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on 17 October 2014
Many thanks.
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on 14 March 2005
If you're looking for a simple overview of the Sophists in 5th century Athens, then this book is not for you. That is not, however, to say that this is in any way a "bad" book; quite the opposite, in fact.
Guthrie deals at length and in detail with pretty much all the major issues concerning the Sophists in democratic Athens. What he has produced is a balanced and insightful effort towards understanding them and their ideas, often giving a very interesting - if somewhat necessarily speculative - viewpoint on the issues at hand. His elucidation of the Sophists' thinking goes some way to breaking down the stereotypes of them presented in our Ancient sources, especially Plato, and makes it clear that Ancient Greek philsophy was far more advanced than we at first give it credit for.
His style is clear and consistent, though at times he gives perhaps too much information for the non-specialist. His sources are well researched, and what shines through in this work, more than anything, is the extent of Guthrie's knowledge on the topic, which must have been second to none in his day.
For the casual reader this book might not be ideal. It's certainly interesting, but it can be heavy-going if one does not have at least some broad background information on 5th century Athens and Ancient Greek culture in general. Perhaps Guthrie also gives too much information for the layman - in particular I found the chapter regarding "nomos" and "physis" to be a bit long-winded, though this doesn't detract from the quality of the book (it's intended to be an in-depth study).
This is an excellent work, in my view, from a scholar of great erudition and experience. If you're looking for a detailed study of the Sophists, especially if you already have some knowledge on Ancient Greece and a passing interest in Greek philosophy, then this is ideal. It goes some way to demonstrating how Socrates was clearly by no means the only "real" philosopher of merit in Athens. If, on the other hand, you just have a passing interest in the Sophists, then this book is probably a little more than you're looking for. I nevertheless recommend it highly.
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