What Was a Sophist?
A Sophist is an itinerant professional teacher. They were seen frequently in Athens and other Greek cities. The Sophists offered an education to wealthy men in return for pay. The Sophists were skilled in speech, especially rhetoric, which is the art of effective or persuasive speaking and writing. They were respected, but also hated because of their price and deception. The Sophists could convince a crowd with their voice. In their teachings, they taught that right made right. They were obsessed with winning and succeeding.
What Was Their Philosophy?
Some excerpts from Sophists: There is relative truth only. Everyone has his own truth. Might makes right. As you can see, the Sophists encouraged the idea of winning and relativism. The Sophists challenged and criticized modern ideas. They believed that right makes right. They were Atheists; they did not believe that gods and goddesses influenced people. They believed that there was no absolute right of wrong. Instead, they taught their students how to win arguments and make good political speeches.
Impact on Greek Philosophy
The Sophists took their philosophy in a different way. People who sought a Sophist for education would learn many things not taught by Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle. Sophism's teachings divided the beliefs of people of Ancient Greece. They were a type of pragmatists.
To sum it up, Sophists are a bit like lawyers. For a price, they would teach you how to speak in public, or in court. Today, we would call them "Arrogant Atheist Lawyers." Modern advertisers and politicians could relate to Sophists, too. Politicians try to get their vote through public speech. Advertisers are trying to get you to believe them--not necessarily with the truth, however.