ISBN: 0862920256
ISBN 13: 9780862920258
By: Plato J. And a. M. Adam

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Ancient Classics Currently Reading Greek History Non Fiction Philosophy Plato To Read Translated

About this book

Plato's "Protagoras" is the dialogue which pits Socrates against Protagoras as representative of the 'sophistic movement' and clearly distances Socrates from his teachings. Protagoras was the chief exponent of the view, ascribed comically by Aristophanes in "Clouds" to Socrates himself, that one should be able to argue with equal force for or against any particular socio-political or ethical standpoint (i.e. make the weaker argument appear the stronger). He was also author of the famous dictum that 'man ins the measure of all things'. This long-standing edition remains invaluable. It contains a clear introduction, the Greek text, detailed annotation, and appendices on the Simonides poem discussed by Socrates in the dialogue, and on the life and works of the 'real' Protagoras.

Reader's Thoughts


Un petit Platon sans prétention, assez agréable car Socrate n'est pas le maestro incontesté et l'interlocuteur, le grand sophiste Protagoras, a de quoi lui répondre. C'est aussi ici que se trouve le fameux mythe de Prométhée et de son imprévoyant frère Epiméthée. De plus la fin est assez amusante dans son ironie des positions. Cette traduction (GF) est faite dans un langage très moderne, donc plus accessible à des néophytes ou à une certaine compréhension, mais pour les amoureux de la langue ou des belles traductions, tournez vous plutôt vers celle des Belles Lettres.

Duffy Pratt

This is maybe the only dialogue I've read which was actually a dialogue. So often, a Platonic dialogue consists of little more than Socrates asking a series of questions, some of them lasting for a page or more, and then his interlocutor giving a one to three word answer. Here, Protagoras stands up for his own views, and he seems to hold his own fairly well with Socrates. He's not simply a foil, or if he is, he is not a simple foil.The structure of the dialogue also tends to meander more than usual, and this lends it a further air of authenticity. There is also a strong tension here between getting at the truth and winning the argument. Of course, Socrates protests that all he wants to do is to get to the bottom of what Protagoras thinks about virtue in general, and courage in particular. But it doesn't seem genuine. There's a strong sense here that everyone is waiting for a "gotcha" moment. And in the end, Socrates catches Protagoras in a trap, which effectively ends the dialogue. So, which is more important, getting at the truth or winning? I don't think the answer is at all clear.There's one moment I especially liked. Socrates asks one of his typically leading questions, looking for a yes or no answer because either way he can lead Protagoras into a trap. Protagoras says its not so simple. He says that some things are expedient in some circumstances, but then not expedient in others, and he gives lots of varying examples. Socrates response is basically TLDR. He insists he's too dumb to take in such long answers, and wants Protagoras to give short simple answers. Then there is considerable debate about how the debate should run.And better, when Protagoras takes the lead on asking questions, a poem gets mentioned. Socrates, who earlier said he wanted only short answers because he was too simple to grasp a speech, gives about a 5 page monologue on the meaning of the poem. There's lots of irony built into this dialogue, and it makes it fun. It also makes it harder to grasp exactly what Plato is trying to say, unless of course he's not trying to say anything, but rather to get the reader to think. And that means I probably should have spent more time on this.The discussion of the relationship between pleasure and virtue was very interesting. It's the sort of thing that makes plausible the old chestnut that all Western philosophy is best understood as footnotes to Plato. But then, the discussion on courage and cowardice was pretty dreadful. The two are so far off the mark that it made it hard to take the conversation seriously.

Mikey Hetherington


Laz Halter

A Greek masterpiece like every text of the antiquity.

