophistry. Unfree (talk) 20:40, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

That was then, this is 2014. And yet people wanting to learn about Sophistry are still being redirected to Sophism. Or, given some of Wikipedia "reasons" for deleting, could it be that this issue sometimes strikes a little close-to-home? (talk) 20:34, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

No one has tried to create an article on Sophistry as different from Sophism in the time since 2009. Anyone is free to do so, assuming it meets notability standards. --Atethnekos (DiscussionContributions) 20:56, 14 June 2014 (UTC)


Why I deleted "An Ad Hominem argument is an example of Sophistry."

If you say, "Round things are marvelous and ought to be preserved at all costs," and I say, "You're stupid", can anybody in his right mind accuse me of making an overly sophisticated remark? Unfree (talk) 21:01, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Possibly contentious: Plato talking through Socrates[edit]

I believe this is in dispute and contentious:

"...led to the condemnations made by Plato (through Socrates in his dialogues)"

specifically the part about Plato writing through the character of Socrates, or at least changing the dialogues for his own motives. I was under this impression some people believed it was as good a faithful record of what Socrates said as could be, and some believed it was Plato writing, and the matter was not settled. Should this be labelled as disputed?

FireLyte--spyre (talk) 01:53, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

Language discrepancy and misleading redirect[edit]

Sophist should have its own page and not redirect to sophism. The sophism article should solely focus on sophism (intentional fallacious argument). In addition to being more accurate, this division would eliminate the discrepancies that currently exist between the French and English version of the article. Currently,

  • the English article on Fallacy is matched with the French article on Sophisme (French for sophism),
  • and the English article on Sophism is matched with the French article on Sophiste (French for sophist).

This is misleading and inaccurate. Sophism is a form of fallacy and should perhaps be described in a subsection of the Fallacy article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:36, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

Agreed. The term "sophist" needs its own, separate article. While I understand that earlier contributors had concerns about duplicate material, those concerns do not justify the redirect. In addition to the sensible observations about French Wikipedia made above, I would add that Greek Wikipedia, German Wikipedia, Latin Wikipedia, and Italian Wikipedia all have their own articles on either the singular "sophist" or the plural "sophists." What is even more telling, however, is that English Wikipedia itself has at least several dozen articles on individual historical figures who are referred to as sophists within their own articles, yet this muddled article on "sophism" links to very few of those articles. As a result, someone who searches for the term "sophist" on English Wikipedia gets an extremely distorted and inaccurate picture of what information is available about the sophists on English Wikipedia.

Furthermore, this article does not do justice to the technical term "sophism" either. I am not aware of any ancient source or competent modern scholarly authority that uses the word "sophism" as an abstraction for "the doctrines or teachings of the sophists." Ancient sources, and modern scholars who know what they are talking about, usually use the word "Sophistic" for that purpose, which is why French Wikipedia and Italian Wikipedia have articles on "Sophistique" and "Sofistica" respectively. The word "sophism," which is based on Greek sophisma, has its own separate history, as represented by the English Wikipedia article Sophismata. There is a loose etymological relationship between "sophism" and "sophist," but this article, as it currently stands, conflates them in a way that is very confused.TJLaw (talk) 04:49, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

Considering these, should we not add a {{distinguish|Sophismata}} to this page? -- Jokes Free4Me (talk) 18:54, 23 February 2014 (UTC)

Accusations of “sophism” has become a tool of the anti intellect[edit]

The term has become a favorite of the anti intellectual, and in recent years has often used to discredit a legitimate argument , claim, or especially a question.


“I oppose the gay lifestyle’

“What exactly is the gay lifestyle?”

"The Federal Government should not be imposing mandates on school curriculum"

"Can you tell me what mandates you are refuring to ?"

The person asking such a question is often incorrectly accused of “sophistry” for simply asking the person making the statement to define a term they invoked, or to give examples of a claim they made

Not sure how, but this frequent misuse should be inserted into the article — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cosand (talkcontribs) 15:21, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

This article is so biased, it is untrue[edit]

It is about time someone sorted it out. I don't feel qualified myself, but if it doesn't change, then I might have a go. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:10, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Plans to remove redirect[edit]

I plan to remove the "sophist" --> "sophism" redirect, so that links to "sophist" no longer redirect to this article. I will discuss plans for editing the "sophist" article on that article's talk page, and I invite other interested users to contribute to that discussion as well.TJLaw (talk) 23:48, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

Fwiw, there's also a sophists redirect... Shouldn't that be changed too? Also, since "sophist" no longer redirects to this article, maybe a direct link to it would be warranted here (either in the lead text of the first section, or as a {{Main}})? -- Jokes Free4Me (talk) 19:01, 23 February 2014 (UTC)

Duplicate material to be eliminated and replaced[edit]

I have copied much of the material in this article that has to do with the sophists, and put it into the article "sophist." Most of this material should now be deleted from "sophism." It should be replaced by information from primary and secondary sources that elaborate on the ancient definition, origin, and usage of the term "sophisma." If no one has any objections, I will soon remove the duplicated material and replace it with material that is more relevant to the historical definition of sophism (which is related to, but not identical with, the teachings of the sophists).TJLaw (talk) 01:37, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

The black art of Sophistry[edit]

Has anyone noticed that Wikipedia does not have a section on Sophistry? (talk) 14:55, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

Links to other languages[edit]

For some reason the article is not linked to "sophism" in other languages (e.g. סופיזם). I have tried to do the connection manually but got an error. Can someone with more experience help? -- (talk) 11:56, 16 June 2014 (UTC)