Socrates as a Sophist or Not a Sophist? Essay

The book Philosophical Conversations, Socrates argues that he is not a sophist within his society, because he “has nothing to teach” (Melchert, 58), and no knowledge to teach about. His argument begins with the statement that “Sophists set themselves up as teachers… Socrates does not. He cannot do so… because he does not rightly know what it is, and no one can teach what he doesn’t understand. (58) Additionally he claims that he does not have a school like sophists usually have in order to teach their views and knowledge, because as he claims “he has never taught anyone anything. ” (58) He argues also with the fact that unlike sophists “he takes no pay from those who associate themselves with him,” (58) because it is their choice to listen or not.

In regards to interests, the Sophists see the arts of communication and argument as a “strategy and tactic in battle” (59) the main point is to “enable their practitioner to win. (59) For Socrates, he views these interests “not to win a victory over his opponent but to advance toward the truth,” (59) which for the Sophists “no concern for truth underlies the instruction of [them], the aim is victory. ” (59) While I do not agree with Socrates view on not having knowledge, I do agree in the sense that he is very unlike the Sophists. For if this was false, he would not annoy his society constantly with questions as to why things happen the way they do from their own personal views.

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Socrates looks for truth within his conversations with others, whereas the Sophists only give their opinion on the matters. Consider having an older brother who believes he knows everything, and constantly preaches to everyone about it. But, then there is a younger brother whom just asks questions all the time, but claims to know nothing about the questions he asks. This would seem as the older brother would be a sophist and the younger a “Socrates”, because the older brother believes he has something to “teach” whereas the younger brother is just interested in seeking the truth from others.

This claim that I have made towards Socrates not being a Sophists, does not mean that others may claim differently. Socrates was like the Sophists in many aspects in regards to interests and like features of how they spoke, but overall, Socrates was not considered a Sophist because he merely wanted to find answers, not give them. Therefore; Socrates was Philosopher, not a Sophist.