Plato may be one of the most famous Greek philosophers in history, but his way of thinking he did not represent all Athenian intellectuals who populated this Mediterranean power in the 5th century BC. C. Protagoras, the best known of the sophistic philosophers, embodies a way of understanding reality diametrically opposed to that defended by the disciple of Socrates.
In this article we will look at what characterizes a the philosophy of Protagoras and what was his way of thinking based on relativism.
Who was Protagoras?
This well-known philosopher was born in Abdera, in northern Greece, although he traveled extensively, which is typical of men of intellectual profile who lived during the time of Hellenic splendor. At the time when Pericles ruled the city-state of Athens, Protagoras was his adviser and adviser, and even, at the governor’s request, drafted the constitution of a Greek colony.
Having lived so long ago, little is known about the personal details of his life. Yes, their intellectual positions are known, because Plato put a lot of effort into refuting his arguments in his books, As we see it.
The relativistic theory of Protagoras
The fundamental and fundamental aspects of Protagoras’ theory, based on an explicitly relativistic way of thinking, Are the following.
1. The function of philosophy is not to access absolute truths
Protagoras believed that any statement is conditioned by the context in which it is published. This makes the translation of universal truths into words impossible, as it is always limited by the time and place where it was generated, either by the lack of information about something or by the lack of objectivity which he asserts, that he is often seen personally and emotionally involved in the debate.
Likewise, context also affects how the instruction is interpreted and can have completely opposite meanings depending on where it is used.
2. There are as many points of view as there are people
Each human being sees things in their own way, as our past and our life trajectories are unique and clearly distinguishable from others. When faced with the same topic of discussion, it is always possible to find many people who think differently from others. Although we look alike, we tend to differ in a number of ways.
3. What is true is decided by everyone
From the above it follows that there are many truths, Valid for some people and not so much for others, and that cannot be avoided we do what we do.
4. Philosophy must convince
Since we cannot agree on absolute truths, the task of the philosopher is to make the ideas he defends sound convincing, not so convincing (since we cannot imagine something that is universally valid, which for Protagoras would imply that it is valid) .for everyone.
So the intellectual must think more about the effects of making a statement only in the veracity of this statement. This will make the forbidden speech attractive and attract the sympathies of many people.
The role of sophisticated philosophers
The above point is something shared by a type of philosopher called Sophists. Sophists were advisers and counselors who they trained the most influential men in Greece in the art of rhetoric, Which made a lot of sense in Athens. In this city-state, democracy basically consisted in knowing how to defend certain ideas in assembly, so much intellectual life was oriented towards politics.
Thus, Protagoras and many other Sophists took advantage of this form of government to teach the most useful techniques of speech and prosody capable of making a bad argument seem pleasing to others.
This was widely criticized by Socrates and his disciple Plato, as they both believed in the existence of universal truths. The implications of Protagoras’ work have come to mean that behind reality there is no universal structuring truth of all that exists, there are only certain ways of ordering ideas and words so that they sound good and match our way of thinking. For this reason, this intellectual position is called relativism: everything is relative and only opinions matter (or, more precisely, opinions and those who hold them).
Relativism still exists today, While the Sophists disappeared with ancient Greece. The proponents of this current in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are fundamentally the defenders of the postmodern conception of reality, according to which it must be recognized that there are different accounts of what exists and that they must coexist.