Socrates Protagoras Essay

Plato offers the claim that knowledge is not perception, in which is justified by Socrates’ objections in his dialogue Theaetetus. Socrates offers several arguments during his dialogue with Theaetetus, who primarily believes the Protagorean claim that knowledge and perception are equivalent. As Theaetetus believes that knowledge is nothing more than perception, Socrates reminds him Protagoras dictates that perception means appearance and that appearances may vary with different subjects. He essentially explains that Man is the measure of all things by stating any man perceives something just as that something appears to that man individually.

He further details this response using his “Cold Wind” argument. Socrates illustrates Protagoras’ theory “that the wind is cold to the one who feels cold, but not cold to the one who does not feel cold” as two very separate entities with no grey areas. Socrates then goes on to contradict this statements as he states that when one person feels the wind is chilly and the other does not, or one feels the wind slightly chilly and the other feels as though the wind is extremely cold- a contradiction occurs as there are two varying perceptions, yet no knowledge is inferred from them.

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This refutes the idea that knowledge is perception as in this case, perception does not precipitate knowledge as well. Socrates also brings forth the objection that perceptions vary as one’s health changes as they perceive things differently when they are healthy versus when they are ill. This objection goes even further as he does not limit these varied perceptions to illness, yet altered states of mind that can affect one’s perception dramatically. For example, he raises obstacles that when a subject is mad or dreaming, they can surely perceive what is truly not the case.

Their perceptions are altered are therefore different in each of their states of mind. Socrates wonders how knowledge can be gained from these various perceptions in different states of mind that are all supposedly true. This further contradicts Protagoras’ claim that whatever one may perceive is in fact knowledge. He continues to illustrate how an ill subject is a different subject than a healthy one or an awake subject is a different subject than an asleep subject.

Socrates goes out to prove that all these varying perceptions coming from the same physical subject cannot possibly all be construed as knowledge- which further justifies Plato’s proposal. Finally, Socrates most compelling argument that knowledge is not perception to decisively vindicate Plato’s claim is how he rethinks the proposal of how every perception is true and debates that those who perceive Protagoras’ claim as false would necessarily have to be correct as well as those who believe it is true- which creates a major contradictory flaw in Protagoras’ argument.

Socrates states. “Protagoras, for his part, admitting as he does that everybody’s opinion is true, must acknowledge the truth of his opponents’ belief about his own belief, where they think he is wrong. … That is to say, he would acknowledge his own belief to be false, if he admits that the belief of those who think him wrong is true. “ (171) and successfully finds a shortcoming in the proposal that knowledge can truly be equivalent to perception.

Socrates incredibly justifies Plato’s claim that knowledge and perception are truly not equivalent using these 3 main arguments with many other slight objections. His arguments find contradictions in this proposal and metaphorically turn the tables on this argument that knowledge is perception as you cannot derive knowledge from every perception man has. Man may be the measure of all things, yet his perceptions can be false and distract one from gaining true knowledge- instead of false beliefs.

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