Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Protagoras: 309-14

There really is not much to say so far (given that we are only a little ways in) about Protagoras. It was clear to me from the moment Protagoras was mentioned that Socrates was critical of him and that he was a sophist. Hippocrates, who has shown up in the early morning to Socrates, wants desperately to go and learn from Protagoras, who has just blown into town. We learn in 310d that Protagoras takes money in exchange for ‘wisdom’ of some sort, in 310e of his “mastery of speech” and the fact that he travels and visits. Socrates takes a familiar tact, a similar one to the dialogue Theaetetus (in which he is searching for wisdom itself), by beginning to list various people who know things and teach apprentices: doctors, sculptors, and other specialists. He indicates to Hippocrates that each of these people gives the wisdom of their trade, and then he asks what Protagoras knows or teaches. Hippocrates is baffled by this and tries to respond, but he really can’t, which Socrates of course knew beforehand. Socrates then cautions Hippocrates, saying that doctrines are nourishment or poison to the soul, and that one should be very selective about which ones we take or listen to. Hippocrates agrees, and the two go to listen to Protagoras and measure him by his speech. So here we are, waiting to hear what Protagoras has to say in defense of himself and his way of life.

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