in Barchester Towers

Chapter 15 – The Widow’s Suitors


In English, “sophistry” is used to refer to an argument that, though persuasive, is actually false.  Trollope tries to convince his audience that Mr. Slope is not entirely bad.  Mr. Slope simply has a strong devotion to his concept of religion and a high opinion of himself.  This mix leads him to thinking that actions which are good for his advancement are also good for his church.  Trollope describes this argument as sophistry because it uses a form of logic that sounds appealing but is merely deceptive.  The Greek sophists were traveling teachers and philosophers.  Some sophists are presented as believing that there existed no certain truth but that all truth is only opinion, a stance refuted by Socrates and his students.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.