“The Origins of Totalitarianism “

“Plato, in his famous fight against the ancient Sophists, discovered that
their “universal art of enchanting the mind by arguments” (Phaedrus 261)
had nothing to do with truth but aimed at opinions which by their very
nature are changing, and which are valid only “at the time of the agreement
and as long as the agreement lasts” (Theaetetus 172). He also discovered
the very insecure position of truth in the world, for from “opinions comes
persuasion and not from truth” (Phaedrus 260). The most striking dif-
ference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were
satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of 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 there-
fore 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. ”
http://archive.org/stream/originsoftotalit00aren/originsoftotalit00aren_djvu.txt
by HANNAH ARENDT

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