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The Sophists Term Analysis

Teachers of philosophy, rhetoric, and virtue who practiced in the fifth and fourth centuries BC in Ancient Greece. Although it is difficult to discern the prevailing social opinion of the Sophists, it’s rather undisputed that many Athenians were wary of these teachers, who they thought corrupted the city’s young people by teaching them to cleverly argue in favor of seemingly any viewpoint. In their dialogue, Socrates points out that Meno is used to finding answers to difficult philosophical questions because he has studied with Gorgias, a well-known Sophist. Later, when Socrates suggests that the Sophists are perhaps the only people who teach virtue, Anytus becomes enraged and says that Socrates should be careful of what he says. After all, Anytus thinks the Sophists are morally corrupt, though Socrates himself seems rather unbothered by both the Sophists and Anytus’s outburst. Fittingly, Anytus accuses Socrates himself of sophistry during his trial (outlined in Plato’s Apology), an event that eventually leads to Socrates’s execution.

The Sophists Quotes in Meno

The Meno quotes below are all either spoken by The Sophists or refer to The Sophists. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hackett edition of Meno published in 2002.
Meno Quotes

In particular, he accustomed you to give a bold and grand answer to any question you may be asked, as experts are likely to do. Indeed, he himself was ready to answer any Greek who wished to question him, and every question was answered. But here in Athens, my dear Meno, the opposite is the case, as if there were a dearth of wisdom, and wisdom seems to have departed hence to go to you. If then you want to ask one of us that sort of question, everyone will laugh and say: “Good stranger, you must think me happy indeed if you think I know whether virtue can be taught or how it comes to be; I am so far from knowing whether virtue can be taught or not that I do not even have any knowledge of what virtue itself is.”

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meno, Gorgias
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Sophists Term Timeline in Meno

The timeline below shows where the term The Sophists appears in Meno. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
Language, Rhetoric, and Reasoning Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...indeed teachers of virtue. The only people Socrates can think of, he tells Anytus, are the Sophists . “By Heracles, hush, Socrates,” Anytus responds. “May no one of my household or friends,... (full context)
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Addressing Anytus’s harsh view of the Sophists , Socrates asks if one of these teachers has “wronged” him. In turn, Anytus admits... (full context)