Sophistry (pronounced as SAH-fiss-tree) is a style of argumentation that has superficial appeal but is actually defective. Sophistry as a noun is a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
Examples of Sophistry
Plato in his dialogue Gorgias exposes the dangers of amoral sophistical argument, in a demonstration of allowing the sophist, on the basis of a fallacy of clever sophistical logic, to lead him to "admit" that his father was a mongrel dog.Conservative Christian historians and apologists are mindful of this statement by John Eck addressed to Martin Luther, in the year 1521:
"...there is no one of the heresies which have torn the bosom of the church, which has not derived its origin from the various interpretation of the Scripture. The Bible itself is the arsenal whence each innovator has drawn his deceptive arguments. It was with biblical texts that Pelagius and Arius maintained their doctrines. Arius, for instance, found the negation of the eternity of the Word—an eternity which you admit, in this verse of the New Testament—Joseph knew not his wife till she had brought forth her first-born son; and he said, in the same way that you say, that this passage enchained him. When the fathers of the council of Constance condemned this proposition of John Huss—The church of Jesus Christ is only the community of the elect, they condemned an error; for the church, like a good mother, embraces within her arms all who bear the name of Christian, all who are called to enjoy the celestial beatitude."
Below are some modern examples of sophistry:
- "impose gun control to reduce crime"; in fact, guns prevent more crimes than they cause
- "give the mother automatic custody of children in divorce to reduce divorce"; in fact, that leads to more divorce as it reduces incentives to maintain a marriage
- "raise taxes to increase revenues"; in fact, creating disincentives to earn not only directly decreases revenues by decreasing the amount of taxable income but also stifles economic growth
- "give children contraceptives to reduce teen pregnancy and disease"; in fact, abstinence education does both better
- "support so-called 'civil rights' organizations and leaders to oppose racism"; in fact, they are the primary promoters of racism today
- "listen to the experts"; in fact, the Best of the Public may have insights that far surpass those of the experts
|“||This administration, I was talking a moment ago about how they think they're the smartest and their media buddies think they're the smartest. Well, what the media considers "smart" is what the ancient Greeks used to call 'sophistry'. The "sophists" were just teachers of rhetoric, like George Lakoff (rhymes with) is a sophist. All they do is teach rhetoric [...] Is there ever anything that [Obama] does that experience has taught us works in terms of job creation? Zilch, zero, nada. In fact, he has used a recession to strike one blow after another against the country and he accomplishes nothing. Another case is immigration. Obama could not wait to jump on Arizona. He could not wait to jump on the governor. He couldn't wait to jump on the legislators out there. He couldn't wait to jump on the people of Arizona to lie about their law, to race bait. This is what he does. That does not require any skill or knowledge. That is sophistry: A person of pure rhetoric. He has failed to address the border problem in any effective way and he's incapable of it.||”|
- "sophistry." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. Dictionary.com 29 Aug. 2010.
- See also Plato's dialogueThe Sophist, source Henri Estienne (ed.), Platonis opera quae extant omnia, Vol. 1, 1578, p. 217, a Platonic dialogue from the philosopher's late period, most likely written in 360 BC. Its main theme is to identify what a sophist is and how a sophist differs from a philosopher and statesman. Because each seems distinguished by a particular form of knowledge, the dialogue continues some of the lines of inquiry pursued in the epistemological dialogue, Theaetetus, which is said to have taken place the day before The Sophist. Its sequel is The Statesman. (See The Sophist (dialogue) - Wikipedia.)
- Eck's statement here is supremely appropriate in light of Luther's refusal to submit to the judgment of the Church, the emperor Charles V, and the Pope, and the teaching of Paul in Romans 13:1-5.
- Martin Luther. Life of Luther (Luther by Martin Luther).
- Rush Limbaugh.Obama's Breathtaking Sophistry, RushLimbaugh.com, May 5, 2010.