Socrates Protagoras: What Is Virtue?

1458 Words 6 Pages
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

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