This article aims to reconstruct the normative distinction between sophistry and dialectics developed in Plato's treatment of sophistry. We begin by describing Plato's notion of sophistry as a knack of persuasion that succeeds by masquerading itself as truth-oriented and by providing gratification for its listeners. We then argue that the stringency of Plato's arguments becomes clear by using his definition of sophistry as a guideline for the interpretation of the dialogues Protagoras and Gorgias. Together, these dialogues provide a well-structured argument that questions the usefulness of sophistic practice, despite its effectiveness in attaining power within the Athenian democratic institutions. Plato's fundamental critique of sophistry differs from certain misleading prejudices against sophistry, also found in Plato's writings and challenged by historical research. The critique is therefore of lasting relevance not only to the understanding of Plato's philosophical agenda but also to the interpretation of 'the sophists'. We end by suggesting that Plato's normative distinction between sophistry and dialectics is also of relevance for our contemporary conception of democratic discursive culture and its legitimacy.
|Journal||Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie|
|Number of pages||23|
|Publication status||Published - 2019|
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