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Κατὰ τῶν σοφιστῶν

. [Or. XIII.] — ‘Against the Sophists’. — As Isocr. himself tells us (Antid. § 193), this discourse was written at the beginning of his professional life; and it may probably be assigned to the year 391 or 390 B. C. The speech would thus have the character of a manifesto in which, at the outset of his career, the teacher protests against the system adopted by other members of his profession, and declares the principles by which he himself intends to be guided. In its extant form the discourse is plainly imperfect. It breaks off at the point where Isocr. is passing — as he passes in the introductions to the Busiris and the Encomium on Helen — from destructive criticism to positive illustration.

Isocr. accepts for himself the name of σοφιστής, as of honourable import when rightly understood (Antid. § 220), but distinguishes himself from the ἀγελαῖοι σοφισταί, the common herd of the profession (Panathen. § 18). Under the title of σοφισταί, three classes of teachers are censured in this piece, viz.: —

(1) The Eristics, — οἱ περὶ τὰς ἔριδας διατρίβοντες, § 1: whose characteristic is that they profess, for a small fee, to impart absolute knowledge (ἐπιστήμη). Isocr. probably includes, if he does not specially designate, the minor Socratics, and particularly Eucleides.

(2) The professors of ‘Political Discourse’ — οἱ τοὺς πολιτικοὺς λόγους ὑπισχνούμενοι — meaning the teachers of Practical Rhetoric, Deliberative and Forensic. Now the general aim of these teachers was that of Isocr. himself, viz. to train men for the active duties of civic life. The point of this censure is that they claim too large and infallible an efficacy for their method: παιδεία, instruction, can do much, but it must be aided by φύσις, natural aptitude, and by ἐμπειρία, experience.

(3) The writers of Treatises on Rhetoric, οἱ τὰς τέχνας γράψαντες. These are censured for devoting themselves to the Rhetoric of the law-courts, neglecting the higher or political province of their art, and so becoming ‘teachers of meddlesomeness and greed’.

Here, Isocr. is stating what his φιλοσοφία, or theory of culture, is not. In the discourse on the Antidosis (written 35 years later, in 353 B.C. — see p. 117) he states what it is. — Attic Orators, II. 127 — 134.

ἀλαζονεύεσθαι ‘As it is, the reckless bragging of impostors has created an impression that the votaries of indolence are better advised than those who give their days to serious study’. ῥᾳθυμεῖν — careless enjoyment, opp. to strenuous preparation (through πολιτικοὶ λόγοι) for public life. φιλοσοφία, in the special sense of Isocr., is the art of speaking or writing on large political subjects, considered as a preparation for advising or acting in political affairs. See Attic Orators, II. 36, ch. XIII, on his ‘Theory of Culture’. The term φιλοσοφία was often used at this period, as later, in the general sense of φιλοκαλία τις καὶ διατριβὴ περὶ λόγους (Aristeid. II. 407).

τῶν περὶ τὰς ἔριδας διατριβ including some of the minor Socratics, e.g. Antisthenes and the Cynics, Eucleides and the Megarics — to whom he alludes again in a later work, the Encomium on Helen, § 1. There, we find a clear allusion to Plato also, as teaching that Valour, Wisdom and Justice form the subject-matter of one science. Here there is prob. no reference to Plato, who at this time (390 B.C.) was perh. not yet conspicuous: in the Panathenaicus (339 B.C.), however, the ἐριστικοὶ διάλογοι named as popular with young men (§ 118) must certainly include the dialogues of Plato.

βουλευομένους ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ‘deliberating about the future’: ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν = περὶ τῶν μελλόντων: a common use of ὑπέρ in early Greek, but somewhat rare in good Attic: cp. Plat. Apol. 39 E, ἡδέως ἂν διαλεχθείην ὑπὲρ τοῦ γεγονότος τουτουῒ πράγματος.

οὐ τὴν ἐκείνων, κ.τ.λ. ‘not that he knew their [the gods’], mind, but because he wished to show us that, for men, know ledge of the future is a thing impossible’: — a fortiori, if not even gods are certain about it.

