There were, however, among the wise men some who despised the knowledge of the orators, lexicographers and schoolmasters, and cavilled at those who devoted themselves to these professions. To these calumniators belonged Epicurus and Pythagoras. They held that these occupations were of no use for acquiring wisdom, since the grammarians were nothing but schoolmasters, the poets nothing but weathercocks and liars, the orators mere calumniators, cajolers and rabid revolutionaries.

source: https://www.attalus.org/translate/aristotle.html

On a cursory search, I can't find any corroboration of the like.

  • 3
    I suspect this is kind of like "Security vendor reports vulnerability" or "Academic reports that prior academic papers were insufficient". There are very few historical records that assert "This individual agreed with the establishment, expressing no divergent opinions and taking no exceptional actions."
    – MCW
    Aug 22, 2023 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


At least part of this is rooted in Pythagoras' disdain of those who sold their knowledge, which, as we know from Plato, is something that "sophists" were wont to do. Similarly, schoolmasters, I believe, were paid by students for their knowledge.

From Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras 34:

The Pythagoreans objected to those who offered disciplines for sale, who open their souls like the gates of an inn to every man that approaches them; and who, if they do not thus get buyers, diffuse themselves through the cities, and in short, hire gymnasia, and require a reward from young men for those things that are without price.

The Pythagoreans thought that those who teach for the sake of reward show themselves worse than scuplors or artists who perform their work sitting.

(Translated by Kenneth S. Guthrie in his The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, 1987.)

  • 1
    One could consider that support for public (sponsored) education vs. private (transactional). Kind of reminds me of Rush's Spirit of Radio, a song in support of radio stations using public airwaves, and against the corrupting influence of money. In particular the line "Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength bearing a gift beyond price, its almost free", which uses that same concept of it being wrong to charge for gifts which are beyond price.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 22, 2023 at 16:37
  • @T.E.D. public schoolteachers get paid for their job, so they would be liable to Pythagoras' criticism as much as private ones
    – Mutoh
    Aug 23, 2023 at 14:05
  • @Mutoh - Pythagoras was financially supported as well. He didn't starve to death, or have another "day job". But the key point he was making here was that it wasn't a quid-pro-quo on an individual student basis. People supported him so he could teach, and he taught students who wanted to learn. He was never put in the position of withholding his invaluable teaching because the otherwise worthy student couldn't (or wouldn't) pay, or changing his teaching to something the most randos off the street would pay more for, like common panhandler or busker.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 23, 2023 at 14:10
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    @Mutoh - My son went to St. Louis University, which is run by the Jesuits, and I can assure you they charged beaucoup tuition, and would't have let him go learn there without paying it. As far as I know, all the local Catholic high schools and grade schools charge tuition as well.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 23, 2023 at 15:37
  • 1
    @T.E.D. Jesuits aren't mendicant, though they do and have run tuition-free schools.
    – Mutoh
    Aug 23, 2023 at 15:54

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