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One of Plato's liveliest Socratic dialogues, the Protagoras, stages a debate between the greatest philosopher and the greatest sophist of their time, with other leading sophists in the audience. The debate concerns Protagoras' own specialty: the teaching of 'virtue ' or arete, a crucial term in ancient Greece that involves both moral goodness and human greatness. Protagoras and Socrates end up with oddly overlapping intellectual positions: Socrates contends that virtue is not something that's taught, though h e believes that all of virtue is essentially a kind of knowledge. Protagoras denies that all virtues are forms of knowledge, though he maintains that they are in fact commonly taught, and taught especially well by himself. This historical fiction was composed some forty or fifty years after its dramatic setting, but its colourful and inconclusive portraits are probably roughly correct. (Most scholars consider Protagoras' main speech there a paraphrase or imitation of his original writings, which have not survived.) These men were debating in new ways what was already an ancient theme. But since sophists won their fame and wealth through public speeches and private courses on matters social and ethical, and since these new professionals were often suspected as charlatans, old questions about virtue and teaching were a persistent element in the sophists' environment.


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O'Grady, Patricia. The Sophists: An Introduction. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. Internet resource.

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O'Grady, Patricia. The Sophists: An Introduction. London: Duckworth & Co., 2008. Print.