The ideas of the Sophists in Plato's dialogues
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Aiming, in contrast to the traditional attitude, to arrive at general distinction of the role of the Sophists and the Sophistic Movement, this research concentrates on the individual Sophists rather than Socrates in five of Plato's dialogues: the Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias Major, Euthydemus and Republic I. The thinking of six individual Sophists is examined in detail by contrasting the historical Sophists and the Sophists as portrayed by Plato in his dialogues. In addition to this the study considers whether or not Plato's logical validity is consistent in developing an argument between Socrates and the individual Sophists. Chapter I attempts to contrast the meaning of Callicles' physis with the Homeric hero's power and honour in unrivalled strength and prowess, closely interrelated with one's competitive excellence (ὰρϵϮή). Chapter II investigates the thinking of the two Sophists, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, finding it to be closely interrelated with the logic and ontology of the Eleatics in the respect of developing their systematic fallacies. Chapter III shows that Hippias, as polymath, has derived his basic ideas from the natural philosophers, Heraclitus and Empedocles, and shows how this helps to explain his idea of physis and "the natural continuous bodies of being". Chapter IV discusses how Protagoras' claim to be a teacher of the art of politics and of making men good citizens can be coherently justifiable through his use of myth and argument. Chapter V clarifies how Thrasymachus' definition of justice as "justice and the just are the other fellow's good" leads to his other proposition "justice is nothing other than the interest of the stronger" in the actual world, involving the courage to look the real facts in the face rather than hide behind the name of justice. In particular Socrates' ineffectiveness is well displayed in dealing with the powerful claim of the moral sceptic, for his counterattack falls short of refuting Thrasymachus' position in this dialogue.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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