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Is Man the Measure of All Things?

Plato's Analysis of Relativism

First Annual Braniff Graduate Students Association Lecture

Date: November 19, 2011
Author: Matthew K. Davis
Download: mp3

The Braniff Graduate Student Association (BGSA) invites Matthew K. Davis of St. John's to speak at the first Annual BGSA Lecture.

We live in an age when relativism -- the view that each of us has his or her own "way" or that what appears to each of us is for each of us -- is a dominant view both outside and especially inside academia. In a very difficult and highly-disputed passage in his dialogue Theaetetus (151e4-154d6), Plato presents the argument for relativism of Protagoras, a noted sophist who taught that "man is the measure." In my lecture I will offer an interpretation of this passage that will make clear the core of Protagoras' argument and its ramifications for our situation, and I will conclude by offering some suggestions about how Socrates responds to Protagoras.

About the Speaker

Matthew K. Davis is Director of the Graduate Institute and holds the Martha Jordan Tutorship at St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico where he has taught for thirteen years. He received his doctorate in political science from Boston College. He has published articles on Montesquieu and Nietzsche, and is currently working on a book on ancient and modern approaches to the problem of relativism. His primary area of study is classical political philosophy.

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