Socrates Protagoras: What Is Virtue?

Better Essays
In Protagoras, the main point of the argument is virtue, what is virtue, can it be taught or not, and how can it be used to measure what is good and what is bad. Socrates’ standpoint is that wisdom, temperance, courage, justice and piety, are all one of the same thing but Protagoras on the other believes that each of these are unique and have their own specific functions. Socrates gives the analogy of being like parts of a face, dissimilar to the whole of which they are parts and to each other, and each one having its own unique function (349c). Protagoras himself clarifies his view however, saying that although four out of these five characteristics of virtue are reasonably close to one another but courage is entirely different from the rest …show more content…
Protagoras is on the opposing side of this argument, he as a profound sophist believes it can be taught. As the dialectic ensues, both of them find themselves arguing for the opposite side of which they started their debate. Socrates believes virtue is knowledge so therefore can be taught and Protagoras denies that virtue is knowledge and if it is not knowledge then it is unteachable. With these current standpoints on virtue, they ensue into figuring out good and bad, pleasure and pain. Socrates wants to know how we as human beings, being aware of the fact that virtue is inherently good, and that not all pleasurable things are good and not all painful things are bad, how we get to know what is virtuous and what isn’t if we can be overcome by pleasure when something is in fact bad. To break down the way good, bad, pleasure, and pain are measured we can look at Socrates’ analysis in pages 351b to 358c. Socrates starts by analyzing whether it can be said that someone lived a pleasant life even though they suffered pain at the end of their life, ‘“Would you say, Protagoras, that some people live well and others live badly?” “Yes.” “But does it seem to you that a person lives well, if he lives distressed and in pain?” “No, indeed.” “Now, if he completed his life, having lived pleasantly, does he not seem to you to have lived well?” “It seems that way to me.” “So, then, to live pleasantly is good, and unpleasantly, …show more content…
Socrates and Protagoras argue virtue, as mentioned earlier, as something that could be taught or not. Protagoras starts his argument saying virtue cannot be taught, Socrates on the other hand believes otherwise. Socrates has the belief that virtue is knowledge and so can be taught, Protagoras disagrees with this point of view, he is against the belief that virtue is knowledge and if he does not believe this then virtue to him is unteachable. Socrates is on the side that knowledge is superior and all powerful and so it rules man. Protagoras believes that knowledge although being all powerful is treated like a slave as what rules man is not knowledge but other emotions such as anger, love, pleasure, pain, courage, and sometimes even fear. They both come to the agreement that knowledge is capable of ruling a person, and if someone has the knowledge of good and bad then he would not be forced by any other externalities to act otherwise than what knowledge demands. So, with virtue being knowledge, you cannot be said to have been overcome by pleasure as this would be looked upon as ignorance because it will not be reasonable to say that we have done something bad in light of knowing what is good. If you’re virtuous, you should be able to weigh out the good and the bad and determine which one exceeds the other. If you are in this predicament of doing something bad

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    Glaucon claims that people act justly unwillingly and when comparing perfectly just and perfectly unjust individuals, he concluded that those who live unjustly live better. Glaucon presents a quite compelling case on the exclusively instrumental value of justice, based on necessity and relative profitability. He argues that those “who practice justice do so unwillingly as something compulsory”(359), for they lack the ability to do the opposite with impunity. He goes against Socrates’ theory that humans act justly as a sacred notion apart of the human soul and characterizes it as an acceptance within individuals to avoid the suffering and consequences of injustice. Glaucon supports his theory out of his analogy of the Rings of Gyges where those who practiced justice only did so out of fear and as soon as the barrier was lifted, they started to commit bad deeds.…

    • 1319 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    According to Glaucon, another student of Socrates, we are not. “ No one is willingly just; men will be just only if constrained.” (P.56-d) Glaucon challenges the principles of Justice. His explanation of justice is powerful because it holds some truth. When we shun evil away is for the fear of punishment. When we help others is for a hope of a reward.…

    • 703 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    It concludes ultimately with Socrates and Protagoras switching opinions. Socrates now defends the view that virtue is knowledgeable and in turn, teachable, whereas his latter, now denies the plausibility that virtue is knowledge and should not be teachable, even though he claims that he himself is able to do…

