On My Reading of Plato's Protagoras and Timaeus
I read Plato's Protagoras this week.
It was confusing.
I think it was intended to be confusing. Protagoras and Socrates talk around the essential issue of virtue without ever hitting on the essence because of their cultural biases.
Look at these guys' huge blind spots:
Both men seem to believe in cause and effect - that every act must have a singular cause. Both men seem to strictly use defintions, as if the definition were the experience itself. Both men fail to refer to direct experience, or to even value it that highly - thought it must be said that Socrates seems the more pragmatic of the pair. Protagoras is a good talker, but is he full of hot air or not? The lack of praxis makes it impossible to assess him. Naturally we are supposed to take Plato's side that the sophists are tossers, but I find myself quite unsympathetic to the lot of them.
Granted the way the conversation is conducted is the height of good manners, and the way Socrates traps Protagoras is highly amusing. I think the message that we may not be able to know what virtue is objectively is fine: humbling and realistic philosophy. And perhaps it is a fine representation of Socrates view itself, rather than Plato's.
All the practicing Neoplatonists I have contacted are theurgists or fringe academics. Both, surprisingly, refer to the Timaeus as their starting point.
So yesterday, good Friday, I purchased the Timaeus at Imprints bookseller and started the read, so different from the outset from the Protagoras, it might as well be a different author. The cover of the Penguin edition is magnificent, incidentally, and it is fantastic value for 13 dollars.
I am only half way through the Timaeus, but it is a very magnificent and beautiful piece of writing.