Curtis Dahlgren
Up a creek without a parachute: Modern sophists (part 2)
By Curtis Dahlgren
November 25, 2009

"Beware the fury of a patient man." — John Dryden (1631-1700)

" . . when men set themselves to cultivate skill in disputation, regarding the matter discussed not as a serious issue, but as a thesis upon which to practise their powers of [persuasion], they learn to pursue, not truth, but victory; and, their criterian of excellence having been thus perverted, they presently prefer ingenious fallacy to solid reasoning, and the applause of bystanders to the consciousness of honest effort."Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910 ("Sophists")

THOUGH WRITTEN 100 YEARS AGO, THOSE WORDS COULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE GLOBAL "WARMING" HYSTERIA. I have mentioned 100-year cycles more than once in this column (especially the parallels between Russia's Nihilism movement and our 1960s "youth revolution," both of which were examples of Sophistry).

No offense intended, but in my trusty '38 Funk & Wagnalls, "nihilism" is to be found between "nincompoop" and "nigritude" (an ancient word meaning simply "utter darkness").

Nihilism means "total rejecton of value statements or moral judgments, absolute destructiveness toward the world at large and oneself." It came from the word "nil" ("nothing or zero"). "I believe in nothing," the Unabomber once said.

The modern Sophists, the powers-that-be, the New Establishment, might as well believe in nothing too. The lies they pretend to believe in are just killing us. Unless you live in a cave in Pakistan, you must know what I'm talking about: the Big Lie of "global warming." [see: ] Let's put this scandal in its true historical "context."

The Sophist movement was the Greeks' version of modern Relativism — in the 5th century B.C. The Britannica says, regarding their 'ingenious fallacies':

"Paradox, however, soon becomes stale, and fallacy wearisome. Hence, despite its original popularity, eristical sophistry [debate-as-sport] could not hold its ground. The man of the world who had cultivated it in his youth regarded it in riper years as a foolish pedantry . . while the serious student, necessarily preferring that form of disputation which recognized truth as the end of this, as of other intellectual processes, betook himself of one of the other of the philosophies of the revival."

In the 6th century B.C., Sophistry was a reaction to the "crude mythologies" of ancient Greece, and "for nearly a hundred years the sophists held almost a monopoly of general or liberal education." It was, in other words, the Greek version of the so-called Enlightenment (or, "The Age of Reason"). Modern sophistry, or relativism, hit Europe and Russia 100 years before it became "popular" in America. In Greece, one word for it was "Eleaticism" (perhaps related to "elitism"). Back to the Britannica:

"If, argued Protagoras in a treatise entitled Truth, all things are in flux, so that sensation is subjective, it follows that 'Man is the measure of all things, of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not'; in other words, there is no such thing as objective truth."

"Similarly, Gorgias, in a work On Nature . . maintained (a) that nothing is, (b) that, if anything is, it cannot be known, (c) that, if anything is and can be known, it cannot be expressed in speech; . . . thereby reducing Eleaticism to nothingness, but also, until such time as a better logic than that of Zeno should be provided, precluding all philosophical inquiry whatsoever."

This may sound like gobbledygook to those of you who haven't been "exposed to" Higher Education, but to our contempories who have been spending tens-of-thousands of dollars a year for education in our Ivory Towers, it will certainly sound familiar. For decades now our kids have been told that we only have "the five senses" and everyone sees things a little differently, etc. etc. etc. (i.e., there is no revelation, spiritual discernment, or Truth).

I suspect that there is some connection between the word "protagonist," and the name "Protagoras," about whom the Britannica says:

". . whereas hitherto [a] young Greek, having completed his elementary training in the schools of the [time] was left to prepare himself for his life's work as best he might . . . one who passed from the elementary schools to the lecture-room of Protagoras received from him a 'higher education.' The programme was exclusively literary, but for the moment it enabled Protagoras to satisfy the demand which he had discovered and evoked. Wherever he went, his lecture-room was crowded with admiring pupils, whose homage filled his purse and enhanced his reputation."

Don't get me started on parallels between Protagorus and Al Gorus, or the rest of our Ivy League elitists, but in the latter stages of the Sophist movement, it moved beyond literary and rhetorical pursuits, to the political (surprise, surprise).

"Rhetorical sophistry, as taught by Gorgias with special reference to the requirements of the law courts, led by an easy transition to political sophistry. During the century which had elapsed since the expulsion of the Pesistratids and the establishment of the democracy, the Athenian constitution had developed with a rapidity which produced an oligarchical reaction, and . . It was only natural then that some of those who professed to prepare young Athenians for public life should give to their teaching a distinctively political direction; . .

"To this class, that of the political sophists, may be assigned Lycophron, Alcidamas and Isocrates himself. For, though that celebrated personage would have liked to be called, not 'sophist' but 'political philosopher,' and tried to fasten the name of 'sophist' upon his opponents the Socratics, it is clear from his own statement that he was commonly ranked with the sophists, [etc]." [ibid, p. 419]

At this point in history, Plato opened a rival school at the Academy and pointedly attacked him in ["the Republic," etc]. At least "choice and competition" had entered the academic picture after the 100-year "monopoly" by the Sophists. Socrates and Plato at least said that Truth existed, though they weren't much more successful at finding it, because both the Sophists and the "New" philosophers were ignoring the much earlier direct revelations and interventions by the God of Israel.

All of this sophistical and sophomoric bickering came at a time when what was left of the Greek Empire was coming to an end. After that, all roads led to Rome.


There may be a lesson in there somewhere for you, me, and America. We have our own "oligarchy" that secretly despises the Common people, which, as Cowper said:

Stamps God's own name upon a lie just made,
To turn a penny in the way of trade.

"For instance,"in their own words, the promoters of the "global warming" lie think that they had "cornered a trillion dollar market" in trading carbon credits. But that's only one of many hoaxes. Another is their hysteria over our imperfect medical system. Americans are probably already over-medicated, but the elitist oligarchs are shedding crocodile tears over the issue, and they wouldn't hesitate to send you to jail for not "cooperating."

Despite their victories on two Black Sabbaths this November on HELLTH care, our sophomoric "saviours" have been exposed as shameless frauds. If they will lie to you on "climate change," they'll lie to you on "reforming the health insurance" business, too.

And even if they try to mix in some "facts" with their lies and talking points, Cowper said:

"A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."

The ancient Sophists in Greece came to be "despised for their specious and intellectually dishonest reasoning." Instead of US going to jail for not buying "health insurance," some of these global warming LIARS ought to go to jail. At the very least, there ought to be some lawsuits by scientists who were demonized, marginalized, and silenced by being kept out of the so-called "peer review" process on climatology studies.

Shoot, the New York Times and Washington Post ought to be sued for stone-walling the global warming scandal issue. The dead-tree journalists are almost as suicidal as the Liberals in Congress (they know that Shakespeare's "tide in the affairs of men" has turned against them, but they pick themselves up and brush themselves off as if nothing has happened last week). It's actually quite hilarious. Thomas Jefferson once said:

"It is a happy circumstance in human affairs that evils which are not cured in one way will cure themselves in some other."

Stay tuned. More to come.

And have a nice Thanksgiving weekend!

© Curtis Dahlgren


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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