In Plato Protagoras seems to be a pompous but likeable old chap who’s dined out on his cleverness for many years. In both Protagoras and Theaetetus he seems to focus on advising young men, both those in power and those seeking it, how to develop ευβουλια to make good decisions regarding their own lives, their households, and their cities. A consultant for ambitious yuppy/wonk types. Paul Allen, One-Minute Manager, etc., with a bit of L. Ron Hubbard thrown in. As Parmenides {controversial} and {uncontroversial surely?} Gorgias, he seems to have pulled this off by cleverly arguing positions which are at once difficult and almost unsustainable, but also attractive to up-and-coming we-know-it-all kids:
– the gods don’t matter
– personal beliefs and values don’t matter, it’s all about process (managerialism)
In other words a pure sophist, as in fact was Socrates (certainly by what conservative Athens thought of him); it’s just that Socrates didn’t make a Blairite mint out of it.

So, in other words, as with much ancient literature, we don’t know how serious their views are, how much they’re winking at their chums when they read their pieces. Is it largely an elite αγων?

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