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Protagoras was an important Greek thinker of the fifth century BC, the most famous of the so called Sophists, though most of what we know of him and his thought comes to us mainly through the dialogues of his strenuous opponent Plato. In this book, Ugo Zilioli offers a sustained and philosophically sophisticated examination of what is, in philosophicalterms, the most interesting feature of Protagoras’ thought for modern readers: his role as the first Western thinker to argue for relativism. Zilioli relates Protagoras’ relativism with modern forms of relativism, in particular the ‘robust relativism’ of Joseph Margolis, gives an integrated account both of the perceptual relativism examined in Plato’s Theaetetus and the ethical or social relativismpresented in the first part of Plato’s Protagoras and offers an integrated and positive analysis of Protagoras’ thought, rather than focusing on ancient criticisms and responses to his thought. This is a deeply scholarly work which brings much argument to bear to the claim that Protagoras was and remains Plato’s subtlest philosophical enemy.

To defend relativism is about as thankless a task asphilosophy ever confronted: informed readers typically take it to be a complete waste of time and even a mark of professional incompetence. But then, if you see its genuinely deep challenge, its defense counts as an exceptional kind of courage and amplitude of mind that very little else in philosophy ever equals. Zilioli embodies a candor and honesty and a scholar’s thoroughness and scruple thatare simply a pleasure to trust in the unraveling of the full import of Plato’s treatment of Protagoras’s argument in the Theaetetus and Protagoras. I think it’s the straightforward clarity and passion of Zilioli’s effort that makes it so memorable. Beyond that, it seems to me to have simply outflanked Protagoras’s strongest detractors. Joseph Margolis, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy,Temple University, USA

The Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Philosophy series brings high quality research monograph publishing into focus for authors, the international library market, and student, academic and research readers. Headed by an international editorial advisory board of acclaimed scholars from across the philosophical spectrum, thismonograph series presents cutting-edge research from established as well as exciting new authors in the field. Spanning the breadth of philosophy and related disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Philosophy takes contemporary philosophical research into new directions and debate.

Series Editorial Board: David Cooper, Durham University, UK Sean Sayers,University of Kent, UK Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research, USA; University of Essex, UK Simon Glendinning, London School of Economics, UK Paul Helm, Regent College, Canada David Lamb, University of Birmingham, UK Peter Lipton, University of Cambridge, UK Tim Williamson, University of Oxford, UK Martin Davies, Australian National University, Australia Stephen Mulhall, University of Oxford, UKJohn Post, Vanderbilt University, UK Alan Goldman, College of William and Mary, USA Simon Blackburn, University of Cambridge, UK Michael Friedman, Stanford University, USA Nicholas White, University of California at Irvine, USA Michael Walzer, Princeton University, USA Joseph Friggieri, University of Malta, Malta Graham Priest, University of Melbourne, Australia; University of St Andrews, UKGenevieve Lloyd, University of New South Wales, Australia Alan Musgrave, University of Otago, New Zealand Moira Gatens, University of Sydney, Australia

Protagoras and the Challenge of Relativism
Plato’s Subtlest Enemy

UGO ZILIOLI Fellow of the University of Parma

© Ugo Zilioli 2007 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or...
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