Protagoras was a Greek scholar, philosopher, and educator. He is regarded as the most renowned of the Greek Sophists. In fact, he is credited with founding the profession of Sophist. He is the one who introduced the present discussion on morality and politics to Athens and taught issues such as how individuals should manage their personal and domestic problems, how to handle societal affairs, and most significantly, how to contribute to society by one’s words and acts. In his function as a Sophist, which he maintained for more than four decades, he often questioned whether or not virtue can be taught. He also embraced relativism, which entails that truth is a subjective term, as what is true for one person may be incorrect for another, based on their differing views. In his book ‘On the Gods,’ he expressed his skepticism regarding the existence of God, which landed him in problems with the Athenian populace.
Youth and Early Life
Ancient Greek Protagoras was born in Abdera, Thrace. It is rumored that he worked as a porter and made his living by moving goods for others. He was reportedly observed by the philosopher Democritus lugging a weight.
Democritus was astounded by the precision with which Protagoras had secured the burden. His impeccable geometric accuracy compelled Democritus to acknowledge him as a mathematical genius. He became his mentor and introduced him to philosophy.
Existence & Philosophy
Protagoras became a teacher and used to lecture and preach about political and moral values. Throughout his intellectual career, he was preoccupied with the question of whether virtue can be taught.
He was not like the other educators of his time, who focused on specific instruction in public speaking and oratory. Rather, he was more concerned with teaching his students how to reason the numerous phenomena one encounter in life.
Protagoras taught how individuals should efficiently handle their personal and domestic concerns, how to conduct social affairs, and, most significantly, how to contribute to society by their words and acts.
Protagoras was interested in the subject of “orthorexia,” which means he valued the most precise use of language and grammar. It is also said that he established a taxonomy of speech acts such as assertion, question, response, and command, among others.
The book he authored, ‘The Technique of Eristics,’ shows that he taught public speaking and argument. It is also stated that he was the first philosopher to compete in Olympic oratory competitions.
His major work ‘Truth’ confirms him as a relativist philosopher. In his work, he stated, “Man is the measure of all things, of things that are and those that are not.”
His concept of relativism entailed that truth is relative and dependent on the individual who experiences it, since each person has a unique perspective and set of criteria for identifying with a given circumstance. His theories typically contradict objective reality.
Plato attributes relativism to Protagoras and utilized his ideas as a litmus test for his commitment to objective and transcendent realities and values. He attributed him to phenomenalism, in which truth varies from person to person.
Protagoras was a skepticism advocate. In ‘On the Gods,’ a now-lost treatise, he expressed doubt regarding the existence of God. This infuriated the Athenians, who exiled him and destroyed all copies of his work.
‘Antilogiae’, ‘Truth’, ‘On the Gods’, ‘Art of Eristics’, ‘Imperative’, ‘On Ambition’, ‘On Incorrect Human Actions’, ‘on Virtues’, ‘On the Original State of Things and Trial over a Fee’, etc. are some of Protagoras’ works that have been preserved over the centuries.
His Notable Works
The most notable work of Protagoras, which Socrates utilized extensively in his later studies and ideas, is his philosophy of relativism, in which he demonstrated that truth is relative and dependent on how each person perceives it.
Personal History and Legacy
Protagoras is claimed to have died around the age of 70, and his death is presumed to have occurred about the year 420.
Forty years ago, Protagoras practiced as a Sophist.
He was well-known in Athens and Pericles’ friend.
Estimated Net worth