The sophists correspond to the philosophers who belonged to the “Sophistic School” (IV and V BC).
Composed of a group of traveling scholars and scholars, they mastered rhetoric and speech techniques, and were interested in spreading their knowledge in exchange for paying fees for students or apprentices.
The sophists break with the pre-Socratic tradition, criticizing the customs and traditions of the Athenian society of the time.
Note that the word “sophist”, of Greek origin, “sophistes”, corresponds to a term derived “sophia”, that is, wisdom.
In this way, well-born young people sought out sophists interested in acquiring knowledge and especially “aretê”, a Greek concept that denotes nobility, excellence and virtue and, in the case of sophists, the union of essential general knowledge (more precisely in the areas of oratory, rhetoric, science, music and philosophy), since in Ancient Greece, the political function, very prominent, depended on the good use of the word.
Sophists and Socrates
In contrast to the concept of “Dialectic” and “Maiutics” determined by the Greek philosopher Socrates (470 BC-399 BC), the sophists deny the existence of the truth, so that it arises through the consensus among men.
Thus, for Socrates, the "Maiêtica" which literally means "giving birth", is a method of argumentation, indicated to unveil human knowledge, as if it were latent.
In this way, the philosopher opposed the “Sophistic School” and, above all, the oratory masters, since they charged very high prices for the dissemination of knowledge.
In other words, if the sophist believes in things in a particular way, so that each individual has his vision, they refute, to win the verbal debate, while Socrates, who assumes the existence of the absolute concept of each thing, refutes, to thus purify the soul of its ignorance.
Despite being fought by Socrates, the sophists were also criticized by the Greek philosophers: Aristotle (384 B.C.-322 B.C.) and Plato (428 B.C.-347 B.C.). According to Plato, the sophists were not considered philosophers but mercenaries.