Relation of Isokrates to his professional brethren.
The ‘Philosophy’ of Isokrates is, then, the Art of
speaking and of writing on large political subjects, considered as a preparation for advising or acting in political affairs.
But something more than such a definition is needed for the accurate appreciation of his work. It is necessary to determine his relation to other teachers who professed to be doing nearly the same thing. Isokrates conceives himself as belonging to a numerous and honourable profession, but as distinguished from most of his brethren by certain characteristics which give him a higher moral and intellectual dignity. The members of this profession he calls generically Sophists1
; when he wishes to disparage he speaks of vulgar
. Under this general name of ‘Sophist’ he includes two
What he means by ‘Sophist.’
distinct classes of teachers;—(1) those whom we should call philosophers,—as the Sokratics, in three of their principal sects,—Plato and the Academy, Antisthenes and the Cynics, Eukleides and the Megarics3
;— (2) those whom we ordinarily mean when we speak of ‘sophists,’—teachers of political (that is, forensic
or deliberative) discourse; who professed to give a training, based on Rhetoric, for practical life4
The power of speaking, coherently and effectively,
Analogy of Sophistic to Journalism.
in a law-court, in a public assembly or at a public festival, held a place in old Greek life roughly analogous to that which the journalistic faculty holds in modern Europe. The citizen of a Greek republic might be called upon at any moment to influence public opinion in behalf of certain interests or ideas by a neat, pointed, comprehensive address, which must be more or less extemporary. ‘Sophists’ in the ordinary sense were men who undertook to teach methodically the art of saying, under all possible circumstances, something which should pass muster at the time; and, in controversy, of rebutting arguments, whatever their intrinsic worth, by counterarguments which should at least serve the turn. In most hands such a discipline was probably either keen but immoral, or superficial and non-moral: Isokrates wanted to make it thorough and moral.