September 26, 2007

I. Protagoras and his doctrines appear in the following texts: Diogenes Laertius 9.50; Sextus Empiricus, Adv. Math. 9.55-6, 7.389, 7.60; Pyrr. I.216; Arist. Met. 3, 1046b29,997b32, 1007b18, 1062b13, Rhet. 1402a23, 1407b6, SE 173b17, Poet. 1456b15; Plato, Protagoras, passim, and Theaetetus 152-83, but also Meno 91d-e, H. Maj. 282d-e, Crataylus 266d-267c, Euthydemus 286b-c, Phaedrus 266dff.; Sophist 23d-e. See the more extensive collection compiled by DK.
II. Protagoras is unquestionably part of the older-generation of fifth-century thinkers, a contemporary of Herodotus, Aeschylus and Sophocles.
III. Protagoras did not conceive of himself as a contributor to natural philosophy. Prot. 318e, Protagoras distinguishes himself from other Sophists.
IV. Key fragment; man is the measure of all things. However, contra Parm., Protagoras claims On What Is (DK 80 B2,) that what there is cannot be divorced from what there seems to be. The question here follows: Does Protagors conta Parm. argue for a different account of the world as it is in itself, all things, or does he claim that truth and knowledge are grounded in human experience, relative to human concern.
V. subjectivism: all appearences exist. relativism: what appears to you is true. (These are the arch enemies, the bats in a cave who are allied to man-eating spiders leaving only bones of all who enter, let alone if the goddess had guided the soul to the appeal of entrance. Ways to defeat them are life it very self.) See: The Origin of Subjectivity: An Essay on Descartes, Hiram Caton, Yale University Press, 1973.
VI. see also: Burnyeat, M. F. (1975) ‘Protagoras and self-refutation in later Greek philosophy,’ Philosophical Review 84:44-5 and Burnyeat, M. F. (1976) Protagoras and self-refutation in Plato’s Theaetetus, Philosophical Review 85:172-95
VII. For Protagoras, man is an animal who must by his very nature band together with his fellow man to wage war in his own defense.  Natural order only when the polis exists – when man, as a species, is able to defend himself. Farrar sites Winton, R.I. (1974) The Political Thought of Protagoras, diss., Cambridge.  Winton, now lecturer in Ancient History, University of Nottingham, author of “Herodotus, Thucydides, and the Sophists” in Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
VIII. Do not forget that Protagoras was a sophist, and as such, his statement that man is the measure of all things, is sophistry. Hegel quoted ‘a leading principle of the Sophists was that “man is measure of all things,”; but in this, as in all their apophthegms, lurks an ambiguity, since the term “man” may denote Spirit in its depth and truth, or in the aspect of mere caprice and private interest.” The Philosophy of History, transl. Sibree, p. 269

notes; Farrar, Cynthia. The origins of democratic thinking: the
invention of politics in classical Athens. Chapter 3. Protagoras: measuring man.
I. Democracy – History 2. Political Science – Greece – History.
ISBN 0 521 34054 3.


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