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The Philosophical Journey: An Interactive Approach

Modern Sophists

One of the realities of Athenian life that Socrates lamented the most was the prominence of the sophists.  These sophists prided themselves on being able to “make the weaker argument the stronger.”  Relying on persuasion and rhetoric, sophists would argue in support of which ever side of a case they believed would serve their best interests, or whichever side they were being paid to argue for.  Socrates decried the sophists because they did not recognize a difference between truth and opinion, believing that everything was relative.  Some contemporary social critics compare modern day advertisers, lawyers, and politicians to Greek sophists.  Many of these people, the argument goes, are concerned only with convincing you to believe them, not with the truth.  The following Web links will help you explore this theme.

  • It is an advertiser’s job to convince the public to spend money on their products.  While a few advertisers rely on outright lies and fraud to part you from you money, most simply rely on persuasion.  Examine these links and decide what, if any, relationship exists between advertising and the truth.

Advertising Law & Ethics; Great site, try the quote index.

Ethics in Advertising problem: Resources

Advertising World: Excellent general resource

Ethical Advertising Guidelines

  • Some modern politicians are criticized for spending too much time ‘selling themselves.’  Like an advertiser, a politician must convince the public to think that they are the best candidate for the job. While they are urged to stick to the issues, too often politicians resort to attack ads, spin doctors, and damage control.  Once in office, some politicians are criticized for relying on opinion polls to make decisions instead of taking a stand and holding to their personal convictions.  Use these links to decide how much some politicians resemble sophists.
  • Lawyers are, in a very literal sense, are arguers for hire.  A defense attorney is legally obligated to argue as persuasively as they can for their client’s best interests.  Prosecuting attorneys try to present the best case they can to convince the jury of the guilt of the accused.  Many social critics argue that people with enough money can convince a jury of anything.  The following links will help you explore the relationship between lawyers and sophists.  Should we modify our legal system?  How?  

The Center for Public Integrity

The Drunk Driving Law Center

Drunk Driving Legal Defense Center - Tools for the DWI Lawyer

Legal Profession: Tactics & Ethics in Criminal Litigation

Dirty Tactics in Legal Defense


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