Avoiding Sophistry

The Sophists were the intellectual class in Ancient Athens who educated wealthy young men. 1)http://www.iep.utm.edu/sophists/ Socrates heavily criticized the Sophists ( like everyone else) for there false wisdom.

“There is Gorgias of Leontium, and Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis, who go the round of the cities, and are able to persuade the young men to leave their own citizens, by whom they might be taught for nothing, and come to them, whom they not only pay, but are thankful if they may be allowed to pay them. There is actually a Parian philosopher residing in Athens, of whom I have heard; and I came to hear of him in this way: – I met a man who has spent a world of money on the Sophists, Callias the son of Hipponicus, and knowing thathe had sons, I asked him: “Callias,” I said, “if your two sons were foals or calves, there would be no difficulty in finding someone to put over them; we should hire a trainer of horses or a farmer probably who would improve and perfect them in their own proper virtue and excellence; but as they are human beings, whom are you thinking of placing over them? Is there anyone who understands human and political virtue? You must have thought about this as you have sons; is there anyone?” “There is,” he said. “Who is he?” said I, “and of what country? and what does he charge?” “Evenus the Parian,” he replied; “he is the man, and his charge is five minae.” Happy is Evenus, I said to myself, if he really has this wisdom, and teaches at such a modest charge. Had I the same, I should have been very proud and conceited; but the truth is that I have no knowledge of the kind. ”

The Apology by Plato 2) http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html

I believe this is the central battle of philosophy and it constantly echoes throughout history.

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

-Matthew 23:1-4 NKJV 3)https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23&version=NKJV

The modern day sophists are the people who hold their paltry knowledge above all else. They look no further than the end of their nose for the truth. They are quick to call other men hypocrites and have a million excuses for their every misdeed. They despise anything that contradicts their worldview even if it would ultimately help them be better people.

However, we are not here today to belittle a group of people, we are here to learn how to avoid that path. We all walk down the path of sophistry at times. If we can recognize the signs of this behavior in ourselves we can start to be virtuous.

Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

“Evil is the force that believes its knowledge is complete.”

-Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

“I don’t know,” is a magical key that unlocks a door full of possible knowledge. Sophists keep that door firmly shut because they don’t want to appear foolish. Do not place your love of dignity over your love of truth. People will view you as they want to regardless of how it makes you feel, so you might as well gain some knowledge. Not knowing is a forgivable ignorance, but not asking is not one.

Admit when you are wrong.

“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.”

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Always admit when you are wrong. By designating that action as “wrong”, you quarantine it away from your being and are less likely to repeat it. In my experience, I have found pride to be a stumbling block rather than any sort of  defense. When you make a mistake you are given a bittersweet gift. You are given the opportunity to improve. Take the opportunity rather than stubbornly clinging to what makes you fail.

Do not dismiss sources of truth you don’t like.

I’m for truth, no matter who tells it.”

-Malcolm X

The truth springs often from unlikely places. Do not dismiss the truth because you do not like the source. The idea may be sound even if the person is not. Attacking a person and not their ideas is not a good argument.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.iep.utm.edu/sophists/
2.  http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html
3. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23&version=NKJV