ἐπιστήμης Cp. § 8, where ‘those who profess to have knowledge’ (ἐπιστήμην) are said to be ‘less consistent and less successful than those who act upon opinions’, οἱ ταῖς δόξαις χρώμενοι. The mention of ἐπιστήμη here again points to the Socratics. The view of Isocr. was that the teacher of φιλοσοφία has to prepare men to deal with occasions (καιροί) as they arise. It is impossible to foresee exactly all these occasions; there can be no science (ἐπιστήμη) of them. There can be only opinion (δόξα), conjecture (στοχασμός), about them: and he is the wisest man who — exact foresight being out of the question — can best conjecture what any given crisis will demand of him (Attic Orators, II. 40). Cp. Isocr. Antid. § 184, ἵνα... ἐγγυτέρω τῶν καιρῶν ταῖς δόξαις γένωνται. τῷ μὲν γὰρ εἰδέναι περιλαβεῖν αὐτοὺς οὐχ οἷόν τ᾽ ἐστίν.

οὐκ ἂν ἠμφισβ. ὡς [οὐκ] εὖ φρ. τυγχ.] ‘Were they selling any other of their possessions for a small fraction of its value, they would not dispute [ = they would admit] their own folly’. This is plainly the sense: but, in order to obtain it, we must omit οὐκ before εὖ. For οὐκ ἀμφισβητεῖ ὡς οὐκ εὖ φρονεῖ means, ‘he does not maintain that he is senseless’: see Plat. Polit. 476 D, ἐὰν ἀμφισβητῇ ὡς οὐκ ἀληθῆ λέγομεν, if he maintains that we do not speak truly: Parm. 135 A, ἀμφισβητεῖν ὡς οὐκ ἔστι ταῦτα, κ.τ.λ. Dobree (Advers. I. 275) saw that the second οὐκ must be omitted here, noticing Isocr. or. XVIII. Adv. Callim. § 35 as a case in which, on the contrary, οὐ should be inserted: ὡς μὲν χρή...οὐδ᾽ αὐτὸν οἶμαι ἀντερεῖν. But there, I think, the order of the clauses confirms the text: ‘As to the propriety...I do not think that even he would deny it’. Had ἀντερεῖν preceded ὡς χρή, then οὐ must have been inserted.

ἀργυρίδιον, κ.τ.λ. ‘The scientific aim of the teachers described, coupled with their moderate earnings, and contempt, genuine or affected, of “filthy lucre” (ἀργυρίδιον, κ.τ.λ.) are features which meet in the minor Socratics, and in them only’: W. H. Thompson, Phaedrus, p. 177, n. 9. — For ἀποκαλοῦντες, cp. Helen. Encom., § 57, note.

παρὰ τούτοις...μεσεγγυοῦνται ‘they cause the fees paid by their pupils to be deposited with these men’. Isocr. says that the σοφιστής, who professes to teach his pupils virtue, believes so little in the virtue which his pupils will have acquired at the end of the course that he requires them to deposit their fees beforehand in the hands of a surety, who acts as a middleman (μεσεγγυητής) between teacher and disciples. — The form μεσεγγυοῦσθαι is illustrated by μεσεγγυώματος in Panath. § 13, where Sauppe conj. μεσεγγυήματος.

οὐδὲν κωλύει] κωλύει impersonal: οὐδέν adverbial: cp. Ar. Av. 463, ὃν διαμάττειν οὐ κωλύει.

ἐνεργαζομένους ‘those who engender virtue and temperance’ (in their disciples). The same topic of ridicule is used by Plato: Gorg. 519 C, οἱ σοφισταί, τἄλλα σοφοὶ ὄντες, τοῦτο ἄτοπον ἐργάζονται πρᾶγμα: φάσκοντες γὰρ ἀρετῆς διδάσκαλοι εἶναι πολλάκις κατηγοροῦσι τῶν μαθητῶν ὡς ἀδικοῦσι σφᾶς, τούς τε μισθοὺς ἀποστεροῦντες, κ.τ.λ. Cp. ib. 460 E.

