I've written up a more robust page. If anyone wants to integrate the previous article into it you're welcome to suggest where, I personally didn't think it was particularly good so I started from scratch. Citations aren't formatted and, frankly, I don't even know how I made the Contents box appear. It just... appeared? I assume that's normal, but I also assume there is are some formatting issues I haven't noticed. So, this is here for review.
|Collapsed for your convenience— copied pretty much verbatim to article space. — Sprocket J Cogswell|
Sophistry is a modern term, and occasional snarl word connoting the use of rhetorical trappings meant to deceive, prevaricate or obfuscate. In other words, it is a fancy way to sound authoritative even when you're wrong.
The term 'sophistry' is derived from the Sophists of Ancient Greece, a loose coalition of nomadic educators who taught life-skills to anyone with enough money to pay. They didn't have a defined school of thought or unified set of beliefs, in fact they occupied a similar role to modern Motivational Speakers. They traveled Greece holding seminars on public speaking, rhetoric and persuasion to anyone who would pay them. Regardless of whether you were wrong or right, a Sophist could teach you how to sound right.
They tended not to believe in difficult ideas like Truth or Right and Wrong, instead leaning toward cynicism and relativism. Because of their tendency to live on the fence and charge quite a lot of money to teach other people how to think badly both Plato and Socrates considered them to be pretentious and generally detrimental to society.
Etymology and Modern Usage
The term 'Sophist' comes from the Greek word for 'wisdom', and is therefore a little ironic in retrospect. Nowadays it is mostly used as in Ad hominem argumentation. People often use it to mean someone lying with pretense or style, but this isn't technically correct. It is sophistry to play Devil's Advocate, and people don't usually do that with sincerity. Debate contests are sophist affairs as well, with sides being assigned a position they need to support regardless of what