Sophists: man is the measure of all things

Man and consciousness – this is a topic that enters into Greek philosophy instead of with sophists (sophists – teachers of wisdom). The most famous among them were Protagoras (490–420 years before and. E.) And Gorgias (c. 480 — c. 380 years BC).

These philosophers deepen a critical attitude towards everything. that for a person acts as a directly given, as an object of imitation or faith. They require a test of the strength of any statement, unconsciously acquired belief. uncritically accepted opinion. Sophistry fought against all that. that people lived in consciousness without certifying his law to carry. The sophists criticized the foundation of the old civilization. They saw the flaw in these reasons – morals, customs-principles – and their immediacy, which is an integral element of the tradition. From now on, the right to existence received only such a content of consciousness, which was allowed by this consciousness itself, that is, justified, proved by them. Thus, the individual became the judge of all those. that before the individual court did not allow.

Sophists are rightly called the representatives of the Greek Enlightenment: they did not so much deepen the philosophies of the past, but popularized knowledge, spreading it among wide circles of their many students. that was already acquired by the time of philosophy and science.

Sophists were the first among philosophers who began to receive tuition fees. In the V century, in most Greek city-states there was a democratic system, and therefore the influence of a person on public affairs, both judicial and political, to a large extent due to his eloquence, his oratory, his ability to find arguments in favor of his point of view and such win over the majority of fellow citizens. Sophists just offered their services to those who sought to participate in the political life of their city: they taught grammar, style, rhetoric, the ability to debate, and also gave general education. Their main art was the art of the word, and it was not by chance that they developed the norms of the literary Greek language.

With such a practical-political focus of interest, natural-philosophical problems receded into the background;

the focus was on man and his psychology: the art of persuading required knowledge of the mechanisms that govern the life of consciousness. Problems of knowledge at the same time came to the fore.

The original principle of the sophists, formulated by Protagoras, is: “Man is the measure of all things: existing, that they exist, and non-existing, that they do not exist.” That which gives pleasure to man is good, but that which causes suffering is bad. The criterion for evaluating the good and the bad here are the sensual inclinations of the individual.

Similarly, in the theory of knowledge, sophists are guided by a separate individual, declaring him – with all its features – the subject of knowledge. Everything that we know about objects, they reason, we receive through the senses; Still, sensory perceptions are subjective: what a healthy person

It seems sweet, the patient will seem bitter. Therefore, all human knowledge is only relative. Objective, true knowledge, from the point of view of sophists, is unattainable. This position in the theory of knowledge was called subjective idealism.

As we see, if the individual individual, or rather, even his senses, is declared the criterion of truth, then the last word of the theory of knowledge will be subjectivism, relativism and skepticism, which considers objective truth impossible.

Note that the principle proclaimed by the Eleatics – the world of opinion does not really exist – the Sophists contrasted the opposite: only the world of opinion and there is, being is nothing but the changeable sensory world as it is manifested to individual perception. The arbitrariness of the individual becomes the guiding principle here.

Relativism in the theory of knowledge served as a justification for moral relativism: sophists showed the convention of legal norms, state laws and moral evaluations. Just as man is the measure of all things, every human community (state) is a measure of the just and unjust.

Socrates: the individual and supraindividual in consciousness

By their criticism of the direct givenness of consciousness, the requirement to attribute all content of knowledge to the individual subject, the sophists paved the way to the acquisition of such knowledge, which, mediated by the individual’s subjectivity, would not, however, be reduced to this subjectivity. It was the activity of the sophists, who relativized all truth, that initiated the search for new forms of the authenticity of knowledge — those that could stand before the court of critical reflection. This search was continued by the great Athenian philosopher Socrates (c. 470–399 years before and e.). first the disciple of the Sophists, and then their critic.

Basically Socrates’ philosophical interest focuses on the question of whether. what is man, what is human consciousness. “Know thyself” the favorite saying of Socrates. (This sentence was written on the wall of the temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was probably not by chance that a legend reached us that the Delphic oracle, when asked about who is the wisest of the Hellenes, called Socrates.)