τὰς ἐναντιώσεις ‘contradictions’. Plat. Pol. 454 A, κατ᾽ αὐτὸ τὸ ὄνομα διώκειν τοῦ λεχθέντος τὴν ἐναντίωσιν, i.e. to press a verbal discrepancy. Cp. Isocr. Evag. § 44, ὁμοίως τὰς ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις ὁμολογίας ὥσπερ τὰς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις διαφυλάττων, observing consistency alike in word and deed.

ταῖς δόξαις See § 3, ἐπιστήμης, note.

ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς τοὺς πολ. λόγ. ὑπισχ.] Isocr. now turns from the ‘Eristics’ to the second class of σοφισταί whom he censures. πολιτικοὶ λόγοι meant properly Deliberative or Forensic Rhetoric: see Attic Orators, I. 90. Isocr. would limit the name to what he regards as the properly ‘political’ themes: forensic speeches are in his view merely sham πολιτικοί. Cp. below, § 20, and introd.

ἀναισθήτωςπαραλιπεῖν ‘So stupid are they, and so dull do they conceive others to be, that, although they compose worse than some amateurs extemporise, they yet promise to make their pupils such consummate speakers that they shall miss not one of the topics which their subjects afford’. ὥστε μηδὲν παραλιπεῖν: as if they said, οὐδὲν ἂν παραλίποιτε.

ταῖς ἐμπειρίαις...τῇ φύσει ‘the lessons of experi ence’...‘the native power of the learner’. In Antid. §§ 186 — 191 Isocr. explains that three things go to make a consummate speaker, — φύσις, παιδεία, ἐμπειρία, — and that the first is by far the most important. The mistake of the teachers censured here is that they represent παιδεία (= τῶν λόγων ἐπιστήμη) as being of certain and absolute efficacy.

ὅσον ἔνεστιν ἐν ἑκάστῃ ‘the capability’ of each art; what it can, or cannot, do.

τὴν φιλοσοφίαν i.e. the study of πολιτικοὶ λόγοι, as opp. to natural power or practical experience in them: cp. § 1, note on ἀλαζονεύεσθαι.

οὐδ᾽ ἂν ἐλάχιστον μέρος Cp. Lysias In Eratosth. § 22 (above, p. 70), ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἐβουλόμην ἂν αὐτοὺς ἀληθῆ λέγειν: μετῆν γὰρ ἂν καὶ ἐμοὶ τούτου τἀγαθοῦ οὐκ ἐλάχιστον μέρος.

τοὺς φλυαροῦντας Dobree would omit τούς, or change it to αὐτούς: needlessly, I think.

τὰς βλασφημίας ‘for I perceive that the slanders which arise do not touch the offenders only, but affect all who are engaged in the same pursuit’, — Isocr. regarding himself as a σοφιστής, though not ἀγελαῖος, ‘of the herd’; see introd. Cp. the Antidosis, the apology for his life, of which a great part (§§ 167 — 269) is devoted to answering κοινὴ περὶ τῶν σοφιστῶν διαβολή (§ 168).

ποιητικοῦ πράγμ ‘who are not aware that they are measuring a creative process by the analogy of an exact art’: i.e. to make a really good speech is a ποιητικὸν πρᾶγμα, — it demands some degree of inventive faculty and natural ability; but these sophists pretend that they can teach a man to speak well with as much certainty and precision as they can teach him his letters. τεταγμένη τέχνη, an art with fixed rules, where nothing is left to imagination or invention. For ποιητικοῦ, cp. § 17, ψυχῆς ἀνδρικῆς καὶ δοξαστικῆς. Dobree strangely says, ‘malim ποικίλου’.

μηδὲν δὲ τῶν αὐτῶν ‘and is capable of finding topics different in all respects from those used by others’. — εὕρεσις, invention, and τάξις, arrangement, were the two provinces of πραγματικὸς τόπος, the treatment of subject-matter (Dionys. De Comp. I): as λέξις (in the narrow sense), diction, and σύνθεσις, composition, were the two provinces of λεκτικὸς τόπος, the treatment of language.

τῆς ἀνομοιότητος αὐτῶν i.e. γραμμάτων, grammar, the ‘art with fixed rules’, and λόγων, political speaking, the ‘creative’ effort.

