Chapter

Relativism

David Sedley

in The Midwife of Platonism

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780199267033
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601828 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199267030.003.0003
Relativism

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Examines the stages by which Protagorean relativism is refuted. These include the much-debated self-refutation argument, and the argument that only experts could have knowledge of the future. I maintain that these are drawing on typically Socratic insights and arguments. But the main emphasis is on the ‘Digression’, in which Socrates indicates why he rejects fashionable relativism of values. This, I argue, develops a series of Socratic positions that serve to reveal how Socrates, despite not having arrived at Plato’s theory of transcendent moral Forms, paved the way to it with a moral absolutism that depended on his insights about god’s perfect goodness. Here, Plato is also looking forward to his later interest in ‘becoming like god’. The Digression, in addition, I argue, hints at Socrates’ radical theological views, the ones that led to his execution.

Keywords: absolutism; Digression; expertise; god; moral; piety; Protagoreanism; relativism; self-refutation

Chapter.  15347 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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