Monday, July 19, 2010

Socrates in Hades: On Plato’s Protagoras, Part II

The conflict between the poets and the city is very strange [...]" says Ashok Karra. Why? Find out on his blog:

Amplify’d from
Originally, I wanted to post comments regarding a reread of the Republic I am supposedly doing. But so many issues went over my head I broke away from the reread and started reading the Greater Hippias. While a shorter dialogue, the discussion of “the beautiful” and how it relates to how we use “both” and “each” also stumped me, even with the help of a secondary source (written by a teacher of mine, no less). Finally, I’ve been working on the Protagoras, and thanks to Google Books’ excerpt of Robert Bartlett’s commentary (“On the Protagoras,” in Plato’s Protagoras and Meno, Cornell 2004) and Seth Benardete’s “Protagoras’ Myth and Logos” (“The Argument of the Action,” Chicago 2000), I may have something sensible to say.

We must wonder, however, whether Socrates’ concern for Hippocrates fully explains the conversation before us. After all, it is Socrates who suggests that he and Hippocrates make their way to Protagoras and the other sophists (314b6-c2), just after he has issued a stinging rebuke to Hippocrates for his uninformed desire to do so, and at an important juncture in the dialogue Socrates assures Protagoras that his cross-examinations have as their goal the discovery of the truth about virtue, about a question that perplexes Socrates himself. His conversation with Protagoras is intended to make certain one or more of Socrates’ own thoughts, as only conversation with or “testing” of another can do (347c5-349a6; consider also, e.g. , 328d8-e1, as well as 357e2-8: Socrates is not consistently concerned with harming the business prospects of the sophists, Protagoras included). (Bartlett 68)


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