Obviously, performance art in the narrow sense, "as an antithesis to theatre, challenging orthodox art forms and cultural norms", did not exist in Greece. Are there any well known contemporary (since modernism) performance artists who use sophistry in their performances?

I don't mean any specific philosophy, but the use of argument similar to that of the sophists, be that in the disparaging sense or not

he works of Plato and Aristotle have had much influence on the modern view of the "sophist" as a greedy instructor who uses rhetorical sleight-of-hand and ambiguities of language in order to deceive, or to support fallacious reasoning. In this view, the sophist is not concerned with truth and justice, but instead seeks power.

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    "Obviously"? Greeks did have public theater. Greek sophists were also "performance artists" in a sense, and teachers of what IEP calls "the ability to influence one’s fellow citizens in political gatherings through rhetorical persuasion", i.e. of public rhetoric. Some, like Protagoras, were quite famous. They charged a fee for it, which angered Socrates. – Conifold Aug 15 '19 at 4:08
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    I guess you better explain what "performance art" is if it is not an artistic performance presented to an audience. If it is supposed to be postmodernistic counter-art, the antics of Diogenes come to mind. – Conifold Aug 15 '19 at 5:16
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    I am confused, are you asking about ancient sophistry or postmodern one? – Conifold Aug 15 '19 at 5:25
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    -1 is not mine. – Conifold Aug 15 '19 at 5:37
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    both are from wikipedia i'm afraid @MarkAndrews nb i know next to nothing about both :) – user38026 Aug 15 '19 at 7:13

All reasoning is about power: the intention of reasoning is to bring different people into alignment with a conceptual understanding of the world, and that kind of alignment is the primary source of social power. The difference lies in method, not in intention. Habermas broke down reasoning modes into four general types:

  • Teleological rationality: attempts to reach social outcomes through functional success (basically a 'winners are right' model).
  • Normative rationality: attempts to attempts to reach social outcomes by asserting cultural or metaphysical norms as truths.
  • Dramaturgical rationality: attempts to reach social outcomes by appeals to sincerity and righteousness ("I am good so you should believe me" type arguments).
  • Communicative rationality: attempts to reach social outcomes by reasoning towards depersonalized consensus.

Socrates would have fallen very much in the last category: for him, argumentation was all about rationalizing the concept without regard to the individuals involved. The people he labelled as sophist all tended to fall in the third category. They were (to Socrate's mind) politicians and pundits more that philosophers, interested in promoting their aptitude for rhetoric at the expense of any particular philosophical end.

Performance art in the modern sense is almost exclusively negative dramaturgy — social statements meant to distort, defame, disrupt, confuse, or otherwise attack the sincerity of other expressions of social power — so in that sense it would invariably be a form of sophistry. But not all dramaturgy is negative. Peaceful protests, civil disobedience, impassioned pleas, etc are all dramaturgy, but they rely on the sincerity of the participants rather than questioning the sincerity of others. Performance art is intrinsically and consciously insincere: not in the bad sense of the term, but in the sense that it constantly seeks to question that which is held to be sincere.

  • wow what a great answer, thanks! – user38026 Aug 18 '19 at 14:38

There's an element of sophistry and rhetoric in much trolling, and trolling is, it is claimed, a performance of sorts. Some trolls may be pretty naive about the history of art, but not all.

Trolling may also overlap in some ways with flarf poetry

A couple of years ago, if you'll remember, on the Women's Poetry listserv, a number of people began posting in horror at finding their names, with poems they hadn't written, on Poetry.com. I remember going to the site and realizing immediately it was one of those "poetry contest" scams. A year or so before that I had spoken on the phone with my grandfather, not many days before he died, and he had told me then how proud he was that he had won some sort of poetry contest, and that he had ordered the book, etc. I had always felt bad about that, and once I was on the Poetry.com site, I wrote what I thought would be the most offensive poem I could manage, and submitted it to the "contest"

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