Objects of the senses are of such a character that they cannot become the subject of true and universal knowledge while on ethical values are of such a kind that they can become the subject of true and universal knowledge. [Perhaps more the view of Plato than Protagoras]
Then again, in the Theaetetus, Protagoras is depicted as saying that ethical judgments are relative (individualistic): “For I hold that whatever practices seem right and laudable to any particular State are so for that State, so long as it holds by them.”
Yet, in Protagoras it is stated that he held that certain ethical tendencies were given to all men by the gods “because cities could not exist if, as in the case of other arts, few men only were partakers of them.”
• So how are we to reconcile these conflicting views about the nature of ethics, law and the State? Which represents Protagoras’ authentic views?
The Law in general is founded on certain ethical tendencies implanted in all men, but that the individual varieties of Law, as found in particular States, are relative, the law of one State, without being truer than that of another State, being perhaps sounder in the sense of more useful or expedient.
That State or city-community would be the determiner of law and not the individual.
What is the responsibility of the individual man? He should become educated, and cleave to the ethical traditions of the community. Since no one code is truer than another the individual should not set up his private judgment against the law of the State. The State has the right to rid itself of individuals who do not hearken to the “gifts” of the gods (ethical tendencies).
Philosophy: Protagoras2KD McMahon