    • 1614 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    For Socrates knows that Simonides would not agree that a crazy man should be given his weapon back simply because the weapon belong to the man. Socrates knows that Simonides must have a motive for reasoning and must mean something else, something that maybe Socrates cannot understand. Polemarchus then tries to explain to Socrates that what Simonides really meant is that the friends should only do well to each other, and not hurt each other. So then Socrates questions Polermarchus again and asks him if that means that if Simonides also mean that you should do harm to your enemies. Polermarchus says that that’s exactly what Simonides means and again Socrates does not agree with this definition of justice.…

    • 1313 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Meno attempts a few definitions of virtue, which Socrates deems inaccurate through the usage of the elenchus, where he dissects each suggestion to show Meno that it does not hold all the properties needed to construct a definition. Meno gives examples of what virtue is for different types of people and poses the idea that virtue is the ability to rule over other people, implying that virtue is power, but Socrates does not want examples of…

    • 737 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    This would mean that the Athenian way of life is the life of virtue and therefore the life worth living; Socrates by questioning this way of life is going against what Meletus and his supporters perceive to be virtue. Socrates find this absurd and tells Meletus, “I do not believe you…and I do not think anyone else will” because how could one possibly believe that all Athenians except Socrates have the proper understanding of virtue. Socrates in stating this is asserting that if the jurymen believe in Meletus’ claim then they will be giving justice based on who they favor and not in accordance with the law. By doing this, they would be disobeying the laws of the state which Socrates says is impious in the Crito and therefore, would not be leading lives of virtue according to his perception of virtue. Following his…

    • 1839 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Socrates Justice Analysis

    • 1788 Words
    • 8 Pages

    The most notable objection I present is the argument that I do not believe Socrates can justify the claim that people with just souls are practically just. An individual with a just soul, to be pragmatically just, must refrain from unjust actions, and it must be that the actions they perform are done so because it is required by justice. Socrates must be able to prove that people with just souls will satisfy both claims. Socrates defends his definition regarding the first claim by citing several examples, stating that a person with a just soul would be chosen to perform duties that could easily be taken advantage of, and would not betray his fellow citizens (442e-443a). Socrates does not present a thorough argument as to why those with just souls would never act in pragmatically unjust manner, but at least references why he does not believe they would.…

    • 1788 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Substance In Who Are Me

    • 1177 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Substance When I refer to substance, also mean content; not just of our actions, but of ourselves. Intend for it to come from within. As in“who are you;” “to know thyself;” to know why you act as you do. Both Socrates and Epicurus believed; “the unexamined life is not worth living” (de Botton, A., 2001, p. 4). Substance might even bear with it a little pain, that the positives in our lives may be the results of a little discomfort; “not everything which makes us feel better is good for us.…

    • 1177 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Meno And Socrates Virtue

    • 1332 Words
    • 6 Pages

    The reason behind this is that good things are linked with wisdom. This shows that virtue is only virtue if there is wisdom within it. Socrates also mentions, “Then is there is something good, and yet separated from knowledge, possibly virtue would not be a knowledge, but if there is no good which knowledge, but if there is no good which knowledge does not contain, it would be a right notion to suspect that it is a knowledge.” (Plato, Meno p.50-51). From this you can see that knowledge plays a big role with virtue and if it can be taught or not depends highly on the person. That is why Socrates wants to discover what virtue really is, rather than how each person receives virtue in a different…

    • 1332 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Piety In Socrates

    • 905 Words
    • 4 Pages

    There is, futhermore, a very evident usage of irony in Socrates’ praises of Euthyphro’s knowledge of these matters, even requesting to be his disciple. An obvious message to the reader, Socrates does not actually plan to learn from Euthyphro, but rather to lead Euthyphro to acknowledgement of his ignorance through analysis and recognition of the faults in Euthyphro’s own arguments. However, it is important to recognize that Socrates does not simply point out Euthyphro’s flaws, but rather attempts to lead him to recognize his own flaws in his reasoning. Socrates urges Euthyphro to look more closely at the consequences of what he has claimed, a sign of an experienced and respectable teacher. Still, by the end of their dialogue, the readers are no closer to a definition of piety, so what is to be learnt for the audience?…

    • 905 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays