Philosophy in the Second Sophistic
Bowersock, G.W. (Glen Warren)
This chapter explores the extraordinary power of philosophy in the 2nd century, when Roman emperors had stopped sneering at philosophy, and intellectuals were high fashion. Philostratus labelled this period the Second Sophistic, because, as in Athens at the time of Socrates, intellectuals who could give a good performance were admired and highly paid. The chapter traces the changing reception in modern scholarship of this ‘performance philosophy’ and its startling reversals. Philosophers who were (on principle) shabby and hairy had makeovers and presented themselves as the media stars they were, so that nobody knew what an intellectual looked like any more. Philosophers seek knowledge, sophists boldly claim to have it: but now a philosopher with sufficient rhetorical brilliance might achieve the status of sophist. Philosophy brought worldly success.