Professor Charles Brittain (Cornell University), “Protagorean Hermeneutics”
Michael Frede Memorial Lecture, in partnership with the Department of the History & Philosophy of Science, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.
In this paper I argue that Protagoras’ method of poetic interpretation was not eristic. A re-examination of the evidence for his work on the Iliad shows that he used technical tools of criticism to build constructive interpretations, as we should expect from the ideas about the educational role of poetry ascribed to him in Plato’s Protagoras. I argue that we can supplement the direct evidence for the technical tools available to Protagoras by comparing the Platonic parody of his method in Protagoras 339-41 and Aristophanes’ reworking of sophistic hermeneutics in the battle of the prologues in Frogs 1126-96. These results point to a positive interpretation of Protagorean hermeneutics, even if its precise form remains beyond our grasp. A handout for the talk and additional material with bibliography is available for download.
This virtual lecture was recorded 31 May 2021.