Reading Plato

We are indebted to Plato for his changing the word “sophist” to a term of contempt. As soon as we see a sophist enter a dialogue, we know he’s the one in a black hat, soon to be tangled in contradiction and an airtight refutation. This expectation detracts from our ability to learn from Plato. Maybe we should translate “sophist” as “Ph.D” or “professor”.

(…and then Professor Trasymachus, unable to contain himelf any longer, threw himself into the discussion…)

That would give us a better idea of what philosophy is all about.


  1. Dan said,

    April 26, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    This might be missing your point, but I don’t think the refutations are all that airlight; for example The Gorgias and Cratylus are marked with wonderfully bad refutations. But I think to complain about that would be to miss Plato’s point. Still you’re right on. I always think about the same thing; in my department there is guy who does philosopy of logic and he doesn’t believe in the principle of non-contridiction. He is also one of the most well respected living philosophers of logic.

  2. Brandon said,

    April 27, 2006 at 12:20 am

    And the serious irony is that such a translation wouldn’t be that far off; one of the longstanding criticisms of the actual Sophists was that they taught for money.

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