The Sophists

The Sophists

Language: English

Pages: 356

ISBN: 0521096669

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The third volume of Professor Guthrie's great history of Greek thought, entitled The Fifth-Century Enlightenment, deals in two parts with the Sophists and Socrates, the key figures in the dramatic and fundamental shift of philosophical interest from the physical universe to man. Each of these parts is now available as a paperback with the text, bibliography and indexes amended where necessary so that each part is self-contained. The Sophists assesses the contribution of individuals like Protagoras, Gorgias and Hippias to the extraordinary intellectual and moral fermant in fifth-century Athens. They questioned the bases of morality, religion and organized society itself and the nature of knowledge and language; they initiated a whole series of important and continuing debates, and they provoked Socrates and Plato to a major restatement and defence of traditional values.

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(332 ff.) there is no mention of higher beings: 'man with his skills' (περιφραδής άνήρ) is the most dread and wonderful thing in the world. The technical triumphs extolled by these writers include speech and writing, hunting and fishing, agri­ culture, the domestication o f animals and their use in transport, building, cookery, mining and metalwork, shipbuilding and naviga­ tion, spinning and weaving, pharmacy and medicine, calculation, astronomy and the mantic arts. It is a list entirely in the

156 (Plut. Adv. Col. 1109a). He also, it w o u l d seem, anticipated Plato (Theaet. 1 7 1 a ) in a r g u i n g that the doctrine is self-refuting ( D K , A 1 1 4 , Sext. Math. 7 . 3 8 9 ) . Cf. Vlastos, Ph. Rev. 1945, 591. 1 3 4 I86 Ethical Conclusions of Protagoras philosophers h e b o r r o w e d from o r reacted against, especially as w e k n o w so little o f the c o n t e n t o f his w r i t i n g s : t h e y w e r e all c h a s i n g chimeras, t h o u g h his direct polar o p p o s i t

like to see refuted. Besides laws in the ordinary sense, contemporary opinion recog­ nized the existence of 'unwritten laws', and the relation between the two illustrates well the transitional nature of this period of thought. For some, the phrase denoted certain eternal moral principles, uni­ versally valid and overruling the positive laws of men because their origin was from the gods. This conception is best known from the splendid lines of Sophocles in the Antigone (4506°.), where Antigone

h i s and related points are well brought out in L l o y d ' s article on Aristotle's biological analogies in Phronesis, 1968, in which however one is conscious all the time of an influential figure standing in the background though never mentioned: Protagoras. 54 IV THE ' N O M O S ' - ' P H Y S I S ' ANTITHESIS IN MORALS A N D P O L I T I C S (i) INTRODUCTORY The two terms nomos (pi. ηοτηοϊ) and physis are key-words—in the fifth and fourth centuries one might rather say catch-words—of

different hand, t h o u g h it b e l o n g e d to the same find and the editors suggest (OP, x v , 1 1 9 f.) that the same hand m a y have added breathings, accents and marks o f quantity in both, and that 1 7 9 7 m a y even be a later part o f the same roll as 1 3 6 4 . Its subject and style leave n o reasonable d o u b t o f the author, and v e r y little o f the w o r k in w h i c h it occurred. Untersteiner (Sophists, 2 6 7 , n. 1 2 7 ) thinks that the fragment came between the t w o

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