Sophists and Socrates, Protagoras Philosophy YouTube Lecture Handouts

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Sophists and Socrates: Gorgias, Protagoras, Sophism | Philosophy

Title: Sophists and Socrates


  • Sophistry was a special kind of ancient Greek teaching tradition which flourished in the fourth and the fifth century B. C.
  • The sophists were excellent orators, and teachers.
  • Their tools were philosophy and rhetoric.
  • Some of the names of the famous sophists are; Protagoras, Gorgias, Prodicus, Thrasymachus, etc.
  • The sophists were highly criticised by Socrates and Plato.


  • Protagoras believed that all Knowledge is perception.
  • Perception is the product of both, the subject moving towards the object and the object moving towards the subject.
  • What appears knowledge to me, might not be the same for the other person.
  • His famous quote, Homo Mensura explains this, β€œman is the measure of all things, of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not.”
  • Homo Mensura accounts for relativism of knowledge.
  • His philosophy propounds scepticism.


  • Gorgias is regraded to be Master of rhetoric.
  • Gorgias was highly influenced by the works of Zeno and Protagoras.
  • His book, β€œOn Nature or the Non-existent,” laid down the three most important tenants of his philosophical. They three tenants are;
    • There is Nothing
    • Even if there is anything, it cannot be known.
    • Knowledge cannot be communicated
  • There is Nothing: According to Gorgias, if there exists anything, it can only be known to us via perception. Perception tells us that everything has come into being from its earlier state. This means, things have arisen either from being or from non-being. But he says the world of becoming cannot come out from an unchanging being and at the same time, nothing can arise from non-being. So, there is nothing in the world.
  • Even if there is Anything, it cannot be Known: The second tenant of Gorgias says that, β€œeven if there is anything, we cannot know it.” A perceived object is not the external object in itself, nor is the perceiving act. Hence, we do not know what the real objects are.
  • Knowledge cannot be Communicated: According to Gorgias, as we have established before knowledge is perception and perception is true for the perceiver alone and that also on the moment of its occurrence. so, we cannot communicate knowledge.


  • There is Nothing
  • Even if there is anything, it cannot be known.
  • Knowledge cannot be communicated


β€œOn Nature or the Non-existent,” is the work of

A. Socrates

B. Protagoras

C. Gorgias

D. Both B and C

Answer: C

Explanation: β€œOn Nature or the Non-existent,” is the work of Gorgias. This book is where he explains the three important tenants of sophism.

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