Volume 10, Issue 1, Fall 2005
Orphaned and Adopted Texts in the Protagoras
The Protagoras features the first known venture into detailed textual interpretation in the Western intellectual tradition. Yet if Socrates is to be taken at his word
at the close of his hermeneutic contest with Protagoras, this venture is to be regarded as a playful demonstration of the worthlessness of texts for aiding in the pursuit of knowledge. This essay is an attempt to view Socrates’ puzzling remarks on this point within their dramatic and historical contexts. I argue that, far from having us lay our inherited texts aside, we can find in the Protagoras a reorientation to the linked activities of reading and dialogue, where we need not be forced to choose between merely using our own unaided voices and relying upon the (textual) voices of others in the project of philosophic education.