Protagoras was an important Greek thinker of the fifth century BC, the most famous of the so called Sophists, though most of what we know of him and his thought comes to us mainly through the dialogues of his strenuous opponent Plato. In this book, Ugo Zilioli offers a sustained and philosophically sophisticated examination of what is, in philosophical terms, the most interesting feature of Protagoras' thought for modern readers: his role as the first Western thinker to argue for relativism.
Zilioli relates Protagoras' relativism with modern forms of relativism, in particular the 'robust relativism' of Joseph Margolis, gives an integrated account both of the perceptual relativism examined in Plato's Theaetetus and the ethical or social relativism presented in the first part of Plato's Protagoras and offers an integrated and positive analysis of Protagoras' thought, rather than focusing on ancient criticisms and responses to his thought. This is a deeply scholarly work which brings much argument to bear to the claim that Protagoras was and remains Plato's subtlest philosophical enemy.
Contents: Preface; Introduction: Protagoras, Plato and relativism; Perceptions and indeterminacy; Wisdom and incommensurability; Ethics and forms of life; Inconsistency, self-refutation and the heart of the matter; Conclusions: the tools of relativism; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Ugo Zilioli Fellow of the University of Parma, Italy
Reviews: 'To defend relativism is about as thankless a task as philosophy ever confronted: informed readers typically take it to be a complete waste of time and even a mark of professional incompetence. But then, if you see its genuinely deep challenge, its defense counts as an exceptional kind of courage and amplitude of mind that very little else in philosophy ever equals. Zilioli embodies a candor and honesty and a scholar's thoroughness and scruple that are simply a pleasure to trust in the unraveling of the full import of Plato's treatment of Protagoras's argument in the Theaetetus and Protagoras. I think it's the straightforward clarity and passion of Zilioli's effort that makes it so memorable. Beyond that, it seems to me to have simply outflanked Protagoras's strongest detractors.'
Joseph Margolis, Temple University, USA
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