Daniel SilvermintzProtagoras. Ancients in Action. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. xiii + 93 pp. $25.95. isbn 9781472510921 (pbk).In Protagoras, Daniel Silvermintz aims to establish three points about Protagoras of Abdera (ca. 490-420 bce), all of them basically ‘political’:Protagoras was the first philosopher of politics, democracy, and human nature.Protagoras influenced Pericles in a way that contributed directly to his abuse of power.Protagoras had an esoteric immoralist teaching about self-interested power.Silvermintz mostly tables the usual epistemic and linguistic issues concerning Protagoras – that is to say, the conventional philosophical debates – including the way we should read and evaluate his doctrine of man-as-measure and his assertion about the impossibility of contradiction.1 He does acknowledge the importance of Protagoras’ relativism, positing its relevance both to his democratic thinking and to his teachings of cynical self-interest.2 But he focuses on the political content itself. Perhaps he judges this to be Protagoras’ lasting influence, and his publisher’s ‘Ancients in Action’ series charges its authors to depict the ‘significance for later western civilization’; or perhaps he finds this material more accessible to the lower-level undergraduates to which he has apparently pitched this short and breezy book. It does at any rate provide a pleasant
Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought – Brill
Published: Apr 12, 2018
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