Perhaps this is a theory I should already understand, but for some reason I can never quite remember what it means. Reading in Booth’s The Rhetoric of Rhetoric, he discusses this many times. Booth says, “But reductive positivists persuaded more and more followers to believe that scientific proof was the only form of genuine reasoning. Scientists were on the path to genuine knowledge, while all other pursuers of knowledge depended on flimsy decorations” (30).


The name of is group of rhetorical scholars stems from sophistai, meaning “one who possesses wisdom.” They endeavored to show that there was no such thing as certainty, that knowledge was epistemic. Their timeline overlaps with the big names of Classical rhetoric; Aristotle, for example, was critical of the Sophists and their ideas. Based on the write up about them by Turner on the Catholic Encyclopedia, I wonder if the Sophists might be seen as constantly playing the devil’s advocate?

Noted Sophists include Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, and Prodicus.