left biblioblography: PROFILES IN ATHEISM - PROTAGORAS

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


And now, the latest installment in Profile In Atheism - Protagoras.

"Protagoras (Greek: Πρωταγόρας) (c. 481–c. 411 BC) was a pre-Socratic philosopher and is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with having invented the role of the professional sophist or teacher of virtue.

Protagoras was born in Abdera, Thrace, in Ancient Greece. He was famous as a teacher who addressed subjects connected to virtue and political life. He was distinguished from other educators who offered specific, practical training in rhetoric and public speaking by his pioneering attempts to formulate a reasoned understanding, on a very general level, of a wide range of human phenomena (for example, language and education). He also seems to have had an interest in orthoepeia, or the correct use of words (a topic more strongly associated with his fellow-sophist Prodicus).

His most famous saying is: "Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not" (80B1 DK).[1] Like many fragments of the Presocratics, this phrase has been passed down to us without any context, and its meaning is open to interpretation. Plato ascribes relativism to Protagoras, and uses his predecessor's teachings as a foil for his own commitment to objective and transcendent realities and values.

Protagoras was also a famous proponent of agnosticism. In his lost essay, On the Gods, he wrote: "Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not or of what sort they may be, because of the obscurity of the subject, and the brevity of human life" (80B4 DK).

Other lost works of Protagoras include On the Art of Disputation, On the Original State of Things, and On Truth. The Protagoras crater on the Moon was named in his honor.

Protagoras and the scientific method

Even though Protagoras was a contemporary of Socrates, the philosopher of Abdera is considered a presocratic thinker. He followed the Ionian tradition that distinguishes the School of Abdera. The distinctive note of this tradition is criticism, a systematic discussion that can be identified as "presocratic dialectic", an alternative to the Aristotelian demonstrative method which, according to Karl Popper, has the fault of being dogmatic. The main contribution of Protagoras was perhaps his method of finding a better argument by discarding the less viable one. This is known as "Antilogies", and consists of two premises; the first is "Before any uncertainty two opposite theses can validly be confronted", the second is its complement: the need to "strengthen the weaker argument".

Protagoras knew that the less appealing argument could hide the best answer, which is why he stated that it was constantly necessary to strengthen the weakest argument. Having been born before Socrates himself, this progressive viewpoint in the development of consensual truth could conceivably have contributed to the progressive styles of many of the other great minds which followed him."

Much of his work has been lost. Note also, that he was of the school of Sophists, back when the word wasn't a pejorative. Protagoras was one of the forerunners of pragmatism.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


beepbeepitsme said...

I came across Osman when I was researching circumcision and egypt.

OUT OF EGYPT by Ahmed Osman

One of the problems associated with this type of idea is certainly chronology. There is dispute amongst egyptologists and archeologists etc about what happened and when, as to look back into history at the time of the egyptian empires, requires us to try and work out when all this happened according to the gregorian calendar.

Obviously the ancient egyptians were not using the gregorian calendar, nor the julian calendar, but their own calendar.

Egyptian calendar

So, chronology is gunna be a problem and what looks like 200 years too early or 200 years too late, might just be our inability to reconcile the modern calendar with ancient ones.

I have heard the idea that Akhenaten was really Moses, but what seems more reasonable to me is that emerging cultures co-opted the history and culture of pre-existing civilizations so that they become their own. They added a few tweaks and twists, changed things so that it the story, legend or myth contained their own folk hero, and went on to create the foundations of their own cultures and religions.

So in that relatively small area we call the middle east, gods came and went, as did pharoahs, but their supposed attributes and characteristics lived on in the new gods and the new religions of new, powerful emerging cultures.

The most successful religious idea which emerged first in Egypt was the concept of monotheism. It wasn't successful for the egyptian culture as it revolved around the concept of the pharoah as embodiment of this divine power and it cut out too many middle men. lol

But for an emerging culture to accept the idea of monotheism at its beginning, that provides a common foundation on which to build a powerful religious ideology.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM - Say_no_to_christ lent me the 3 books (Hebrew Pharaohs, Mose & Mr. Anky, & the 3rd 1, jebus in the land of the pharaohs) - interesting stuff.
I have heard the idea that Akhenaten was really Moses, but what seems more reasonable to me is that emerging cultures co-opted the history and culture of pre-existing civilizations so that they become their own.
Yeah, parallelism - I know we're both big fans.
Last I checked (Jesus Myth on answers.com), the pendulum is swinging back to biblical contextual readings.
Synching up the chronology is a major problem - which is why fellas like Osman can speculate freely (& rather wildly, I might add).
I still can't get over his usage of the Koran as a source - it's just retrofitting to his own admitted confirmation bias.
& obviously he's not up to date - the wholly bibble's anything BUT historical.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I still find the fact there were Atheists back then a fascinating subject.
How did early Atheists tackle the idea of creation? They didn't know about evolution or an ancient earth, they couldn't even explain lightning.
There were plenty of unanswered questions that would lead the creative mind to almost have to conclude there was a supernatural force or God or Gods to fill in the gaps, no matter how free thinking one was back then.
Many early Atheists throughout modern history may just have been angry with God or the rules to go to the point to say he didn't exist.
Maybe they didn't even think out the creation stuff.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BEAJ - yeah, it IS a brain teaser, all right.
Problem is, thus far, it seems like a lot of their works haven't survived (at least the early Greeks). Perhaps most of them settled for the label agnostic?
I'll poke around a bit.