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Hippocrates is so eager to meet Protagoras that he wakes Socrates in the early hours of the morning, yet later concedes that he himself would be ashamed to be known as a sophist by his fellow citizens.
When he fails to learn the art of speaking in The Thinkery, Strepsiades persuades his initially reluctant son, Pheidippides, to accompany him.The philosophical problem of the nature of sophistry is arguably even more formidable.Due in large part to the influence of Plato and Aristotle, the term has come to signify the deliberate use of fallacious reasoning, intellectual charlatanism and moral unscrupulousness.Strepsiades later revisits The Thinkery and finds that Socrates has turned his son into a pale and useless intellectual.When Pheidippides graduates, he subsequently prevails not only over Strepsiades’ creditors, but also beats his father and offers a persuasive rhetorical justification for the act.Protagoras says that while he has adopted a strategy of openly professing to be a sophist, he has taken other precautions – perhaps including his association with the Athenian general Pericles – in order to secure his safety.
The low standing of the sophists in Athenian public opinion does not stem from a single source.
As Pheidippides prepares to beat his mother, Strepsiades’ indignation motivates him to lead a violent mob attack on The Thinkery.
Aristophanes’ depiction of Socrates the sophist is revealing on at least three levels.
could be used to describe disingenuous cleverness long before the rise of the sophistic movement.
Theognis, for example, writing in the sixth century B. E., counsels Cyrnos to accommodate his discourse to different companions, because such cleverness (was still broadly applied to ‘wise men’, including poets such as Homer and Hesiod, the Seven Sages, the Ionian ‘physicists’ and a variety of seers and prophets.
The narrower use of the term to refer to professional teachers of virtue or excellence () became prevalent in the second half of the fifth century B. E., although this should not be taken to imply the presence of a clear distinction between philosophers, such as Socrates, and sophists, such as Protagoras, Gorgias and Prodicus.