Arendt: Ancient and Modern Sophists

“The most striking difference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of the truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality. In other words, one destroyed the dignity of human thought whereas the others destroy the dignity of human action. The old manipulators of logic were the concern of the philosopher, whereas the modern manipulators of facts stand in the way of the historian. For history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility – based upon the fact that it is enacted by men and therefore can be understood by men – is in danger, whenever facts are no longer held to be part and parcel of the past and present world, and are misused to prove this or that opinion.”

– Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (p. 9)

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