It would seem, then, that, while he regards rhetoric as the function of normal sophistry, taking indifferently as his types Protagoras, Gorgias and Isocrates, he accounts Euthydemus and Dionysodorus (together with Socrates) as sophists, but as sophists of an abnormal sort, who may therefore be neglected.
The nihilism of Gorgias from the Eleatic point of view of bare identity, and the speechlessness of Cratylus from the Heraclitean ground of absolute difference, are alike disowned.
ALCIDAMAS, of Elaea, in Aeolis, Greek sophist and rhetorician, flourished in the 4th century B.C. He was the pupil and successor of Gorgias and taught at Athens at the same time as Isocrates, whose rival and opponent he was.
Neither were they united by a common educational method, the end and the instruments of education being diversely conceived by Protagoras, Gorgias and Isocrates, to say nothing of the wider differences which separate these three from the eristics, and all the four normal types from the abnormal type represented by Socrates.
As a scholar he devoted his attention almost entirely to Plato; and his Phaedrus (1868) and Gorgias (1871), with especially valuable introductions, still remain the standard English editions of these two dialogues.
Thus the Protagoras brings the educational theory of Protagoras and the sophists of culture face to face with the educational theory of Socrates, so as to expose the limitations of both; the Gorgias deals with the moral aspect of the teachings of the forensic rhetorician Gorgias and the political rhetorician Isocrates, and the intellectual aspect of their respective theories of education is handled in the Phaedrus; the Meno on the one hand exhibits the strength and the weakness of the teaching of Socrates, and on the other brings into view the makeshift method of those who, despising systematic teaching, regarded the practical politician as the true educator; the Euthydemus has for its subject the eristical method; finally, having in these dialogues characterized the current theories of education, Plato proceeds in the Republic to develop an original scheme.
Overlooking the differences which separated the humanists from the eristics, and both of these from the rhetoricians, and taking no account of Socrates, whom they regarded as a philosopher, they forgot the services which Protagoras and Prodicus, Gorgias and Isocrates had rendered to education and to literature, and included the whole profession in an indiscriminate and contemptuous censure.
But though, as will be seen hereafter, these two sorts of education were sometimes distinguished, Gorgias and those who succeeded him as teachers of rhetoric, such as Thrasymachus of Chalcedon and Polus of Agrigentum, were commonly called by the title which Protagoras had assumed and brought into familiar use.
However contemptuous in his portraiture of Hippias and Dionysodorus, however severe in his polemic against Isocrates, Plato regards Protagoras with admiration and Gorgias with respect.
Meanwhile, Gorgias of Leontini, who, as has been seen, had studied and rejected the philosophy of western Greece, gave to sophistry a new direction by bringing to the mother country the technical study of rhetoric - especially forensic rhetoric (Plato, Gorg.