Protagoras on Social Contract - Dictionary of Arguments
Gaus I 308
Social contract/Protagoras/Keyt/Miller: [an] issue of debate is whether a theory of the
social contract can be found in the Great Speech. ((s) For the Great Speech see >Protagoras/Plato).
There are scholars on both sides of this issue. Although political relativism is consistent with a
social contract, the elimination argument usually used to attribute a social contract theory to
Protagoras - not by nature or by the gods, therefore by a social contract (see, for example, Guthrie,
1969(1): 137) - tacitly assumes a false disjunction.
Another possibility, noted in passing by Plato, is that laws are due to chance in the guise of war,
poverty, and disease (Laws IV.709a—b). Schiappa (1991)(2) is a recent book-length study of
Protagoras. >Relativism/Protagoras, >Democracy/Protagoras.
1. Guthrie, W. K. C. (1969) A History of Greek Philosophy. Vol. 3, The Fifth-Century Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge Umversity Press.
2. Schiappa, Edward (1991) Protagoras and Logos: A Study in Greek Philosophy and Rhetoric. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
Keyt, David and Miller, Fred D. jr. 2004. „Ancient Greek Political Thought“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Gerald F. Gaus
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004