The Moral Outlook of Socrates and the Sophists

Topics: Plato, Philosophy, Socrates Pages: 2 (1072 words) Published: January 3, 2015
Compare and contrast the moral outlook of Socrates and the Sophists Although both the Sophists and Socrates are considered philosophers due to their interest in human morality, their outlook regarding the subject of Truth differs greatly. The sophists were sceptics on the matter of the existence of eternal Truth, whilst to Socrates Truth was an absolute. This can be clearly seen in their varying epistemologies. The Sophists were a group of intellectuals that travelled extensively throughout the Mediterranean and brought to Athens new customs and thoughts. They all held various positions on the matter but were all tied together by one definite claim; that there is no single universal Truth about morality, therefore Truth does not exist. A famous Sophist, Protagoras, claimed that all truth is relative and ‘man is the measure of all things’, meaning that anything can be true according to the individual perspective. His epistemology basically meant that truth was merely a matter of perception; therefore if something seems to be the case, then it is the case. He was also known for his agnostic views on religion, where the question of the existence of God cannot be answered, thus making it not worth pondering on. He believed that the best society was the one whose laws everyone agrees to. Contrastingly, another Sophist, Gorgias, disagreed with this point, claiming that there was no need to follow the conventional moral rules of a particular society if they were not to one’s advantage. He also held that ‘moral truth is a fiction’, a nihilistic view of truth being non-existent. He goes on further to state that, even if the truth were to exist it cannot be known because rational speech impedes us from understanding it directly, and even if knowing the truth was possible, rational speech would still need to be used in order for it to be communicated. Although both Sophists’ positions vary, they both stand for relativism and that every decision one makes is subjective,...
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