Sophistry, the Sophists and modern medical education

MacSuibhne, S. P. (2010) Sophistry, the Sophists and modern medical education. Medical Teacher, 32 (1). pp. 71-75. ISSN 0142159X (ISSN)


The term 'sophist' has become a term of intellectual abuse in both general discourse and that of educational theory. However the actual thought of the fifth century BC Athenian-based philosophers who were the original Sophists was very different from the caricature. In this essay, I draw parallels between trends in modern medical educational practice and the thought of the Sophists. Specific areas discussed are the professionalisation of medical education, the teaching of higher-order characterological attributes such as personal development skills, and evidence-based medical education. Using the specific example of the Sophist Protagoras, it is argued that the Sophists were precursors of philosophical approaches and practices of enquiry underlying modern medical education. © 2010 Informa UK Ltd All rights reserved.

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