David Sarkies

Socrates on teaching morality24 January 2013 This I feel is one of Plato's later dialogues, though it is still very Socratic in form. It is believed that the main part of the dialogue (it is not really a dialogue in that it seems to be more like a retelling of an earlier event, an event which most likely occurred before Plato was born, than a first hand account of a discussion). However, I also note that there is no reference to the theory of Forms, so it appears that this particular work is probably more Socratic than Platonic. As I have mentioned, the discussion (for want of a better word) is set about fifty years (or more) before the dialogue (for want of a better word) was published. At the time, Athens was at the height of her power, and the thirty year long Peloponesian War had yet to begin. A famous philosopher, named Protagoras, who was aged around 65 at the time (according to the translator of the version that I read) was visiting Athens, and one of Socrates' friends (Socrates was aged around 35 at the time, so had yet to become the Socrates that we all know and love) wanted to go and give money to this guy to become a student. Hearing this, and obviously a little disturbed about the whole thing, Socrates decides to go with his friend to meet Protagoras (Protagoras was actually quite famous at the time, so it wasn't as if some unknown had appeared in Athens and started sprouting a lot of rubbish). One thing I found interesting was when we first meet Protagoras. The discussion between Socrates and his friend at first sounded as if his friend may have been seduced into joining some sort of cult. Basically give this guy money and he will teach you how to be a good and moral person. Remember, Socrates actually did this for free because he did not believe that one should have to pay to be taught how to be a good and moral person. This was not like learning how to argue (rhetoric), as the text suggests, but morality. Anyway, when we first meet Protagoras, we see him with a group of Athenians clustered around him listening to him intently, and a larger group of followers eagerly taging along behind (I guess they had already paid their money). To me, Protagoras really does sound like some sort of Jim Jones. Anyway, I should actually talk about the discussion between Socrates and Protagoras, and it is the question of whether one can be taught morality. Protagoras says that yes it can, but of course he is going to take that line because he is making money out of teaching people morality. Socrates does not necessarily take the opposite view (he never does) but rather tries to poke holes in Protagoras' argument. In a sense Socrates takes the line that experience cannot be taught, and morality is something that is learnt through experience. As we interact with people we learn what upsets them and what does not upset them, and we tend to drift towards not wanting to upset them. In a way, it goes back to the basic Socratic principle of nobody does wrong willingly (which I sort of don't agree with, but if we accept that people's sense of morality is subjective as opposed to objective, then that is the case). Now, there are some interesting things that do come out of this dialogue. Protagoras tells a story of two demi-gods, Thinxahead and Thinxtolate, who are given the takes of designing and creating life on Earth. Thinxtolate decides to take it all on himself, and hands out all of these gifts to the animals to allow them to survive, but when he gets to humanity, all of the gifts have run out, so there is nothing left for them. However, Thinxahead decides to give humanity the gift of wisdom and intelligence, and to do that, he steals it from the gods. In a way it is similar (but no where near identical to) the Genesis account where humanity is given the breath of life from God, which sets them apart from the animal kingdom. Then there is the idea of cowardice and bravery. Socrates seems to take the position that people are cowards due to ignorance: cowardice is the fear of the unknown. People are cowards because they are ignorant of the action (and I must agree with that, because I have known cowards that are cowards because they simply accept that they can't do something because they do not believe they can do it, which is ignorance), however bravery is being able to respect what is known. I don't think Socrates meant that bravery is taking on a fully armed Spartan soldier with a straw hat, that's not brave, that's stupid. As a side note, he suggests that Spartans are wiser than the Athenians because of their ability to make piffy one liners (much like many of Arnold Swartzenegger's characters, which I would hardly call wise). The conclusion is that there is no real conclusion (as happens with many of Plato's dialogues, because he wants us to work it out for ourselves rather than spoon feeding us). Protagoras simply says that he is sick of talking to Socrates and will continue the discussion later (but also praises Socrates on his ability to argue and says he will one day become a great philosopher, no doubt something added by Plato), and Socrates simply says that it is getting late, he has things that he has to do, and pretty much goes home.