In the consciousness of man, Socrates discovers, as it were, different levels, different layers, consisting of an individual, a carrier of consciousness. in a very complicated relationship, sometimes even entering into an insoluble collision. The task of Socrates is to discover not only the subjective, but also the objective content of consciousness and to prove that it is the latter that must be the judge of the first. This higher instance is called the mind; it is capable of giving not just an individual opinion, but universal, obligatory knowledge.

But a person can acquire this knowledge only through his own efforts, and not from the outside as a ready-made one. Hence the desire of Socrates to seek the truth together, in the course of conversations (dialogues). when interlocutors, critically analyzing those opinions that are considered generally accepted, discard them one by one, until they come to such knowledge, which all recognize as true. Socrates possessed a special art – the famous irony, with the help of which he gradually generated from his interlocutors doubts about the truth of traditional ideas, trying to lead them to such knowledge, in the authenticity of which they would be convinced. The goal of the critical work of the mind of Socrates was to obtain a concept based on a strict definition of the subject. So, he tried to determine what justice is, what kind of good is, what is the best polity, etc.

It was no coincidence that Socrates paid so much attention to clarifying the content of the concepts of “justice”, “good”, etc. The focus of his attention, like that of the sophists, was always on questions of human life, its purpose and purpose, and a just social structure. Philosophy was understood by Socrates as the knowledge of what good and evil are. The search for knowledge about the good and the fair together, in dialogue with one or several interlocutors, itself but as if created an individual, ethical relations between people gathered together not for the sake of entertainment and not for practical matters, but for the acquisition of truth.

But philosophy — the love of knowledge — can be regarded as moral activity if knowledge itself is already good. It is this ethical rationalism that constitutes the essence of the teachings of Socrates. The immoral act of Socrates considers the fruit of ignorance of truth: if a person knows what is good, then he will never do wrong – this is the conviction of the Greek philosopher.

A bad deed is identified here with delusion, with an error, and no one makes mistakes voluntarily, Socrates believes. And since moral evil comes from ignorance, then knowledge is the source of moral perfection. That is why philosophy, as a path to knowledge, becomes in Socrates a means of forming a virtuous man and, accordingly, of a just state. Knowledge of the good is, according to Socrates, already means following the good, and the latter leads a person to happiness.

However, the fate of Socrates himself, all his life striving to become virtuous by knowledge and encouraging his students to the same, testified that in ancient society of the 5th century there was no harmony between virtue and happiness. Socrates, who tried to find an antidote to the moral relativism of the sophists, at the same time used many of the techniques that were characteristic of them. In the eyes of most Athenian citizens, distant from philosophy and irritated by the activities of visitors and their own sophists, Socrates differed little from the rest of the “wise men,” who criticized and discuss traditional ideas and religious cults.

In 399 BC. e. the seventy-year-old Socrates was accused of not honoring the gods recognized by the state and introducing some new gods, that he was corrupting the youth by prompting the young men not to listen to their fathers. For undermining the popular morality of Socrates was sentenced to death in court. The philosopher had the opportunity to evade punishment, fleeing from Athens. But he preferred death and in the presence of his friends and students died by drinking a cup of poison. Thus, Socrates recognized above himself the laws of his state — the very laws that he had been accused of undermining. It is characteristic. that dying Socrates did not abandon his conviction that only a virtuous person can be happy: as Plato narrates, Socrates was calm and bright in prison, until the last minute he talked with friends and convinced them that he was a happy man.

The figure of Socrates is extremely significant: not only his life but also his death symbolically reveals to us the nature of philosophy. Socrates tried to find in the very consciousness of man such a strong and firm support on which the building of morality, law and state could stand after the old the traditional foundation was already undermined by the individualistic criticism of the sophists. But Socrates, however, was understood and accepted neither by sophisticated innovators nor traditionalists-conservatives: sophists saw in Socrates a “moralist” and a “reviver of foundations”, and the defenders of traditions were a “nihilist” and a destroyer of authorities.

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