Sophism is a school of philosophy that appeared and existed in ancient Greece. The school refers to the Pre-Socratic time and is more like a group of people with similar views than a definitely established school.
Speaking of the term “sophism,” it is related to the Greek “Sophia” or “Sophos” and means the wisdom. Originally, it is connected with any competence in the specific sphere of knowledge. After being used by poets, it started to characterize the general wisdom and particularly, the wisdom connected with human interactions. After a definite period of time, this term was used to call the class of wandering intellectuals who offered the opportunity to learn “excellence” and the aspects of language that allows persuading someone achieving the aim of the communication.
Sophists had the specific attitude to the knowledge and cognition, and their views were relativistic. They stated that the absolute truth does not exist and if any idea has two points, each of them could be acceptable. Additionally, their teaching provides skeptical attitude to the morality and truth and includes the criticism of ethics, religion, and law. They had no a definite view on the religion, though. Many of them were religious, and others expressed the atheistic opinions. The most common sophistic quotation belongs to Protagoras and states: “Man is the measure of all things.”
Sophists were influential among their contemporaries and received a good attitude from the surroundings. Most of them were wandering and surviving on the given class of oratory art and rhetoric. Their participants in cultural and philosophical life affected the development of democracy in Greek. It is strongly connected not only with their rhetorical classes but also with their liberal position concerning other viewpoints and adoption of Relativism. Additionally, they could be named as first lawyers in the world with the greatest ability to persuade and give arguments.
Some of the beginners in the philosophical school of Sophism stated that they are able to discover the answer to any question. However, one of the most famous figures, Socrates, had never made such proclaims about absolute wisdom and is known for being in principle about no accepting the payment for his teaching. His student, Plato, illustrated Socrates as such person that refuted the Sophism.
The sense of Sophism teaching was hidden in arguing about every view and finding the opposite sides of an opinion. Unfortunately, modern people can know little about their debates as there is no full text still existing. We can examine only a few quotations without context, and most of them belong to Aristotle, the student of Plato.
Developing and accepting the influence of Plato and Aristotle, the Sophism had become somewhat different from the earlier school, and when the Roman Empire appeared, a Sophist was a public speaker or a teacher of rhetoric. Later Sophists were persecuted and received lots of sufferings from the public. Among other popular and famous sophists, you can find such names as Protagoras, Prodicus, Hippias, Lycophron, Callicles, Antiphon, and others that made the enormous influence on the culture.