Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sophists and Democracy

The sophists' rhetorical techniques were extremely useful for any young nobleman looking for public office. In addition to the individual benefits that Sophistic-style teaching conferred, the societal roles that the Sophists filled had important ramifications for the Athenian political system at large.
The historical context in which the Sophists operated provides evidence for their considerable influence, as Athens became more and more democratic during the period in which the Sophists were most active.
The Sophists certainly were not directly responsible for Athenian democracy, but their cultural and psychological contributions played an important role in its growth. They contributed to the new democracy in part by subjectifying truth, which allowed and perhaps required a tolerance of the beliefs of others.
This liberal attitude would naturally have precipitated into the Athenian assembly as Sophists acquired increasingly high-powered clients.
Contiguous rhetorical training gave the citizens of Athens
"the ability to create accounts of communal possibilities through
persuasive speech

This was extremely important for the democracy, as it gave disparate and sometimes superficially unattractive views a chance to be heard in the Athenian assembly.
In addition, Sophists had great impact on the early development of law, as the sophists were the first lawyers in the world. Their status as lawyers was a result of their extremely developed argumentation skills.

"Ποταμοῖς τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐμβαίνομέν τε καὶ οὐκ ἐμβαίνομεν, εἶμέν τε καὶ οὐκ εἶμεν."

"We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not."
Heraclitus the Riddler

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