After a digression, Socrates turns to a more serious criticism of the position of Protagoras, one that takes into account the justification Socrates has offered on behalf of Protagoras. Socrates is quite willing to admit that the Protagorean position is a fair account of what occurs in immediate sensation. The world of becoming, for Plato and Socrates, is a flux, and people’s sensations are private. One cannot taste the apple another person is tasting, nor does one ever see a particular apple tree from quite the same perspective as that of one’s companion. The “seeming” of the immediate data of sense is the “reality” of the immediate data of sense. However, the problem of knowledge is wider than the problem of data.
A theory of knowledge must account for other judgments besides those concerning the immediate data of sense, and it is this fact that finally undercuts the Protagorean theory. Once one recognizes that there is more to the problem of knowing than merely giving an account of the direct awareness of uninterpreted sense experience, the weakness of the Protagorean position becomes obvious. Socrates raises the question of justifying judgments that have a future reference; thus, he broadens the scope of the discussion to include a problem Protagoras’s theory cannot explain. A physician and his patient, for example, may disagree today about whether the patient will have a fever tomorrow. It is clear that both cannot be judging truly, and obviously the physician’s prediction is more reliable than is the patient’s. Both are judging about a fact that is not at the moment a part of the immediate...
(The entire section is 665 words.)
Socrates’ Criticisms and Defense
The theory is now fully stated, and Socrates moves on to the criticism of it. He first makes some rather trivial objections. He points out, in the first place, that the theory does not justify taking humanity as the measure of all things. With just as good reason, one might take a pig or a horse as the measure, if knowledge is merely an interaction between a flux and a private sense organ. The criticism is not developed seriously; nevertheless, there is a purpose in making it. It suggests, without explicitly stating, a crucial element in the discussion of knowing; namely, that a judging mind is involved wherever there is a genuine case of knowing. A judging mind is precisely what a pig or horse lacks; thus, it is ridiculous to say that a pig is the measure of all things. The other criticisms Socrates makes at this time also imply the same point, that a judging mind must be included in any theory of knowing.
Three additional criticisms are made here:1. The theory, because it rejects any common world shared by two knowers, provides no justification for Protagoras’s life as a teacher. Protagoras cannot justify his role as a teacher who corrects his pupils unless he is in some sense the measure of his pupils’ worlds. 2. Sensations cannot be all there is to knowing because this would imply that one who cannot read would nevertheless know what is said on a page of writing when he merely sees it. Yet this clearly is not the case....
(The entire section is 572 words.)