| Socrates |
The Sophists & Socrates
Age of Pericles
that the 5th cent. BC was the Athenian Golden Age-
was achieved in art, medicine, drama, poetry, architecture,
Athenian democracy thrived.
by 2 wars:
towards the end of the cent., Athens entered a period of cultural &
reasons, all related to the nature of Democracy:
for poetic traditions about the gods declined
with other cultures cast doubt on the notion that
beliefs/standards/values were universal.
lawmaking undermined idea that a city's constitution was of divine
Conflicting opinions of philosophers caused doubts about the
possibility of arriving at truth.
to the contemporary West? Globalization? Multiculturalism?
taught 'political virtue'- esp debate skills
he thought it impossible to think/speak of nothing,
BUT, Parm used this to prove that
change was an illusion, therefore the popular belief in change
Prot used this to claim that whatever you think is true IS true-
if another person thinks
differently, then that is true too- for them.
So...why would you need a Sophist?
b/c some ideas, while not truer, are
'better' than others-
i.e., more likely to achieve a
desired end or get you what you want.
and why not act out of radical/ruthless
b/c it is 'better' (again, not truer) to
live acc to traditionally accepted values/standards,
i.e., more politically expedient, and
if the such values are not to your advantage,
you can convince others to change
the measure of all things- of things that are, that they are, and of
things that are not, that they are not.'
that, for every issue, ' there are two opposing arguments.'
or con. The person who makes the best case for their side and
persuades others to agree wins- but that does not make their
position 'truer,' or more real.
Antilogiae, a collection of pro/con arguments
rhetoric & relativism are connected- w/o absolute standards, the
values of the polis are determined by human agreement
persuading others to agree w/ you becomes paramount.
effective method of persuasion is valid,
is not constrained by logic/reasoning.
was able ' to make the weaker argument the stronger.'
the gods, I am unable to know that they are, or that they are not.'
Acc to legend, Protagoras was
prosecuted in Athens for impiety,
(died abt 380 BC)
rejected the idea (contra Protagoras) that
'virtue' was teachable-
taught only rhetoric,
acknowledged that it could be used to bad ends,
himself blameless when this happened b/c it was not his intent.
a relativist b/c of the
disagreements of the Presocs-
persuasion joins with speech, it can affect the soul in any way it
(a contemporary of Gorgias)
Took sophistic relativism to its
If there is no truth/opinion
if what one believes is true
then if one believes 'might
makes right,' then it's true for him/her.
Saw virtue as convention, not
in fact, he thought nature
revealed quite the opposite:
Believed that conventional
concepts of virtue were no more than attempts by the weak to
protect themselves from the will of the strong...
paradoxical question: Is relativism 'bad'?
the point- given the precondition of democracy, is relativism an
unrealistic starting point for politics? Where else would it start?
response to the relativism of Protagoras and the Sophists comes from
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
himself wrote nothing [like another famous teacher I could
known to us from 3 sources:
our most important source, and most complete picture, but...
it the 'historical Socrates,' or a mouthpiece for Plato's
Aristophanes' , Clouds
ridicules Socrates, making him look like a buffoon.
or, does it ridicule popular beliefs about Socrates?
be known about him?
was a sculptor; his mother a midwife.
Served as a
hoplite in the Athenian military during the Peloponnesian War.
unimpressive physical appearance.
Towards the end
of the Pel. War, an anti-Democratic revolt took place in Athens,
and the city was ruled for about
a year by what came to be called the 'Tyranny of the Thirty'
Among the revolutionaries were
some men who had been former students of Socrates.
when they were overthrown and the
Democracy was replaced,
general amnesty was
granted to all involved,
but Socrates was
and disliked anyways
because his questioning had often embarrassed those in
He could not be
charged with any crimes assoc. w the tyranny,
In 399 BC,
found guilty by an Athenian court of
the youth of the city
'atheist'- rejecting belief in the city's gods.
days in prison, died from drinking hemlock.
In , he claims:
at Delphi told his friend Chaerephon that no man was wiser than Socrates.
the riddle, he sought to disprove the oracle by finding someone
wiser than himself.
politicians, poets, craftsmen,
thought they were wise, but when questioned, they were not, and
didn't like having it pointed out to them.
rest of his life questioning the assumptions of others, seeking
with the 'good life'- what is best for humanity?
not answer his own questions-
concerned that Sophistry was philosophically mistaken and morally
Cicero, it was Soc. who 'first called philosophy down from
the sky, set it in cities and even introduced it into homes, and
compelled it to consider life and morals, good and evil.'
| Socrates |