His speeches and letters consist partly of declamations on the usual sophistical themes, partly deal with contemporary historical events: an argument between the fathers of Cynegirus and Callimachus (two Athenians who fell at Marathon) as to which had the better claim to have the funeral oration pronounced over him first; a discussion on the duties of; a king and of his subjects; a defence of the Byzantine general Chandrenos addressed to the emperor; a letter on the cruelties of the Catalans and Turks in Thessaly and Macedonia; a congratulatory letter to Theodorus Metochita; a panegyric on the king of Cyprus.
They also appear to contain displacements, interpolations, prefaces such as that to the Meteorologica, and appendices such as that to the Sophistical Elenchi, which may have been added.
Apart from his sophistical defence of Spanish colonial policy, Acosta deserves high praise as an acute and diligent observer whose numerous new and valuable data are set forth in a vivid style.
Contrariwise, the sophists were always and essentially professors of the higher education; and, although in process of time specialization assimilated sophistry to the arts, at the outset at any rate, its declared aim - the cultivation of the civic character - sufficiently distinguished sophistical education both from professional instruction and from artistic training: It is true too that in some of the colonies philosophy had busied itself with higher education; but here again the forerunners of the sophists are easily distinguished from the sophists, since the sophists condemned not only the scientific speculations of their predecessors, but also their philosophical aims, and offered to the Greek world a new employment for leisure, a new intellectual ambition.
The Sophistical Elenchi, on sophistical or contentious syllogism, or sophistical fallacies.
His eloquence was of the vehement order; but it wins hearers and readers by the strength of its passion, the energy of its truth, the pregnancy and elegance of its expression, just as much as it repels them by its heat without light, its sophistical argumentaiions, and its elaborate hair-splittings.
He got so far as gradually to write short discourses and long treatises, which we, not he, now arrange in the order of the Categories or names; the De Interpretatione on propositions; the Analytics, Prior on syllogism, Posterior on scientific syllogism; the Topics on dialectical syllogism; the Sophistici Elenchi on eristical or sophistical syllogism; and, except that he had hardly a logic of induction, he covered the ground.
Not only were they dismayed by the novelty of the sophistical teaching, but also they vaguely perceived that it was subversive of authority, of the authority of the parent over the child as well as of the authority of the state over the citizen.
As he says at the end of the Sophistical Elenchi on the syllogism, he had no predecessor, but took pains and laboured a long time in investigating it.
That this defect was serious was dimly apprehended even by those who frequented and admired the lectures of the earlier sophists; that it was fatal was clearly seen by Socrates, who, himself commonly regarded as a sophist, emphatically reprehended, not only the taking of fees, which was after all a mere incident, objectionable because it seemed to preclude independence of thought, but also the fundamental disregard of truth which infected every part and every phase of sophistical teaching.