Who is Protagoras?

Who is Protagoras?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Protagoras, BC. From 481 to BC Ancient Greek philosopher who lived around 420 BC. Protagoras is one of the most important and founding philosophers of the group of philosophers called Sophists.

Born in Abdera, Protagoras was brought up as a student of Leucippus. He spent most of his life in Athens. He also significantly influenced the moral and political understanding of his period with his thoughts. So much so that Plato named his dialogue on virtue after him.

He lived and participated in activities in Athens for a long time, had to flee Athens because he was accused of impiety, and died by drowning while escaping.


Protagoras of Abdera, who undoubtedly holds the most important place among the sophists due to his originality as a thinker, was probably BC. From 481 to BC He lived in 411 years.

As Plato puts it, he has been active in the Greek lands for more than 40 years as a “teacher of wisdom.” He was praised in Sicily and Southern Italy, but especially in Athens, where he frequently visited and stayed for a long time. In this city, he gained an unprecedented and surprising prestige for a foreigner, even met Pericles, and thanks to his influence, he drafted the law for the newly founded city of Thurioi (444-443 BC).


Wherever he went as a sophist in the traveler’s life, he was in demand, which seems to us like a fairy tale, and received high fees accordingly (Protagoras was the first to claim to be a “teacher of wisdom” and charged his audience for this activity).

Plato’s famous dialogue “Protagoras” describes the fascinating influence that Athens had on its distinguished youth with unmatched vitality. However, towards the end of his life, one of the ancient Athenians brought Protagoras to court because of the atheistic statements at the beginning of his work “On the Gods”; Protagoras was sentenced to death, his works were confiscated by the state and burned in the market square.

Though he escaped before the verdict was executed; but he drowned on the way to Sicily by ship.

From the list of his many works, only an additional part remains.


Ünlü expressed the relativity of perceptions and, according to some, even judgments, with the proposition that “man is the measure of all things” (anthropos metron panton). With this judgment, Protagoras wishes to state that there cannot be a valid knowledge for everyone.

Protagoras states that truth and value judgments vary according to societies and even individual people. He says that since there is no valid knowledge for everyone, one should seek not the truth but what is useful to the person.


According to Protagoras, all our knowledge comes from sensation, and sensation differs from person to person. He makes man the measure of all things by saying, “Everything is as it appears to me, so it is for me, and as it appears to you, it is also for you. The wind is not cold for a cold person, nor is it cold for a person who is not cold.”

With such thoughts, Protagoras is considered to be the pioneer of the relativism movement, indirectly the skepticism and pragmatism movements.

Protagoras, who gained great fame and fortune as a sophist, was commissioned to prepare the mournings for the Athenian colony of Thurii in Italy. Despite adopting traditional moral principles, he revealed his agnostic stance on belief in gods in his work, Peri theon (On the gods). Therefore he was accused of impiety (asebeia); His books were burned in public. ca. BC. He never returned to Athens, where he was exiled in 415.

As a general tendency of sophistic thought, Protagoras does not show any interest in natural philosophy, on the contrary, he develops propositions against it. The proposition that there is no objectively valid knowledge, that is, there cannot be a universal truth, is the general idea of ​​sophist philosophy, and Protagoras proves this based on the statement of Heraclitus that everything changes.

From this Protagoras deduces that if everything is changing, nothing can be absolutely certain. Therefore, it is not possible for a certain information to be accurate and accurate in the same sense for everyone.

Our knowledge occurs depending on the changes of objects and our sensations at that moment. This is why Protagoras calls them doxas (conjectures). Every conjecture is true to the person who put it forward with certain sensations. This means relativizing knowledge and putting the human element in the center.

As a matter of fact, the famous saying of Protagoras; “Man is the measure of everything, that things exist and things that don’t exist don’t exist.”

Protagoras questioned the human mind, while preventing abstract speculation on the one hand, and on the other hand revealing the power of the human mind to reflect on itself.

As a person with practical wisdom, he made a call to man to return to himself from empty, fruitless researches and placed man in the center of his world. In this sense, Protagoras is the pioneer of the trend called “human philosophy” in the history of philosophy.

The human nature of things, which makes knowledge, truth, and value all relative