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Socrates Unbound: Plato’s Protagoras

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

Literature devoted to analyses of Plato’s Protagoras focus on topics such as Protagoras’ hedonism, the unity of virtue, akrasia, and the distinction between philosophy and sophistry. They pass over the fact that the political atmosphere in Athens and the character of the comrade together compel Socrates to be cautious about what he repeats. The dialogue with Hippocrates allows him to claim that he met with and dethroned Protagoras, not of his own choosing, but as a result of chance. The essay also argues that the Protagoras exposes Socrates’ own inclination towards Hedonism. If Socrates didn’t know this before he met with Protagoras this time, it would be impossible for Socrates not to see it through his encounter and victory over the Sophist. This discovery may be the most profound dimension of Socratic irony.


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