Tell, Håkan. 2011. Plato's Counterfeit Sophists. Hellenic Studies Series 44. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Tell.Platos_Counterfeit_Sophists.2011.
Competing Articulations of Philosophy
The intellectual ostracism of the sophists was upheld and furthered by Aristotle.  Michael Frede’s recent exploration of the Aristotelian history of Greek philosophy in the Metaphysics illustrates this development. Frede calls attention to how interrelated Aristotle’s conception of philosophy is with his discussion of its origin and first practitioner:
Of particular interest are the temporal limits that Aristotle imposes on the development of philosophy. He traces its origin back to Thales and no further. Though he acknowledges that some (τινες) claim that Thales’ views that water was the origin of everything had already been expressed by others, Aristotle staunchly rejects any attempt to lend the name of philosophy to these earlier expressions.
It seems that Hippias’ ambition was to present in the Synagoge an overview of contemporary and ancient thinking on an encyclopedic scale, and that the work was organized according to themes that were illustrated by short quotations from the primary sources.  Hippias also seems to have assumed that all contemporary thinking was derived from older predecessors;  or, to be more precise, Hippias seems to have believed that all contemporary thinking that we today might characterize as philosophical was ultimately derived from older, mythological expressions, though these older expressions might lack the sophistication and explicit articulation found in later writers.  The exposition in the Synagoge most likely started with a statement from one of Hippias’ contemporaries or predecessors and then traced it back to the works of one of the poets of old, such as Musaeus, Homer, or Hesiod. 
However, an examination of the primary sources reveals that travel and wisdom were intrinsically linked in ancient Greece from at least the archaic period onward. In chapter four, I argue that travel was a fundamental aspect of the archaic Greek institutions of wisdom and of crucial importance to the circulation and dissemination of wisdom. In the institutional framework that made travel possible and gave cultural credibility to individual sages to crisscross the Greek world there are no clearly identifiable differences between the travels of the sophists and those of other practitioners of wisdom. Instead, they seem to undertake their travel for similar purposes and within established channels of communication. If anything, Socrates seems to be the odd man out with his insistence on remaining in Athens and rejection of (intellectual) travel.
As we have already seen, however, it was not only in the poetic predecessors that models for the sophistic rhetorical techniques were found. There is no doubt that the focus on public oratory intensified in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. But it was not exclusive to the group Plato labels sophists, nor can it be used as a sufficient defining characteristic to describe the extent of their intellectual activities.
In the Metaphysics, Aristotle adds that “dialectic is tentative regarding the things where philosophy is capable of knowledge, and the sophistic art is what appears to be philosophy but is not.”  The seventh definition of sophist in the Platonic dialogue of the same name unequivocally underscores the Platonic position:
Against this Athenocentric view of the sophistic movement, Robert Wallace has argued that Athens—and its democratic form of government—has been given too much importance in understanding the sophists:
Rosalind Thomas, in her work on Herodotus, is also highly critical of the way scholars tend to over-emphasize the significance of Athens, both as the sole impetus for the intellectual movement in the second half of the fifth century (at the expense of, say, eastern Greece), but also as the undisputed center of all intellectual activity in general. 
But the evidence to support a specifically democratic political influence on the intellectual articulations of the sophists is scant and mainly circumstantial, and it seems to be assumed solely as a result of Athens’ presumed role in shaping the sophistic movement. More attractive—and certainly more substantiated—is G. E. R. Lloyd’s claim that the development of Greek scientific rationality as a whole was intrinsically linked with democratic ideology.  Lloyd is careful not to argue for a direct causal relationship between the emergence of democracy and rationality, but he clearly sees democratic ideology as fertile ground for the kinds of intellectual developments typically associated with rationality and philosophy.  From the point of view of Lloyd’s thesis, with its emphasis on democratic ideology over realities,  it seems unnecessary and even problematic to separate different degrees of democratic influence among the various philosophers; it seems preferable to assume a suggestive analogy between the political developments that took place in the wake of the rise of the polis and the emergence of a rational and philosophical discourse in ancient Greece. 
Greek Conceptions of Wisdom
Aristotle’s classic account of the different developmental stages of wisdom has had a strong influence on modern scholars.  In his view, described in the first chapter of the Metaphysics, wisdom showed a steady progression in Greek culture from skill in particulars to skill in universals, eventually culminating in Aristotle’s own scientific philosophy.  Kerferd has persuasively rejected this view on the grounds that the account too directly reflects Aristotle’s own theories of philosophy and the development of wisdom, especially in the emphasis on the intellectual vector from particulars to universals.  In opposing this Aristotelian account, Kerferd notes that wisdom was initially connected with the poet, the seer, and the sage, and that their knowledge was not pertaining to a particular skill, “but knowledge about the gods, man and society, to which the ‘wise man’ claimed privileged access.”  This knowledge, in turn, was divinely inspired—always pertaining to content; and the content in question was education—the turf par excellence of sophoi.