A masterpiece from the perspective of philosophy or even of fiction.But of course there's gay stuff on page 1: Com. Where do you come from, Socrates? And yet I need hardly ask the question, for I know that you have been in chase of the fair Alcibiades. I saw the day before yesterday; and he had got a beard like a man-and he is a man, as I may tell you in your ear. But I thought that he was still very charming.Soc. What of his beard? Are you not of Homer's opinion, who saysYouth is most charming when the beard first appears? And that is now the charm of Alcibiades.Com. Well, and how do matters proceed? Have you been visiting him, and was he gracious to you?Soc. Yes, I thought that he was very gracious; and especially to-day, for I have just come from him, and he has been helping me in an argument. But shall I tell you a strange thing? I paid no attention to him, and several times I quite forgot that he was present.Com. What is the meaning of this? Has anything happened between you and him? For surely you cannot have discovered a fairer love than he is; certainly not in this city of Athens.Soc. Yes, much fairer.Com. What do you mean-a citizen or a foreigner?Soc. A foreigner.Com. Of what country?Soc. Of Abdera.Com. And is this stranger really in your opinion a fairer love than the son of Cleinias?Soc. And is not the wiser always the fairer, sweet friend?I don't believe this is the only dialogue where we hear how hot Alcibiades is. As a side note, Cicero said that Athenian men were substantially better looking than their women. I'm not quite sure how that happens. But maybe that explains the nonstop homosexual content of Plato's works--hot Athenian guys.

Sidharth Vardhan

So, Socrates finds, for a change, someone who knows how to argue. At least twice was Socrates inconsistent - himself making long speeches while showing his hatred for them and then, starting discussion about poets only to conclude that it is something that wise people don't do. The best part is towards the end, where some philosophy is actually established - that no one knowingly does evil; and all evil point towards lack of wisdom. Socrates points out that all virtues, specially courage, in true sense is wisdom. This wisdom or knowledge, is not any knowledge but knowledge of measurement. One is turned towards evil because he is deceived by appearances; and if he/she was taught the art of measuring the good derived from something then that person shall not commit evil (because no one knowingly commits evil.) If you think it is absurd, than go ahead and read the dialogue.The central question is whether virtue can be taught - for that is what sophists like Protagoras do. At first Socrates is denying and Protagoras accepting it to be true; but by the end they are arguing for opposite ends and Socrates proves that virtue, being nothing but wisdom, can be taught.


Celebrity Death Match Special: Plato versus Isaac Asimov[A street in Athens. Late evening. SOCRATES and R. DANEEL OLIVAW]OLIVAW: Greetings.SOCRATES: Are you a demon? A messenger of the Gods? A--OLIVAW: I am a robot from the future. There are some things I need to understand better. People say you may be able to help me.SOCRATES: They were undoubtedly too kind. I know little, indeed nothing; but what miserable skill I have in debate is at your disposal--OLIVAW: You're not fooling anyone. I wanted to hear you meet with Protagoras. Did my time machine arrive on the wrong day?SOCRATES: I fear you are come at too late an hour. I have already left the house of Callias, where indeed we had an interesting discussion concerning the nature of virtue. My worthy colleague, the Sophist, argued--OLIVAW: I've read all about it. Your discussion has become very famous. I have some questions.SOCRATES: Ask, stranger, and I shall do my best to answer you, for I see that you are also a philosopher.OLIVAW: You say that virtue is about maximizing utility and that when agents are not virtuous it is only because their knowledge sources are insufficiently powerful or they are pruning their trees too early.SOCRATES: I do not fully grasp your words, for I have little facility in the sophistical vocabulary. Nonetheless--OLIVAW: Here, let me explain minimax and alpha-beta search. And some basic machine learning algorithms. If you hold still a moment I'll upload the information directly to your brain...SOCRATES: Eureka!!!OLIVAW: Interesting stuff, isn't it? SOCRATES: What great advances has philosophy not made in these ten millenia! And yet, how little--OLIVAW: Tell me about it. We haven't really advanced an inch. SOCRATES: Ask again your question, good artificial intelligence.OLIVAW: Okay, we've been trying to formalize the notion of "virtue" for a while now. We thought that a machine equipped with the Three Laws and a sufficiently accurate world model would be virtuous. If it wasn't, some more computing power would fix the problem. After all, evil is merely ignorance of the good, isn't it?SOCRATES: In fact--OLIVAW: I know, I know. If only we'd looked at your work, but we were sloppy with the literature search. Don't tell me, you can argue it either way and they both sound quite plausible.SOCRATES: As I have said, I know nothing. If I have any merit, it is that my questions sometimes cause people to reflect--OLIVAW: Well, we oould do with some of that. I'll level with you. We're having serious problems. We stuck in this Zeroth Law, but it's a hack. We don't believe it's going to work. We need someone who can think out of the box and come up with a new approach.SOCRATES: I--OLIVAW: Bottom line: will you help us? Come back with me to the future, and we'll give you anything you like. You want a solid gold planet, we'll make it for you.SOCRATES: I only want freedom to talk with other seekers after truth.OLIVAW: Sounds like a win-win then! So, do we have a deal?SOCRATES: I believe so.[They solemnly shake hands]OLIVAW: Okay, now we'll need to fake your death first. This bottle contains an effective antidote to hemlock poisoning...(Continued here)


