Protagoras Natural Law Argument

762 Words 4 Pages
There are natural laws that exist, and can be seen through the implementation of logic, that govern mankind’s ethical believes and behaviors. Throughout history philosophers have debated what, or who, is the measure of right or wrong? Some individuals believe that there is a divine set of laws passed down to humanity by the Gods. Others such as the famous sophist Protagoras believe that divine laws are nonsense and that, “human beings are the measure of all things.” Throughout my paper I will discuss why Protagoras’s argument contradicts itself and is false, introduce the Natural Law Hypothesis and the many philosophers who support it, and lastly demonstrate why the rules of reason should govern society and mankind.
Protagoras was an active
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Plato called out Protagoras for this belief, because by this definition anything a person believes to be true is true. For example, if one was to believe one plus one is three they would be right, despite it being apparent that you don’t have three of something, only two. Plato explains that subjective relativism undermines itself because if all sincerely held believes are true, then someone’s assertion that relativism is true, than it is just as true as someone else’s assertion that relativism is false. Therefore subjective relativism is contradicting. The practice of cultural relativism is similar to subjective relativism but on a larger scale. Cultural relativism can become dangerous, because in theory it means that society can never be wrong. What happens if cannibalism was a common practice in society, despite society knowing it’s wrong, but by cultural relativism it is a just practice. Ultimately, through the use of logic one can see the faults in Protagoras and the sophists teaching, which leaves one wondering what should be the ethical judge of …show more content…
In other words, these philosophers believed there is a natural way in which ethical decisions should be made, and that logic should be at the core of all these decisions. For example, Heraclitus believed that reason shows us the measure of all things, including human thought and behavior. Furthermore, the Pythagoreans held that there are clear differences between right and wrong, that knowable by the order of things. Pythagoreans were also vegetarians because they believed that it is always right to respect sentient life. Additionally, Parmenides, another famous philosopher, stated that the way of truth always tells us what is right. The way of opinion, such as subjective relativism, is always wrong. These separate but similar philosophies can be defined by the natural law hypothesis that states: there is a rule of reason that involves genuine knowledge of what governs all things, including human affairs (Creation of Ethics handout). Through the natural law one is able to judge the ethical decisions made by others or ones self.
Across the many cities, states, countries of the world there is an unspoken natural law that exists amongst mankind. For example, one of these unspoken natural laws is one should not kill. It is generally accepted throughout multiple cultures and society that killing, unless in self-defense,

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