Sophistry and Law: The Antilogical Pattern of Judicial Debate

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This essay aims to reveal the relationship between sophistry and law in a twofold direction: on one side, how the development of ancient Greek law influenced sophistry’s production, and on the other, how and to what extent the knowledge and skills developed by sophists contributed to the development of legal expertise in classical Athens. The essay will initially focus on the historiographical category of the sophists to identify a line that connects these intellectuals to the new vision of society, the democratic polis, and the community that presides over legal and judicial life. This section will show that we can indeed speak of a “sophistic movement” in light of the structuring role of antilogies (antilogiae, or antithetical arguments) in forensic rhetoric. The rest of the essay will examine, from a theoretical point of view, sophistic methods of argument that contributed to the development of ancient Greek law. Touching on the issues of opposition, the debate, the reductio ad absurdum, and the principle of non-contradiction, the essay will highlight the relevance of sophistic thought to the judicial field and, more generally, the legal arena, in ancient Athens, so much so that one can think of the sophists as advocates of a particular legal culture.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2022


  • Ancient Greek Law
  • Antilogy
  • Judicial debate
  • Process
  • Sophist

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