Man the Measure of All Things: Socrates Versus Protagoras (I)

P. S. Burrell M.A.

The study of Plato has become involved in so many entanglements of higher criticism that it is difficult even to approach the interpretation of any particular dialogue without bias or preconceptions. A swarm of problems starts up for settlement as a preliminary consideration to the correct understanding of Plato’s aims in writing the dialogue, and there is a danger lest its precise issue and philosophical value may be obscured by discussions about its place in the chronological order of the dialogues, as to whether it expresses the views of Socrates or of Plato, or represents a particular stage in the development of Plato's own thought, and so on. That this danger is real is forcibly suggested by a remark of Professor Taylor: “To understand a great thinker is, of course, impossible, unless we know something of the relative order of his works and of the actual period of his life to which they belong....We cannot, then, even make a beginning with the study of Plato until we have found some trustworthy indication of the order in which his works, or at least the most significant of them, were written.”