Against the Sophists


Isocrates. Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes, by George Norlin, Ph.D., LL.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1929-1982.

Now as for the sophists who have lately sprung up and have very recently embraced these pretensions,[*](The sophist before mentioned. The teaching of the older sophists is discussed in Antidosis.) even though they flourish at the moment, they will all, I am sure, come round to this position. But there remain to be considered those who lived before our time and did not scruple to write the so-called arts of oratory.[*](Especially the first to write such treatises, Corax and Tisias of Syracuse. te/xnh, like ars in Latin, was the accepted term for a treatise on rhetoric.) These must not be dismissed without rebuke, since they professed to teach how to conduct law-suits, picking out the most discredited of terms,[*](Again and again Isocrates expresses his repugnance to this kind of oratory, and in general it was in bad odor. The precepts of Corax (Crow), for example, were called “the bad eggs of the bad Corax.”) which the enemies, not the champions, of this discipline might have been expected to employ—

and that too although this facility, in so far as it can be taught, is of no greater aid to forensic than to all other discourse. But they were much worse than those who dabble in disputation; for although the latter expounded such captious theories that were anyone to cleave to them in practice he would at once be in all manner of trouble, they did, at any rate, make professions of virtue and sobriety in their teaching, whereas the former, although exhorting others to study political discourse, neglected all the good things which this study affords, and became nothing more than professors of meddlesomeness and greed.[*](The same complaint is made by Aristot. Rh. 1.10.)