Thursday, November 24, 2005

Taylor - Lee's 'Epistemology After Protagoras: Responses to Relativism in Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus'

"Professor Lee's theme is the challenge to objective knowledge posed by Protagoras' relativistic thesis that 'Man is the measure of all things', and the responses to that challenge by Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus. While acknowledging the differences between Protagorean relativism and Hellenistic skepticism, she sees Protagoras and responses to him as foreshadowing some of the later debates between skeptics and dogmatists. Both Protagoras and the skeptics appeal to conflicting appearances and the lack of any criterion to determine which appearances are veridical, but draw different conclusions from these data; the skeptics conclude that is impossible to determine the real nature of things, while Protagoras maintains that the real nature of things is simply that, for each perceiver, the way things appear to that perceiver is the way they are for him/her. Protagoras is thus in skeptical terms a dogmatist, but his peculiar form of dogmatism makes him an ally of the skeptics against those, including Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus, who maintain that underlying the conflicting appearances there is an objective reality accessible to rational theory, assisted in one way or another by observation, and that theory-grounded access to that reality amounts to knowledge." - NDPR.

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