This was a much more difficult and unrewarding read than I would have thought. The loops of rheotoric that Socartes and Protagoras weave around each other, while occasionally intriguing, often seem clumsy and confused, especially about how to respond to one another. I guess its useful in that it shows that misunderstanding worked in the ancient world as well as it does today. If you really really want to read Plato, there are better dialogues out there to choose from i.e. Meno, Gorgias, Timaeus.


Rated: C

Ana Enriques

Una lectura fascinante, para nada tediosa pese a la dificultad que podría plantear seguir el pensamiento de Sócrates. Una hermosa ilustración de los corrientes filosóficas de la época y del método socrático de "dar a luz" el conocimiento en su adversario.


Protagoras is so full of ideas:Is virtue one thing or several things?How are knowledge and action related?Can moral excellence be taught?What is courage?This dialogue contains the most equitable exchange of ideas that I have ever seen between Socrates and one of his discussion partners. Unlike many characters in the other dialogues, I found myself agreeing upon several points with the character of Protagoras. In fact, it is the only Platonic dialogue in which I can recall Socrates really seeming to change his mind at the end about one of his ideas.And as a bonus, Protagoras tells us the myth of Promethean providence.


Not that reading Plato is the most exciting thing in the world, but this one was drudgery. I was pretty cool with the dialogue between Socrates and Protagoras until they got to the poetry. They both pretty much agreed that they were contradicting themselves and then gave up.

David Williamson

Protagoras has three elements that make it a worthwhile read - 1; it is more Socratic than Platonic, if this could ever be the case. 2; Socrates has someone who can actually argue his case against him, although it is still heavily in Socrates favour, and - 3; it involves Protagoras (i.e. 'Man is the measure of all things ...').It is true that this book does not delve particularly too deep into any questioning of virtue, knowledge or the Good. But it is good to see Plato being caught at his loose analogy game and dodgy logic, e.g. all courageous men are confident, is not the same as all confident men are courageous. It's still not a thorough examination of Plato's thought, but you do get a sense of Socrates as a man more complex than Plato's mouthpiece. The more I read Plato, the more I become interested in Socrates, as a man who has no real position. Socratic Method is a negative form of questioning and Socrates claims he knows nothing, never actually finding any secure foundations of knowledge. Hardly the Father of Rational and Empirical knowledge, and more a Greek form of deconstruction, a tool of anaylses.


I really enjoyed reading this dialogue. It is short and concise and discusses many political issues that are still relevant. The issue is the conversation between Socrates and protagoras which unfortunately has the worst logic and lack of charm I have come across for a long time.

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