Skepticism and Relativism

In general terms, skepticism is considered to be an approach or outlook of uncertainty or distrust towards a specific object. Based on the concept of classical philosophy, skepticism is considered to be the ideas, principles, beliefs and attributes of Skeptikoi. Skeptikoi is considered to be the group of philosophers who concentrated on speaking out on particular subject but stated nothing.

On the grounds of faith and religion, skepticism is described as the uncertainty or disbelieve regarding fundamental values and ethics of religion. Relativism is considered to be the property of a particular object which can be segregated and distributed to several, distinct views.

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This paper seeks to investigate and analyze Socrates and Protagoras position on skepticism and relativism respectively in the lights of diverse and broad academic resources. The paper will define these two concepts and then critically analyze the viewpoints of the two philosophers.

Concept of Skepticism

Skepticism is considered to be the uncertainty or doubt in a specific area of a doctrine. It is distinguishes itself from dogmatism by opposing dogmatic principles and values. It is considered to be the combination of two Greek movements in the field of Greek philosophy. Academic skepticism has been developed by Socrates and Plato and Pyrrhonism was brought by Pyrrho of Ellis (Rachels, 56).

On the basis of philosophy, skepticism is considered to be composed of several propositions which include an investigation, examination, a way of seeking knowledge with the help of methodical and organized doubt and recurrent investigation, randomness, unpredictability or partisanship of ethical principles and values, restrictions on intelligence or wisdom, a way of logical caution and balanced decision or opinion, etc.

Concept of Relativism

The concept of relativism is related to the idea that certain features, characteristics or aspects of experience, incidents, customs or culture are relative to one another. It is not a distinct or separate set of beliefs but incorporates several values which have common theme. For instance, criteria for justification, ethical values and reality are relative to one other. Even though relativism leads to improbable or doubtful conclusions, they have captivated several philosophers from different traditions.

Analysis of Dialogue

According to Socrates, virtue cannot be thought. He clearly asserts that technical way of thinking can be taught and conveyed to students but understanding and knowledge are innate quality of human beings. He quotes the example of Pericles who was unsuccessful in implanting knowledge and intelligence to one of his sons.

He then quotes the example of Clinias who was the younger brother of Alcibiades. He was isolated from his family because there was fear that he might get corrupted by Alcibiades. However, he was returned to his family when it was realized he was a hopeless case.

According to Protagoras, virtue is the characteristic of a human being which can be taught and implanted inside a person by teaching him with a story rather than giving him arguments. He proves his point by giving quoting the origin of human beings. He asserts that Epimetheus was responsible for distributing assets which were for survival.

However, he forgets and his twin brother Prometheus was responsible for stealing the fire. According to Prometheus, this is the example of practical wisdom. He also gives the example of Hermes who had distributed shame and justice uniformly. According to Protagoras, Hermes distribution of shame and justice is the response the limitation of wisdom. He further asserts that people have sympathy and compassion for feeble, weak and ugly because they cannot help the way they look (Plato, pp3).

Secondly, he asserts that people command tyrants to perform righteous deeds. They are asked to perform acts of kindness so that they become pious. He gives the example of parent’s upbringing and how they raise their children. The task of upbringing is further carried out by teachers (Stumpf & Fieser, 86). Socrates argues that if virtue can be taught that why offspring of virtuous men are deficient in virtue.

Protagoras refutes that a skilled flute player fails to teach his son to play the flute because he does not have the inclination towards music. It may be possible that the flute player’s children maybe more skilled in playing the flute as compared to children who have never studied music. However, their skill is lesser than that of their parents. This is applicable in the case of teaching virtue.

Socrates Skepticism

According to Socrates, virtue is cannot be taught. In the dialogue between Socrates and Protagoras, it is evident that Socrates believes that ignorance is the first step towards seeking knowledge. He believes that truths can be known by constantly asking questions and answers. He believes that terms should be firmly defined because they are the first method of resolving a problem (Rachels, 86).

Protagoras Relativism

It is evident that Protagoras relativism is the answer to several metaphysical statements which have been made by several of his contemporaries. It is quite evident that he wanted to refute skeptic claims of his contemporaries by asserting that things or objects exist because of appearance of something. His relativism seeks to concentrate on appearance side. From his view, all human beings are accountable for determining the magnitude of faithfulness and honesty of reality (Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, pp5).

Conclusion

This paper has discussed and compared Protagoras and Socrates views of relativism and skepticism respectively. The dialogue between Protagoras and Socrates have been studied and reviewed to analyze their diverging points of view towards virtue. According to Socrates, virtue is innate quality of human being.

Protagoras believes that virtue can be taught by means of moral stories. Skepticism is considered to be an approach or outlook of uncertainty or distrust towards a specific object. Relativism is considered to be the property of a particular object which can be segregated and distributed to several, distinct views.

Academic skepticism has been developed by Socrates and Plato. The concept of relativism is related to the idea that certain features, characteristics or aspects of experience, incidents, customs or culture are relative to one another. According to Socrates, virtue cannot be thought. He clearly asserts that technical way of thinking can be taught and conveyed to students but understanding and knowledge are innate quality of human beings.

According to Protagoras, virtue is the characteristic of a human being which can be taught and implanted inside a person by teaching him with a story rather than giving him arguments. He proves his point by giving quoting the origin of human beings. It is evident that Protagoras relativism is the answer to several metaphysical statements which have been made by several of his contemporaries.

Works Cited

Plato. Protagoras. Online Dialogue: http://www.ac-nice.fr/philo/textes/Plato-Works/04-Protagoras.htm.

Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Moral Relativism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2004. Web. .

Stumpf, Samuel Enoch and Fieser, James.Socrates to Sartre and beyond a History of Philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill,2007..

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