Cam Pegg Thinking Aloud Sophistry

April 10, 2020

With a few minor modifications, this passage from a book I’m reading (Brian Boone’s Ethics 101) could describe some individuals that people in the US would be very familiar with right now:

While all ethical arguments are subjective in their drive to find objective ends to ethical ideas, the Sophists are widely regarded as just plain wrong. This is because they often used faulty logic to explain and justify what they said were truths. In fact, their end goals were to be private tutors and to keep the wealthy and powerful wealthy and powerful. They had no interest in overarching truths about humanity. Their ethical arguments kept in line with the idea that it is moral, or rather amoral or above the concept of morality, to act as one sees fit in order to win. Happiness doesn’t matter; doing the right thing doesn’t matter. The only consequence that truly matters is winning.

And then there’s this…

The real kicker is that many of the Sophists didn’t actually believe the stuff they espoused, namely the religious justifications and examples they used in their arguments. Sophists were most likely atheists, cynical about the Greek pantheon of gods and its traditions. But they did believe in the often crass, win-at-all costs nature of their teachings. For them, it was all about saying what Athenians wanted to hear so they could get to work.

To borrow a quote from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”; the more things change, the more they stay the same.