The starting point of this paper is a controversy that has involved the philosopher and educator John Dewey (1859-1952) since the last century: both authors contrary and favorable to his theses consider his educational conceptions associated with skepticism, a philosophical movement created by Pirro de Élis (360-270 BC). This controversy is investigated in this paper through the rhetorical analysis proposed by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, comparing Dewey’s discourse with the pyrrhonic formulations. This investigation results in the discovery of some similarities and an important difference between the discourses examined. This difference, in turn, leads to the examination of a philosophical movement prior to Pyrrhonism, the sophistry, with Protagoras of Abdera (490-421 B.C.) as its main representative. Sophistry is analyzed in this work according to contemporary authors who diverge from the traditional characterization instituted by Plato. The conclusions identify important coincidences between the Deweyan discourse and the Sophistic discourse, which allows Dewey to be associated with the rhetorical discursive tradition and to position his educational proposals within the scope of rhetorical pedagogy. This pedagogy proposes to lead students to compose and express their personal inclinations, not in the narrow space of individual life, but in the broader horizon of the community, through methods that aim to project the student in the public space of deliberation and action.
John Dewey; Pyrrhonism; Sophistry; Rhetoric