ἰδιῶται ‘Many of those who have studied this art [of ‘political discourse’] have remained private persons, while others, who have never attended the lectures of any professor, have proved themselves powerful orators and statesmen’: ἰδιῶται, with an allusion to the case of Isocr. himself, who, as he tells us, was hindered by want of nerve and weakness of voice (τόλμαφωνή, Panath. § 10) from entering public life. See Attic Orators, II. 5.

τοῖς περὶ τὰς ἐμπ. γεγ.] ‘those who have passed the ordeals of experience’ — in the Ecclesia and the law-courts.

ζητεῖν...ἐδίδαξεν i.e. their training gives them greater readiness of resource in the search for topics: they know where to look for them. The very phrase τόποι, loci communes, meant those places (in the mind or memory) where classified arguments or illustrations are stored. ‘Those things which they now light upon at random [πλανώμενοι, temere], the discipline teaches them to find by a more ready method’: ἐξ ἑτοιμοτέρου, the comparative only, because, though a systematic training gives the speaker a surer command of his weapons, it cannot enable him to foresee the exact requirements of each occasion.

ἀγωνιστὰς...λόγ. ποιητάς ‘It cannot make them good debaters or masterly orators, but it can improve their natural power, and in many respects sharpen their insight’. — ἀγωνιστής, a combatant in real debate, opposed to a mere student or declaimer. Cleon's speech in Thuc. III. 37, 38 brings out this image of debate as an ἀγών: Attic Orators, I. 39.

τῶν μὲν ἰδεῶν ‘the forms’, or ‘elements’: strictly, the various kinds, classes of argument or ornament which prose composition employs. Cp. Antid. § 183, τὰς ἰδέας ἁπάσας αἷς λόγος τυγχάνει χρώμενος: where, as here, it includes all the resources of literary art which can be reduced to formulas. Isocr. also uses ἰδέαι in narrower senses, as (1) branches or styles of composition, Antid. § 11, or (2) figures of rhetoric, Panath. § 2. Attic Orators, II. 39.

τοῖς ῥᾳδίως ὑπισχν ‘those who make rash promises’. Cp. § 9.

τὸ δὲ τούτων ‘But to choose from among these resources [τούτων fem., sc. τῶν ἰδεῶν] those which should be applied to each subject, — to combine and arrange them fitly, — further, not to miss the right moments [for using each], but to stud the whole discourse with points happily made, and to clothe it in phrase of gracious movement and melody, — this, I say [δέ], demands much study, this is the task of a mind possessing vigour and imagination, and, for this, the learner must not only have the due natural gifts, — he must further learn to distinguish the branches (εἴδη) of oratory, and must gain practice in their use. The teacher, again, must expound the theory (τὰ μέν) with all possible precision, so as to omit nothing that can be taught; while in the practice (τῶν λοιπῶν) he must set such an example that those who have already been formed in the rough (ἐκτυπωθέντας), and who are capable of imitating him, may from the outset (εὐθύς) exhibit a style of more than ordinary elegance and finish’. — ἐνθυμήμασι, rhetorical syllogisms: see Attic Orators, II. 289. — δοξαστικῆς, capable of forming a sagacious δόξα (ἐπιστήμη being out of the question: cp. § 3, note); parodied by Plato, Gorg. 463 A, δοκεῖ τοίνυν μοι, Γοργία, εἶναί τι ἐπιτήδευμα (sc. Rhetoric) τεχνικὸν μὲν οὔ, ψυχῆς δὲ στοχαστικῆς καὶ ἀνδρείας, — ‘a soul with the courage of its conjectures’.

ἄρτι ἀναφυόμενοι, κ.τ.λ. The sophists who have ‘lately sprung up’, and ‘recently embraced their pretentious callings’, are both the two preceding classes — (1) the Eristics, (2) the professors of πολιτικοὶ λόγοι. These, he says, will at last be converted to his principles (ταύτην τὴν ὑπόθεσιν). He now comes to the third class.

