Protagoras' Great Speech

Topics: Virtue, Plato, Teacher Pages: 2 (623 words) Published: December 3, 2011
Socrates asks Protagoras "in respect to what" will Hippocrates improve by associating with him, in the manner that by associating himself to a doctor he would improve in medicine (318d). Protagoras begins his discourse with the statement that a good sophist can make his students into good citizens. Socrates says that this is fine and good, but that he personally believes that this is not feasible since virtue cannot be taught (319b). He adds that technical thinking can be imparted to students by teachers, but that wisdom cannot be. By way of example, Socrates points to the fact that while in matters concerning specialised labour one would only take advice from the appropriate specialist, like for example builders (τέκτονες) about construction, in matters of state everyone's opinions is considered, which proves that political virtue is within everyone, or that at least that is what Athenians in their democratic ideals believe. Another example is that Pericles did not manage to impart his wisdom to his sons (319e). Socrates' uses a similar example in the Meno. He then adds that Clinias, younger brother of Alcibiades, was taken from the family for fear that Alcibiades would corrupt him, and he was given back as a hopeless case. Socrates says he could give more examples, but thinks his point is sufficiently established. Protagoras says his claim that virtue can be taught is better made by a story than by reasoned arguments, and he recounts a myth about the origins of living things. He says that Epimetheus (whose name means "Afterthought") who was assigned the task of passing out the assets for survival, forgot to give mankind anything so his twin brother Prometheus (whose name means "Forethought") stole fire from Hephaestus and practical wisdom from Athena and gave them to man. However, man was never granted civic wisdom which belonged to Zeus or the art of politics, so the race was initially in danger of extinction. Zeus, however, sent Hermes to distribute shame and...
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