The vast majority of today's society isn't the slightest bit aware of the tremendous influence the sophistic period of thought has had and continues to have on modern western politics. But how could a supposedly highly educated and intelligent people be so ignorant of such an important and significant epoch in our history? It was during the fifth century B.C. when the sophistic movement, founded by a man named Protagoras, was at its prime. The sophist were recognized as highly skillful teachers by many and their works on issues such as the efficiency of language and the existence of gods were considered to be revolutionary at the time.
Not every one was in with these new philosophies and not long after the movement began, the sophist and their works were being harshly persecuted. Many of them were exiled and their works were all but completely annihilated. Now, very little is left of the sophists, except for what other prominent theorists have said about them. At the head of this condescending army was Plato, whose own theories opposed those of the sophists in numerable. Anyone who has read some of Plato's writing can tell you that what he had to say about Protagoras, Gorgias, Prodi cus and the other sophists was by no means benevolent, and according to G.B. Kerferd, nor was it a completely factual description of them.
Unfortunately, since these depictions are all we have left, the generations that were to come accepted Plato's hostile opinion of the sophists and it is for this reason that the word sophist is now found to be synonymous with the words bigot and know-it-all. Modern scholars have recently been trying to dispel l the myths about the sophists, which is exactly what G.B. Kerferd attempts to do in his book 'The Sophistic Movement'; . According to Kerferd, at the foundation of sophistic though is the statement, made by its founder Protagoras, that 'Man is the measure of all things. ' ; Man considers things to be as they appear to him.
To explain this phenomenon, Kerferd makes an example out of the wind. If one man says that the wind is cold, and the man standing beside him finds it to be warm, even if they were both being affected by the same wind, both statements would be considered correct. Since man (the individual) is the measure of all things, the wind is cold to the man to whom it appears cold and warm to the man to whom it appears warm. Each of our realities is based on our own perceptions and we can't say that one man's reality is any less truthful than another's because 'all perceptions are true'. This idea brings on another sophistic philosophy.
Since all perceptions are true, it is impossible to contradict. It would be unfeasible for the man to whom the wind is cold to contradict the man to whom it is warm because 'the two statements are not about the same thing' After having explained the man-measure theory, Kerferd introduces another of Protagoras's statements, that 'concerning everything there are two opposed logo i'; , A and not-A. This statement clearly does not coincide with the impossibility to contradict since, A and not-A are themselves two contradictory terms.