τέχνας Artes, treatises on Rhetoric. The writers primarily meant are doubtless Corax of Syracuse (circ. 466 B.C.), and his pupil Tisias, on whom see Attic Orators, I. cxxi f.: perh. also Antiphon. Gorgias, Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, and Pôlos had also written τέχναι, but were probably less liable to the charge brought here — that of dealing exclusively with Forensic Rhetoric.

δικάζεσθαι ‘to conduct law-suits’, to frame κατηγορίαι or ἀπολογίαι. This was strictly true of Corax, whose express object was to help Sicilian litigants (Attic Orators, I. cxviii), and also perhaps of Tisias. Aristotle makes the very same criticism on the writers of τέχναι generally who had preceded him, Rhet. I. 1 § 10, περὶ μὲν ἐκείνης τῆς δημηγορικῆς πραγματείας (the Rhetoric which trains for political debate), οὐδὲν λέγουσι, περὶ δὲ τοῦ δικάζεσθαι πάντες πειρῶνται τεχνολογεῖν.

καὶ ταῦτα referring to ὑπέσχοντο, κ.τ.λ.: ‘and this, when the accomplishment, in so far as it can be taught, is available for all other branches of oratory just as much as for the forensic’. — τοῦ πράγματος: cp. § 12, ποιητικοῦ πράγματος, and note. He prefers this vague term, because it suits his doctrine that Rhetoric is not a mere τεταγμένη τέχνη, but largely a matter of natural aptitude. — οὐδὲν μᾶλλον, κ.τ.λ.: i.e. Rhetoric is συμβουλευτική and ἐπιδεικτική as well as δικανική.

τῶν περὶ τὰς ἔρ. καλινδ.] ‘those who dabble in frivolous disputations’: cp. § 1, note on τῶν περὶ τὰς ἔριδας. — καλινδεῖσθαι, like versari, but with a contemptuous sense, implying busy idleness (‘to potter about’), cp. Isocr. Philipp. § 81 (p. 136), τοῖς ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος καλινδουμένοις, ‘the busy triflers of the platform’.

ἐμμείνειεν ‘abide by’, i.e. put into practice: — ‘(quibbling arguments, λογίδια), on which a man could not act in real life without instant and utter disaster’. — περὶ αὐτῶν, sc. τῶν λογιδίων: ‘still they are wont to urge these in the name of virtue and of temperance’. — ἐπηγγ., ‘profess’: cp. ἐπαγγελμάτων, § 1.

ἐπὶ τοὺς πολιτ. λόγους] πολιτικοὶ λόγοι, in the proper sense, were such as belonged to practical civic life, i.e. either deliberative, συμβουλευτικοί, or forensic, δικανικοί. These teachers, Isocr. says, neglect the real benefits which their study can confer (τὰ προσόντα αὐτοῖς ἀγαθά, that is, in the higher or deliberative branch), and undertake to be ‘teachers of meddlesomeness and greed’ (i.e. of the forensic branch, — the art of litigation).

καίτοι...ὠφελήσειεν ‘Those, however, who choose to obey the precepts of this study [φιλοσοφίας — the true λόγων παιδεία] will be aided by it to acquire moral worth much more surely than rhetorical skill’: πολὺ θᾶττον, because, as he has said (§ 10), the teacher cannot promise to make the pupil a good speaker. — Cp. Antid. §§ 274 f., p. 118.

ὡς ἔστι δικαιος. διδακτόν Plat. Protag. 328 D (Socrates to Protagoras), τὴν ἀρετὴν φῂς διδακτὸν εἶναι. ‘That virtue cannot be taught is a paradox of the same sort as the profession of Socrates that he knew nothing. Plato means to say that virtue is not brought to a man, but must be drawn out of him, — and cannot be taught by rhetorical discourses or citations from the poets’ (Jowett, Plato, I. 119). Cp. Antid. § 279, p. 120.

οὐ μὴν ἀλλά ‘At the same time I think that the study of political oratory is most likely to be helpful [συν — ] in stimulating and forming such a disposition’: συνασκῆσαι ἄν, i.e. will help a man to practise these virtues. — οὐ μήν: or. III. § 17, note, p. 284.

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