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Peter Nicholson

This chapter deals with the Sophists, a new kind of professional intellectual and teacher in ancient Greece who debated fundamental questions concerning human life, and particularly morality and politics. The Sophists were an important element in the major intellectual awakening, or enlightenment, in roughly the second half of the fifth century BCE. The chapter first provides a biographical background on three Sophists — Protagoras, Thrasymachus, and Antiphon — before analysing their political ideas on justice, noting the range of diffrent opinions and how they all differ from Plato. The discussion focuses on Protagoras' notion of the politics of the community, Thrasymachus' emphasis on the politics of the individual, and Antiphon's claim that justice is a convention opposed to nature. The chapter also explains how Plato sought to reconcile the conflicts of interest between the community and the individual which the Sophists highlighted.


Edited by David Boucher and Paul Kelly

Political Thinkers is an introduction to Western political thought. This third edition provides an introduction to the canon of great theorists, from Socrates and the Sophists to contemporary thinkers such as John Rawls and Hannah Arendt. Each chapter begins with a chapter guide, a biographical sketch of the thinker, a list of their key texts, and their key ideas. Scholastic commentary enables readers to understand the social and political contexts that inspired political thinkers. This edition features two new chapters on Arendt, one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and Hugo Grotius, whose work on just war continues to inform international law today. Following an introduction, the work is structured into five sections.