Protagoras the Sophist Philosopher Named Protagoras -- Term Paper

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The Sophist philosopher named Protagoras -- ca 490-411 BCE, was a native of Thrace, in Greece, and was supposedly one of the first philosophers to have actually made use of his higher education to make money for himself, and this he did, successfully. As a matter of fact, it is reputed that Plato once stated that Protagoras was making more money through teaching his students that he was rivaling the money that Phidias, the sculptor who created the Parthenon, must have made, and ten times over, at that. The main contribution that this Greek philosopher made to the world in general was the principle that "man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not," in other words, that 'truth' as such, is relative to the individual who maintains it; and the knowledge that the individual receives about anything in the world is relative to his experience and prior knowledge about that subject. (Skepticism's ancient origins (Part I))

Therefore, the acquisition of knowledge as such would be limited to an individual's own capabilities of the assimilation of such knowledge. Therefore, all knowledge is subjective, and never is objective. This therefore means that there are no real universal truths; truth is seen by the several different people who perceive it, in as many different ways, depending on their own perception and previous knowledge of it. This also means that one can interpret the truth with his own perception, and therefore, there cannot be just one single truth about anything in the world. It was in this way that Protagoras denied the presence of so called 'absolutes', and this fact was extended to the moral judgments that he made, as well. However, he did have to concede to one particular theory, that the very concept of law did indeed reflect the desire of a particular culture to maintain a sense of moral order in the society.

Although Protagoras became a great teacher, he was eventually accused of being completely impious, by Pythodorus, an Athenian political leader, especially after Protagoras released his book entitled "On the Gods," in which the first opening statement was "About the gods, I am not able to know whether they exist or do not exist, nor what they are like in form; for the factors preventing knowledge are many: the obscurity of the subject, and the shortness of human life," a statement that reportedly revealed Protagoras's basic skepticism about both natural as well as moral 'absolutes', and which also revealed his skepticism in theological and spiritual matters. (Skepticism's ancient origins (Part I)) Protagoras is remembered as a philosopher and the anti-geometrician who steadfastly and stubbornly and also irreverently maintained that 'man' is the 'measure' of all things, and that the most important things were what man is and how he is, and what he is not, and how he is not. (Camilo Jose Cela, Nobel Lecture)

It is a fact that 'Amoralism' as such is more often than not attributed to the Sophists, and the reason for this tendency is that these early philosophers may have found it extremely difficult to comprehend the nature of man's knowledge and the nature of 'absolute truth', as we know it today. However, Protagoras in fact utilized a less radical position in which to expound on his theories, and his basic starting point was not so much Skepticism as relativism. Protagoras did not however, apply this principle of relativism to all moral questions, but in fact limited it according to the principle of utility, and this reveals that he was a pragmatist and a utilitarian in his heart. His theory of 'Relativity' wherein he explained that how things exist for one individual may not exist in the same way for others is one of the more important theories of the time, and his point was that however he was able to see things, that way would be true for him and not for the next person, and the way in which that other person would be able to see things would exist for that person and not for himself; if one saw things differently, then that would exist for him and not for others. Therefore, there is neither absolute truth, because all things are relative, and neither is there a true falsehood. (Relativism)

However, the problem that Protagoras encountered while expounding on these beliefs was that, in his profession as a teacher, where he would have to basically persuade others of their own beliefs, he would find it a problem to tell his students that they must listen to him and believe in him, while at the same time stating that one must believe in one's own perception of things. This is the reason that Protagoras qualified his theory be stating that while it is a fact that whatever anyone believes is true, it is also a fact that the things that some people believe in may be 'better' than what others believe. (Relativism) It was over more than two thousand years ago that Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, saw what exactly was crucial to learning, and this was, according to him, the 'discussion method of teaching', wherein every individual who comes to learn brings with him a set of ideas and beliefs, and these ideas must be made explicit before one can start to learn anything. What this means is that the basic ideas that are used in education have stemmed from the students' own minds, and not from the teacher's. (The Socratic Method)

It is often stated that this method of teaching has in fact produced many more geniuses in whoever it has touched, and in today's advanced learning methods, including the highly technical advances being made in the field of information technology and information sharing, this is an amazing fact, because today, there do not exist too many geniuses. The Socrates method is reputed to have, in fact, produced ten million times higher rates of 'world class geniuses' than one can hope for today. This is because of the basic principle behind the Socrates Method, wherein one can examine and analyze ones own first hand perceptions at the very outset, and respond according to those perceptions and that particular awareness. This sort of awareness is present in everyone, and if one can stop and examine this awareness, then there is no stopping the genius from within to emerge outside. (Socratic Method's Effectiveness)

It can be said that the basic Socrates method is a basically fundamental and a practical issue, and it takes into account the fact that every single human being 'needs' to be drawn out at length, in great depth and detail, as a part of his growth and development as a human being. The sad fact is that almost all human beings progress from their birth to their graves without ever having been heard or drawn out, and this can be taken not only as an unnecessary waste of a human life, but also of important human resources. The Socrates Method brings out the creativity and the inventiveness of an individual, and it is often stated that every problem solving or creative method of solving problems is based on the Socrates Method. (Effective Problem Solving, Using what we know)

Historically, education has been taken as the art and the science of teaching the child, and that is the reason education is also known as 'pedagogy'. This also means that education as such is a basically 'instructor focused' method wherein the instructor or the teacher makes all the important decisions about what will be learned, how it will be learned by his students, and when the students will learn it. In general, when there is pedagogy, it means that there will be an 'instructor focused type of education' wherein the relationship shared between the teacher and the student is an extremely 'dependent' one, whereas the relationship that the student shares with his peers may become that of 'competition'. This is a method that has been widely criticized by many institutions through time, and the reason quoted was that the student would most definitely fall short of reaching his full potential as a learner. For example, Dewey, in the year 1938, stated that learning must be carried out through various activities, and not merely be based on the traditional method of instructor focused education system. (Andragogy and the Socratic Method, the Adult learner Perspective)

Guided experience being the keyword, children would learn more and benefit immensely if they were to be gently guided rather than if they were subjected to the authority of the instructor who would at times believe that he was in the possession of all the knowledge required, and therefore, there would be no need to learn further or to explore newer avenues for the benefit of his students. This is the reason that the Socrates Method is often quoted as being one of the…[continue]

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