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Protagoras

•  Born about 481 B.C., a native of Abdera in Thrace.

•  Best known of the Sophists.  Enjoyed the favor of Pericles.

•  Most famous statement:  

“Man is the measure of all things, those that are that they are, of those that are not that they are not.”  

The interpretation of this statement determines the understanding of Protagorean philosophy.  What does he mean by man and things?

•  Does Protagoras mean by man the individual man?  Another words:  “What appears to you to be true is true for you, and what appears to me to be true is true for me.”  Or does Protagoras mean man in the communal sense of all humanity or a community of men?

•  Much of what we know of Protagoras comes from the writings of Plato:  Theaetetus and Protagoras.  Both seem to offers different perspectives on the meaning of this dictum.

In the Theaetetus, Plato implies that Protagoras’ views man in the individualistic sense in regard to sense-perception.  (He uses the example of perception of warm and cold:  one may feel that a wind is chilly while another may feel that it is warm).

However in the Protagoras, Plato interprets Protagoras as not taking an individualistic view of man when it comes to ethical values.

Hence, according to Plato Protagoras’ dictum declares that the individual man is the measuring of all things that are the object of sense-perception but not of ethical values and judgments.

Philosophy:  Protagoras1KD McMahon

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