What Is Protagorean Relativism?

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Many different ideas have been given the name ‘relativism’, and the term has been used to pillory all sorts of views (sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad ones). It is mere posturing to say that you are for or against “relativism” unless you say what you mean by the term. Here I want mainly to discuss (and to criticize) a view I have encountered among students in philosophy courses, who say things like this: "What anyone believes is true for that person. What you believe is true for you, what I believe is true for me." We can call the view expressed in such statements ‘relativism’ because it denies that there is any such thing as “absolute” truth, holds that all truth is relative to the person who believes it.

1. Protagorean relativism
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The principal exception to this last claim is Protagoras of Abdera (c. 485-410 B.C.), a Greek philosopher who apparently put forward a version of relativism in a treatise entitled Truth. Protagoras traveled to many city-states, taught many influential people, and became very wealthy. He was possibly the most successful of the teachers in fifth century Greece who were known as ‘sophists’. None of Protagoras' writings have come down to us, but his views are reported by others, chiefly by Plato in the dialogues Protagoras and
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